Blanc forges team around own elegant image

PARIS - Elegant, composed and skilful were among the words used to describe Laurent Blanc in his playing days. The same descriptions could be applied equally to describe the Girondins Bordeaux team he has led to their first French championship title since 1999 after only two seasons as a coach. NEWS: Gouffran goal clinches title for Bordeaux The 43-year-old former centre back of the France team, who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 thanks largely to a solid defence, has turned the Chaban-Delmas stadium into a fortress where his team are unbeaten since October 7, 2007. "We know very well what we owe to the coach, the confidence he placed in us, the philosophy of the game he taught us," said defensive midfielder Alou Diarra, whose signing from Olympique Lyon was Blanc's priority when he joined Bordeaux two years ago. "All is positive in his coaching. He has a great experience of the game at the highest level. He knows how to manage the good and the bad times during a season," the France international added during a news conference this week. Blanc gained his experience in one of the longest careers in French football which led him during 20 years from Montpellier to Manchester United via Napoli, St Etienne, AJ Auxerre, Barcelona, Olympique Marseille and Inter Milan. "FANTASTIC CHARACTER" "He is a fantastic character and he has added a lot to the team in terms of character," Alex Ferguson said after Blanc helped Manchester United win the English title in 2003. "He talks such great sense about the game that I think the players who he is playing with today will look back in years from now and say he was a great player, he taught us this and he taught us that and we learned from him." The 1996 French championship with Auxerre is the only other league title won by Blanc. Dubbed "the President" by his team mates, he was photographed dozens of times kissing the bald skull of goalkeeper Fabien Barthez in a ritual during France's 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 triumphs. "I have had a long career or I should say I was lucky to have had a long career," he said when he hung up his boots in 2003. "Even if I had ups and downs and even if I made the wrong choice at times, satisfaction dominates. I'm not jumping up and down with joy, I'm just pleased to have had an accomplished career. "We all know that the wheel of fortune turns quickly. We all know what the part of the coach really is," he said after his team burst into the limelight this season. "We all know that when results are good it's essentially due to the players and minimally to the coach and that when the results are bad it's the responsibility of the coach and minimally of the players."