Blanc quits Bordeaux for France as the curtain falls on Ligue 1

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If Bordeaux let out a whimper on Sunday morning in recognition that the sun had already set on what had only recently seemed like a bright new dawn, the rest of France breathed a collective sigh of relief, as Laurent Blanc revealed that he would be quitting the Stade Chaban Delmas to take charge of the French national team after this summer’s World Cup finals.

The news couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time, come as it did just four days after a L’Équipe poll showed that only 22% of French people have confidence in Raymond Domenech following his antics on Monday evening when he unveiled an eccentric provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup.

This morning’s editorial in L’Équipe read: “The country doesn’t need a president, rather a surgeon willing to operate without anaesthetic. Let Blanc play doctor.”

It’s no secret that Blanc was the favourite to replace Domenech, but speculation really started to mount in January when the president of the French Football Federation, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, told radio station Europe 1: “Laurent is an exemplary man, he proved it as a player and as a coach. He is certainly a good candidate.”

To say his comments were unwelcome is an understatement. Bordeaux were on course for the treble at that stage of the season and quite rightly considered the toast of French football. Since then, they have been in free-fall, losing the League Cup final, getting knocked out of the Champions League and throwing away what looked like an unassailable eight-point lead over eventual Ligue 1 winners Marseille.

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Saturday’s 4-3 defeat to Lens ensured that Bordeaux finished the season in sixth place, and would not qualify for Europe for the first time in five years. Les Girondins took just 21 points from their final 19 games of the season. It’s little wonder Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud said: “The uncertainty around Blanc has not had a positive effect on the team.”

Blanc flatly denied that accusation in quite a persuasive manner. “Do you believe that if I had said in January that I wasn’t interested in the France job, I would have been spared the injuries and lack of fitness that hit us, and the hellish fixture list that wore out my team? Come on! It’s just not serious.”

France Football had claimed on Wednesday that Blanc would announce his decision to leave Bordeaux ‘on Saturday night or Sunday morning,’ and their sources didn’t disappoint. Didier Deschamps sounded if he knew something about a deal with the French FA on Friday when he told L’Équipe TV: “It's very good, It's a very good choice.”

An official statement from Bordeaux confirming the news read: “The club wanted to keep Laurent Blanc as coach of the team until the end of his contract on June 30, 2011…Despite the damaging comments made by members of the French Football Federation, which have undoubtedly affected the end of Bordeaux’s season and future seasons, Bordeaux express their willingness to reach a solution acceptable to the club and respectful of its interests and damages.”

Even the most exaggerated Gallic shrug wouldn’t do justice to the grievances running through the club’s boardroom right now, even though it has been widely reported that Blanc had a gentleman’s agreement to leave if the right offer arrived.

Many of Bordeaux’s stars have tied their flag to Blanc’s mast, insisting that if he leaves, then they might too. Marouane Chamakh’s decision to up sticks for Arsenal has also further cemented the idea that the cycle is over at Bordeaux.

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Saturday’s edition of L’Équipe even claimed that Lyon are preparing a €20m bid for Yoann Gourcuff, who was apparently in tears when Blanc revealed his decision in the dressing room at the club’s training ground yesterday morning. Marseille are also circling around Bordeaux’s captain Alou Diarra.

So the question is: who will pick up the pieces at the Chaban Delmas? Former Marseille boss Erik Gerets has repeatedly been linked with the post, but France Football claimed on Saturday that contact has already been made with Shakhtar Donetsk’s UEFA Cup-winning manager Mircea Lucescu.

However, if Bordeaux are serious about keeping Gourcuff then they could do a lot worse than hiring his father Christian whose work at Lorient suggests he is ready to coach one of France’s big clubs. 

Elsewhere in Ligue 1, Lyon’s 2-0 victory over Le Mans meant they leapfrogged Lille who unexpectedly lost away to Lorient and so missed out on the €20m prize that comes with playing in Europe’s premier club competition.

Lyon therefore ensured their 11th consecutive qualification for the Champions League. And that wasn’t the only reason why things got emotional at the Gerland on Saturday night, as Sidney Govou bid goodbye to the club after nine years in which he won seven league titles.

Meanwhile, Auxerre will join Marseille and Lyon in the Champions League if they make it through the preliminary stages. France will be represented in the Europa League by Lille and surprise package Montpellier.

RESULTS Sat May 15 Marseille 2-0 Grenoble, Lorient 2-1 Lille, Lyon 2-0 Le Mans, Sochaux 1-2 Auxerre, PSG 1-3 Montpellier, Lens 4-3 Bordeaux, Toulouse 0-0 Monaco, Boulogne 1-0 Rennes, Nancy 1-1 Valenciennes, Nice 1-1 Saint-Etienne.

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