Youri Djorkaeff (Lyon, France, 53 years old) speaks the same as he used to play football. He doesn’t hide, he tries to amuse himself, and essentially makes others feel comfortable. He was a symbol of French football, a partner of Zinedine Zidane in the victories in the 98 World Cup and Euro 2000, and Ronaldo’s partner at Inter. Son of defender Jean, the midfielder was trained in the Grenoble quarry, he played for Racing de Strasbourg, Monaco and PSG, with whom he won a Cup Winners’ Cup (1996). In addition to playing in the calcium, Djorkaeff was in the Premier (Bolton and Blackburn) and in the Bundesliga (Kaiserslautern) before retiring in the New York Red Bulls.
Question. Is football moving north in France?
Answer. A good balance is being struck. In France, what is interesting is that there are now more competitive teams compared to six or seven years ago. And, of course, that PSG, with the players it has signed, has made French football attractive. It will not only happen when you compete in the Champions League, but every game in the league will start to be interesting.
P. But is the passion for football still in the south?
R. I played for Monaco, PSG and Strasbourg. Passion is everywhere. People love football all over France. Perhaps we could talk about the fact that football used to be less interesting. But that’s something that we changed in the ’98 World Cup. It continued with Euro 2000 and after the last World Cup we can say that people are crazy about football in France.
P. More than rugby?
R. We never compete in rugby. Perhaps rugby has lost its spirit a bit when it turned pro. And that has caused them to lose a bit of followers. I don’t know … everyone loves rugby in France.
P. What is the difference between PSG and Lyon?
R. Lyon have built a strong team and have an incredible stadium. Today we can talk about two different styles regarding the organization of your templates. The one in Lyon is built from a strong academy; that of PSG, hiring great stars.
P. What was PSG like in your time?
R. We had a very good team. We won the Recopa, which was the first continental tournament that PSG won. That team had six or seven players that we were in the national team. In other words, it was the basis of the team that later won the World Cup. A team created from the French, complemented by foreign players such as Raí and Dely Valdés.
Q.And the PSG in the time of his father? Do you remember anything from that time?
R. Of course I remember. It was the beginning of PSG. At that time the Park of the Princes was built. My dad had taken us to the field before the official celebration took place. My brother and I were playing on the grass with a ball and they took a photo of us that the next day they published in L’Équipe: “The princes of the Park of the Princes”, they titled. That photo I always carry with me. It is a very special stadium for me. I was there as a child. My father played. I played. But it is also special because of the atmosphere that this field has in the heart of the city. That can be felt. PSG is a young club, yes, but it has great DNA. It is a great place to play soccer.
R. Because when you play for PSG you fight against the rest of France. People hate PSG. Spain is divided between Madrid and Barcelona. In France, there are people who love Marseille. But those who are not from Marseille do not hate it, they do not care. The same goes for Lyon. But with PSG, no. And that is unique.
P. Will Messi make that feeling change?
R. Players like Messi have a global dimension. It is true that Mbappé, Neymar or Marquinhos were already there, but Leo is number one in the world. I think that can change the look. I do not know. What I know is that I never heard anyone say anything bad about Messi. He is a player that everyone loves to see play and that everyone wishes him success. It is incredible that a footballer generates that.
P. How was your meeting your Messi?
R. I spoke with Carles Puyol because I wanted to meet Leo. I am working as CEO of the FIFA Foundation and wanted to know about its foundation and its programs. I thought it was going to be a stadium talk for a few minutes, but he invited me to his house instead. And he made me an espresso.
P. Was the coffee well done?
R. Yes. It was a very good espresso. I told him: “I’m going to take a photo to show my son that Messi made me an espresso.” There are not many players who invite you to their house. He introduced me to his wife and children. I remember perfect because it was a Champions League Wednesday. We stayed for two hours and I told him: “Leo, you have to go. You have a match ”. It was a great conversation about life and football.
Q.Do you remember anything in particular?
R. He was concerned about the people in Argentina. But he was not only concerned with his country. I was wondering about the programs we had for the children. That surprised me. He has a big heart. He is not just a great player, he is a committed and strong person. Everyone wants to be with him and everyone asks him for things. Life is not only who you are, but also what you do.
P. Is it more like Zidane or Ronaldo?
R. It’s unique. I know Zizou and Ronaldo, but the beauty of these three people is how they treat people. If they can help you, they help you.
P. And how players?
R. The Phenomenon is the Phenomenon. When he came to Inter, he changed the way the scorers played. In history, there are few footballers who have changed the way they play. Maradona was one of them. Ronaldo did it too, but in another position. And now Messi does. I had the opportunity to play with Zizou and Ronaldo and they both understood that to win you had to have a strong team. And they did everything so that everyone around them understood that that was the important thing. The connection is the important thing. Now I hope I can play with Messi. I’m going to organize a match at the Foundation just to play with him [se ríe].
P. Do you think Messi, Mbappé and Neymar will put the interests of the team ahead of theirs?
R. I am not so concerned with what they do. The important thing is the rest. Messi, Mbappé and Neymar are going to play super well together. And we are going to enjoy them. The key is in the center of the field. The key will be if the team is going to press high or if it will defend in the opposite field. And that’s a matter of the coach’s tactics. They need someone who understands the needs of the front three.
P. What does that mean?
A. Someone to join the team. It may be Di María or Verratti. A player who functions as the link with the three forwards. Someone who is not thinking about playing with the three of them, but is thinking about what is the best thing he can do for the team when he has the ball. That player will be the key piece at PSG.
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