Paulo Sousa: 'This is a rebuilding year'
Check out what the coaches of Bordeaux, OM, ASSE and MHSC on Friday - as well as stars Benoît Costil, Dimitri Payet, Rémy Cabella and Hilton - had to say ahead of Sunday night's EA Ligue 1 Games final in Washington DC.
With the EA Ligue 1 Games final and third-place play-off looming on Sunday night - 21:00 EDT and 18:00 EDT respectively - the four coaches of the clubs involved discussed the matches to come in the friendly tournament held at Audi Field.
Dimitri Payet for OM, Vitorino Hilton for Montpellier Hérault SC, Rémy Cabella for AS Saint-Etienne and Benoît Costil for Girondins de Bordeaux, were also present at the French Ambassador's residence in the United States. Excerpts.
Payet: 'If I have to do it, I will'
Dimitri Payet (Olympique de Marseille forward): "The left winger position? It's a position I played in at the beginning of my career, even though I've been put back in the spotlight in recent years. I always said if I have to do it, I will. We talked a lot with the coach about his expectations and what I have to do in this position, and it worked pretty well. Since the beginning of pre-season, we have been working in a 4-3-3. We're starting to get our bearings. We know how to do certain things in our game, we work a lot on that, to put our game in place."
André Villas-Boas (Olympique de Marseille coach): "The arrival of [newly signed central defender] Alvaro Gonzalez? We have been looking for a player in his position since the beginning of the transfer window. He has spent his entire career in Spain so far. He will discover a great European club, with different pressures and ambitions. He will strengthen our central defence, an area in which we lost several players who were at the end of their contracts. He is quick, he anticipates, and he is very strong in the challenge. He is able to play high and turn around fast. He is very strong technically, which can help us in building the game. I think he will arrive tomorrow [Saturday]. We'll see with him if it's possible to play against Saint-Etienne. We'll see how he looks physically. We'll try to get him to play."
Cabella: 'We're going to do everything we can to make M'Vila win'
Ghislain Printant (AS Saint-Etienne): "It is an honour to have AS Saint-Etienne received at the Embassy; it is a source of pride to be here. Yesterday's result (the victory over Montpellier) brings joy to the fans. I've seen the game again and I'm generally satisfied. We stayed within the framework of what we wanted to do. There was a good control of the match over the first 30 minutes but then we dipped a bit up front, although we did stay consistent. In the second half, it was a different Montpellier. We were worried that Montpellier's youngsters could cause us physical problems but we were able to turn things around. That's good, we're moving slowly. The upcoming match against OM? It's a tournament, and the players are keen to try to win it. We watched the OM game and we know we'll have a lot to do. The starting XI from Marseille is very competitive. We're still in pre-season but it's a final and we're going to do everything we can to be the first French club to win this tournament."
Rémy Cabella (AS Saint-Etienne forward): "It is important for Ligue 1 Conforama to have a tournament here. We're all happy, we hope to finish well. Did I upset my former teammates [Bouna] Sarr and [Grégory] Sertic? Before they played their half, I told them to win so we could make it to the final. There is a small trophy to win and I know that Yann M'Vila has zero trophies to his name. So we're going to do everything we can to make him win [laughs]."
Der Zakarian: 'Laborde is staying put'
Michel Der Zakarian (Montpellier Hérault SC coach): "Washington? It's nice to be here even if it's hot! We're going to take advantage of Sunday's game [Monday, in France] to work and play some 70-75 minutes of it in order to be ready for the restart. It will be more or less the same team that will be fielded at the start and we will see whether Téji Savanier is doing better. He had a twinge in his quadriceps but he is obviously doing better now. What did I like about the Saint-Etienne match? We only had players who were here last season, except Jordan Ferri, so we could see that we already had a lot of facility with each other. We will have to improve and integrate recruits well into the squad, like Téji. Departure for Laborde? He's staying put. It is not the club's intention to let Gaëtan go."
Vitorino Hilton (Montpellier Hérault SC defender): "My goal against Saint-Etienne? It was a real poacher's goal, an attacker's strike! The transfer window? [New recruits] Jordan Ferri and Téji Savanier will make a huge difference. We also lost Benjamin Lecomte, who was huge with us, we will miss him. But we must continue to work to try to do better."
Sousa: 'We need time'
Benoît Costil (Girondins de Bordeaux 'keeper): "The context is different from what we usually see. It's hot but we adapt. It's hard to learn from the first few pre-season games but we had a great first half against OM. We implemented what we had worked on in training. We enjoyed playing even though we lost again. It will be necessary to progress to arrive with the most certainty at the beginning of the league season."
Paulo Sousa (Girondins de Bordeaux coach): "We always work to play well, to create lots of opportunities. Against OM, we had more opportunities than them. We played well but we didn't win, and that's part of the game. We are moving in the right direction. The four-man defense? Last season, we played with four at the back when we didn't have the ball and three at the back when we were building play. The players are more confident in constructing play with three defenders. The future of the club? We are in a period of transformation, also at the cultural level, with a new president and different people arriving. We need to improve in many areas. There is another direction compared to what has been the case in recent years. You have to work everywhere, on the squad too. To improve, you need more quality. This is a rebuilding year, hoping to be very competitive in the following campaign. But we still have to play this year.
What I've seen of the players and our play in pre-season give me the conviction that we are moving in the right direction. We need time to build a culture, a sense of belonging for all those who work here. Every player who arrives must feel this culture of winning. The sooner the team is complete, the sooner we will work on the details, the game concepts, the collective and individual work. It is very important for me to know which players I would have to implement certain game concepts. In recent years, the teams that win are those with the best players. And for that, you need money."