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Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010

Blanc worried about growth of young players

PARIS (AP) Coach Laurent Blanc says that France no longer has any great players, and has called on future stars to put their development as young players ahead of short-term financial gain.

Blanc won the World Cup and the European Championship as a defender during France's heyday a decade ago. That team was packed with players who were stars at the biggest European clubs.

"For the moment we don't have any great players in our national team," Blanc said in an interview. "What's for certain is that we haven't got there yet, we're not ready."

Blanc thinks only Chelsea's Florent Malouda and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery are close to that level. Encouragingly, Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri is on the way to joining them.

"We have a few players who are playing in big clubs, who are maybe in the process of becoming great players. We have to be patient, we have to help them to blossom," Blanc said. "If we can have three or four players blossoming in big clubs, that gives us a solid platform and a strong identity to our game, that would be the first step. But we're far away from that."

France's 1998 World Cup winning team went on to win the European Championship two years later. Those teams included players who stood out at club level, such as Juventus pair Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane, AC Milan defender Marcel Desailly, Arsenal midfielders Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, and Inter Milan forward Youri Djorkaeff.

Though there is talent on the current team, Blanc is concerned about how it's developed. He believes that promising teenagers should think twice before joining a big club in England's Premier League, as it may just lead to years on the bench.

As an example, 19-year-old winger Gael Kakuta is France's most highly rated young player. Yet he has made only three league appearances and one start in three seasons so far at Chelsea, while other members of France's Under-19 European Championship-winning team — forward Alexandre Lacazette and central midfielder Clement Grenier — are breaking into Lyon's first team.

"At that age the most important thing is to improve, to play and to learn, rather than getting an attractive transfer to a club in the big four or the big five (of the Premier League)," Blanc said. "They'll train once or twice a week with the first team but will never play in the first team. What's the point of that?"

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