Houllier unworried by loss of French talent to England

French football's technical director says he cannot deny 'opportunity' to youngsters
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The Independent Online

As Paul Pogba prepared to become the latest French teenager to seek his fortune in England, Gérard Houllier, the former Liverpool manager and now technical director of the French Football Federation, told The Independent he was unworried by the teenage talent drain across the English Channel.

Houllier said his only concerns were for the welfare of the players, and that the clubs who developed them should be realistically compensated instead of getting the "ridiculous" remuneration currently awarded.

At present clubs receive limited compensation, capped at around £300,000 but often far less, for developing players. "That is ridiculous," said Houllier. "Maybe the boy will be sold for €50m in three or four years' time. Clubs buying outstanding young talent should pay more." As an example, Manchester United paid Parma £200,000 for Giuseppe Rossi under Uefa regulations. He was sold to Villarreal for £6.7m two years later.

"It is a matter of money," said Houllier. Referring to the case of Gaël Kakuta, whose move from Lens to Chelsea has led to the Premier League club receiving a 16-month transfer ban from Fifa, and a €130,000 (£119,000) fine, Houllier said: "If [Chelsea] give more money to Lens the case will be settled right away. Chelsea should pay more because he is an outstanding talent."

Fifa also suspended Kakuta, now 18, for four months, and fined him €780,000 (£717,000). Houllier said: "I was against the suspension because he is at a critical age. It is not the player's responsibility, he was a minor. Stopping a player from playing at that age is like stopping a boy going to university. The suspension can be damaging and his career might not be repaired."

Fifa this week said the 16-year-old Pogba was free to join Manchester United from Le Havre, who had claimed he had agreed a contract with them. Fifa ruled this was not the case and Le Havre, who can appeal, could not have arranged a contract as Pogba was too young, and as they had only paid him expenses he was an amateur.

Kakuta and Pogba follow a series of French teenagers, from Nicolas Anelka's move to Arsenal in 1997 to 17-year-old Jérémy Hélan's recent transfer from Rennes to Manchester City.

"As French technical director you could think I want to keep all my players," said Houllier. "Personally I think it is very difficult for a player to go abroad at such an age but, at the same time, it is an opportunity for the boy to be in a good environment with a good coach."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has spoken of banning all transfers of players under 18 but, like Houllier, Damien Comolli, the former director of football at Tottenham, now in a similar post at St Etienne, is against the idea. "As frustrating as it is for us to lose some players to bigger clubs, it's also frustrating for us because of the African market," he said, adding it would hamper their team development if they could not sign players from Africa until they were 18.

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