Patrice Evra wants to "turn the page" on his role in France's World Cup revolution as he returns to the squad for the first time since. It is a stance that Laurent Blanc, France's coach, readily agrees with as he seeks to open a new chapter in French football, but the fallout from the extraordinary events of last summer continue to dog his side despite an improvement in results.
Yesterday, after Evra had stated his desire to move on, Blanc had to field questions over Franck Ribéry and Yoann Gourcuff's attempts to clear the air. The pair were reported to have fought on a flight in South Africa and Ribéry's return to the squad brought them face to face for the first time since the tournament. To ensure there were no further problems when the two met up a member of the coaching staff was present.
Surely that means there is still a problem, Blanc was asked. "I'm telling you there isn't one. You can take it or leave it, but there isn't one," he said, unable to conceal his frustration that the issue continues to dominate his press conferences. "You always need to be three in a discussion. Often when you have discussions like that, to iron things out and get back to sound ways, you always need three people. Because if there are only two, it becomes difficult."
Ribéry served a three-match ban for his part in the players' strike in South Africa, while Evra, the captain, was suspended for five games. Both are expected to start against Luxembourg tomorrow night as France resume their European Championship campaign. Under Blanc – and without Evra and Ribéry – they have regained form, sitting top of their group and having beaten England and Brazil in friendlies.
Evra said: "I want to turn the page. I want to be a solution and not a problem for this new generation. I worked like a madman in my club to maintain my level and to get the chance to be called up. It's with great pride that I find myself back in the French team, which I missed enormously. The people who know the real Patrice Evra knew I would fight to come back."
Evra has denied being the ringleader in the strike that saw the players' poor relations with coach Raymond Domenech spill over into a refusal to train. French politicians have said that Evra should never play for his country again. Evra said: "Someone had to pay for it. Some people said I was a ringleader, which was totally false. It was as a captain, and not as a ringleader, that I took this [punishment]."
Blanc spoke with Evra at the start of the week. "Sometimes words are easy to say, actions are a bit harder to do. We've done the first thing, which was to talk," Blanc said. "We spoke about the past, the present. He seems to be someone who holds the French team dear. The most important thing is what will happen in the weeks, the months to come."
* Arsenal are awaiting news of Nicklas Bendtner, who limped out of training with Denmark yesterday after suffering an ankle injury.
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