Glenn Hoddle last night surprisingly emerged as one of the three candidates shortlisted to succeed Jacques Santini as the manager of France.
The former England coach, who was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur last September, is believed to have applied for the job a few days after Santini announced he would be leaving Les Bleus to join Spurs in the wake of the European Championship. Santini walked out because he felt he deserved a contract extension before the tournament started.
Hoddle was the only foreigner to send his CV to the French Football Federation, and his bold move has now been rewarded with an interview in Paris early next week. Hoddle, who played for Monaco in the Eighties under the current Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, will be competing for the coveted role with the two joint favourites, Jean Tigana and Laurent Blanc. He is the firm outsider, not least because his French is virtually non-existent.
Nonetheless, Hoddle's inclusion in the final reckoning is a sign of the respect in which he is held on the Continent. The president of the FFF was refusing to comment last night, preferring instead to issue an ambiguous statement about the mystery third name. "All I will say," Claude Simonet explained, "is that this particular candidate has never been mentioned [in conversations about Santini's succession] before. The third name is a new one." Simonet would not say if the name was foreign, but he did confirm that "three candidates had been selected for closer scrutiny from an original list of 12".
The first two have long been known. Tigana, who has managed Lyon, Monaco and Fulham to varying degrees of success, is the front-runner, if only because he has the all-important backing of former French captain Michel Platini. Blanc, who finished his distinguished playing career with Manchester United, would be favourite among the current crop of players, most of whom were team-mates at club or international level.
The final decision will be made on 10 July, by which time Santini's feet will be firmly under his new Tottenham desk. Should Hoddle pull off the improbable and find himself in the French dug-out when they play Bosnia in a friendly in August, he will have swapped jobs with Santini, albeit over the course of nine months.
The irony would double as Simonet has also revealed that, despite France's tame exit in the quarter-finals of the Euro, he had always intended to renew Santini's contract.
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