Santini keeps silent about Petit's criticism

John Nisbet
Thursday 11 September 2003 00:00
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Jacques Santini, the France coach, has refused to respond to the criticism of his managerial style from Emmanuel Petit, who announced his retirement from international football this week.

The Chelsea midfielder blamed Santini for his decision to quit the national team but, when asked about the player's departure by journalists at the pre-match press conference ahead of yesterday's match with Slovenia, the coach did not reply in kind.

Petit had criticised Santini when revealing his decision but the coach said: "I have been made aware of Emmanuel Petit's article. You will understand that our first priority is the Slovenia match and qualifying. I will talk about the content at the next press conference.

"I knew he had talked to one of your colleagues," Santini added. "I am only surprised at the timing of the article. I wondered if it would come up on match day."

But Santini indicated that he was riled by Petit's comments when he was asked an innocuous question by a Slovenian journalist. "You know, I am only a little coach, I am not competent to make judgements like that," he said in what was an apparently ironic reference to Petit's remarks.

The France captain, Marcel Desailly, who plays with Petit at Chelsea, admitted he was disappointed by the 32-year-old's decision to quit. "I knew he wasn't settled in the French team, that lots of things going on did not please him and were eating away at him," Desailly said. "But I did not think he would go like that because he was a competitor. Sometimes, with patience and time, you can resolve situations.

"If I had ended my career when I was dropped for the Malta and Israel games I would have regretted it," Desailly added. "Time can be a great healer. But it seems to have been a maturely reached decision that has been going around in his head for about a year."

Nevertheless Petit, who won 63 caps, is assured of his place in French football history. To general surprise in France he was picked in Aimé Jacquet's final squad for the 1998 World Cup finals ahead of Sabri Lamouchi and went on to score their third goal in the World Cup final victory over Brazil. He was also a member of the Euro 2000 winning squad.

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