When France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it was clear that the team resembled a well-oiled machine, with no issues whatsoever between the players, issues that have plagued “Les Bleus” in plenty of their trips to the world football flagship competition. It was coach Didier Deschamps who instilled that hunger and that atmosphere in the team, creating the perfect environment for a hugely talented team to thrive and win trophies.
Even if that meant not selecting some players, a decision which left pundits and fans alike scratching their heads. One of them was striker Karim Benzema, who made his return at the UEFA EURO 2020 and missed Qatar 2022 due to an injury at one of the last training sessions before the start of the tournament. The other one was midfielder Adrien Rabiot, a hugely talented player, but who was often overlooked and had a chip on his shoulder.
At Russia 2018, Rabiot was left out of the 23-man squad before the start of the tournament and the decision definitely did not go down well with him. Rabiot immediately wrote a letter to the French Football Federation, asking to be taken off the replacement list if any injury happened. It was his way or the highway for Rabiot.
It was another blow for Rabiot, who suffered plenty of difficult challenges in his life. First, he left France when he was only 12 years, spent a few months at Manchester City, but came back to his native country, after failing to adapt. One year earlier, Michel, his father, suffered a stroke and could only communicate with his eyelids, eventually passing away in 2019.
“Adrien’s performances with France are not at the same level as those he delivered with PSG this season,” Deschamps said back then, with the bad blood between the player and the coach being clear. It looked like Rabiot’s international career, at least as much as Deschamps was the national team coach, was over.
Of course, France went on and won the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with every decision taken by Deschamps vindicated by the trophy won in Russia. Yet Rabiot, who switched from PSG to Juventus in a high-profile move, was still on the fringes of the national team, an afterthought more than a certainty, with his huge potential, never completed.
Eventually, after nearly two years, Deschamps called back Rabiot, who also eased his stance and accepted the call up.
“What happened, happened. We are not going to go back to that, and neither is he. I’m not someone who likes to take radical positions. “He stayed selectable and I made the decision to give him his return for this call-up. In 2018, he made a decision, I think it was a mistake on his part and so did he. But there weren’t any harsh words or aggression from him. If you have any concerns about my authority, don’t worry,” said Deschamps back then.
But he also made headlines at the UEFA EURO 2020, when his mother and agent, Veronique, entered into a raucous dispute with other parents of France’s players when the reigning world champions were eliminated in the Round of 16 in Bucharest, after Kylian Mbappe missed a key penalty in the shootout.
However, the flurry of absences on France’s part, with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba key absences in the squad due to injuries, meant that Rabiot was going to be a started and a key cog of Deschamps’ team at Qatar 2022, in what shapes up to be the last tournament for the coach as the France manager.
“I like to be there for my teammates. I like to be advising, talking and listening. Helping my teammates to perform and be in the right conditions, physically and mentally, for what we face on the pitch is something I like doing,” said Rabiot according to ESPN.
He surely became a leader in the last year and his chip on the shoulder has been definitely big. Rabiot missed the FIFA World Cup four years ago and unlike teammates like Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Hugo Lloris or Raphael Varane, he did not win the trophy.