The best managers of all time: #22 Aime Jacquet
#22 Aime Jacquet
Jacquet had a noteworthy career as a defensive midfielder for Saint-Etienne and also turned out for Lyon from 1973 to 1975.
Lyon turned out to be the first team he managed just a year after he retired as a player at 34 years old. It was at his next club that he would really begin to be noticed around the world as an astute manager.
Jacquet’s tenure at Bordeaux yielded 3 League titles and another 3 domestic cup trophies. He even reached two European Cup semi-finals with the French team and was the 2nd longest serving manager in the side’s history as he coached them for 9 years from 1980 to 1989. Brief unsuccessful spells with Montpellier and Nancy followed but, this did no harm to his reputation as the France Football Federation considered him worthy of taking over the national team.
There were still doubts over his appointment, and he was even considered for a provisional managerial role initially, but the results he accrued spoke for themselves.
Jacquet was confirmed as permanent manager and set out to revamp the national team setup. To understand his impact on what would be a thoroughly successful tenure, one would have to rewind a few years when France failed to even qualify for the 1988 European Championships and the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups.
The kind of success France would go on to achieve under Jacquet only seems more extraordinary then.
After Eric Cantona’s assault on a Crystal Palace fan in 1995, and his subsequent ban from all football for a while, Jacquet had to rebuild his team. The fans and experts were skeptical with L’Equipe often blasting his choices to drop senior established players to get young blood in the team. His choices would be justified with time, of course.
France went on to have an excellent Euro 96 tournament, especially considering their recent history in major competitions and reached the semi-finals. The media and fans now rallied by his side.
But it didn’t take long for criticism to grow again as Jacquet concentrated on a solid defensive setup. France’s chances of making a good impression at the 1998 World Cup were played down and it was often written that Les Blues could achieve nothing with Jacquet at the helm.
France were dominant in a relatively straightforward group, swatting aside South Africa and Saudi Arabia with ease without conceding a goal and scoring seven. Denmark provided a stern test but were beaten and France topped their group with 3 wins from 3 games. It took extra time for Les Blues to oust Paraguay and Italy. They had reached the semi-finals only having conceded one goal in five games and Jacquet’s ruthless detail to their defensive organization was paying off.
They beat a talented Croatia team in the semi-finals with two goals from Lilian Thuram and then went all the way by beating Brazil in the final. Their victory was made all the more sweet by defeated the defending champions with an easy 3-0 win, asserting their superiority past a Ronaldo-reliant Brazil.
The 1998 World cup winning campaign would send the France fans into delirium and catapult Jacquet to superstar status. They had won the European Championships before, but this was the first time the country would taste World Cup success.
Jacquet would retire in the wake of their World Cup success, leaving on a high. The French team, full of confidence and verve, went on to win the 2000 European Championships under his assistant manager Roger Lemerre.
Frank Lebouef, the former Chelsea defender who won 50 France caps was full of praise for Jacquet in a recent interview to the Daily Mail and summarized his approach to management.
On asked what it was about the manager that converted a disjointed team into a united one, he says, “I call him ‘God’ now. Simply ‘God’. He made the decisions. He exactly knew what he had to do. After he took charge of the national team, he tried to create a club team, not a national team selection where people come and go. It was with people who like to be together and want to play together. It is what you want, it makes the difference. We understood that we were 23 players and that everybody was as good as the others. We knew that we had a squad and Jacquet did the job. During the final, he said go for it from the corner kicks because they are not trained. We scored the first two goals. He knew exactly what to do to win.”