The official language of football being lies, we were left with attitudes, hesitations: a sidelong glance which marks censorship or discontent, the pout saying hesitation. Friday, an hour after the chick victory (1-0, Kylian Mbappé in construction, Neymar on violin) of Paris-SG in front of AS Saint-Etienne in the final of the Coupe de France in Saint-Denis, the Parisian coach, Thomas Tuchel, was asked if he was “worried”, his men having been more (Mbappé) or less (Neymar, Leandro Paredes) shaken by the physical commitment of the Greens. “Ugh… All those who would go through what we went through would be, worried! All those who have seen this mistake [thetacklebyStéphanedefenderLoïcPerrinhavingseriouslyinjuredMbappéinthe26th[letacledudéfenseurstéphanoisLoïcPerrinayantgravementblesséMbappéàla26e minute, editor’s note] are worried! ”

Post-coronavirus protocol requires, the coach of the reigning French champions spoke masked: failing to see his face to support his words, they remained in abeyance: somewhere between forced indignation, real concern and the obligatory empathy of a coach towards a locker room where most players are much better paid than him. The first competitive match played in France for four months will have been of a marvelous, iridescent ambiguity: good and evil have followed one another depending on the point of view and the moment, then merge. Without having their mouths full or their eyes full, the presents had their heads full.

How serious is Mbappé’s injury?

The capital club communicated on the injury of its striker on Saturday, at the beginning of the afternoon: “Sprain of the right ankle with significant lesion of the external lateral compartment, to be reassessed within seventy-two hours [mardi, donc] from a clinical and imaging point of view ”, time for the edema to subside, which will make it easier to read the magnetic resonance image (MRI). It’s all in the adjective “important” : it is not there by chance. And it portends an absence of the star not only against Olympique Lyonnais in the same place (the Stade de France in Saint-Denis) and under the same conditions (behind closed doors) on Friday in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue, but also and especially in less than three weeks in Lisbon, where a Champions League in blitz mode (quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single match and run down in eleven days) will deliver a verdict in accelerated fashion.

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Sign of the confusion of the times: it was the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, who was the first to bring out the information from the locker room, inquiring about the player’s state of health during a protocol after – embarrassing match (health protocol obliges) and hearing himself answer a “It cracked” picked up by the microphones of France Télés. We imagine that in return, Mbappé was explained the subtleties of the European recovery plan to 750 billion euros concluded by Macron three days earlier: we are hardly kidding.

In detail, the behavior of the Parisian by birth deserves a detour. If he left the field in tears, he then displayed a deeply collective attitude, chambering (on crutches) at the foot of the podium of teammates sometimes embarrassed (Marco Verratti) by his attitude, tweeting the next day his simple happiness as a player (“Waking up as a winner, no better feeling possible”) and retweeting, therefore, the message of speedy joint recovery of Perrin and AS Saint-Etienne. Mbappé, who has not given the slightest interview since January (to the BBC), is in his corridor: that of corporatism beyond even the Parisian locker room, that is to say in this sport which he imagines to influence the story since he was a kid. A way of protection (player I am, player I stay) and perhaps more than that: in his eyes, football is not a viaticum towards something else – notoriety, money or whatever. But the alpha and the omega.

What consequences for the Parisian club?

Once we have measured the sporting loss that would constitute the absence of a Mbappé who evolved Friday on a planet other than the friends for twenty-six minutes, we have to deal with: the debates on his presence or not on the field on August 12 against the Italians of Atalanta Bergamo in the quarter-finals of the Champions League are expected to be recurring. And they pay each other.

In a modern football keen on “marginal gains” (serving peeled tomatoes to players to facilitate their digestion, undercooking the pasta to prolong the nutritional effect …), a competitive approach crushed in the media by the injury of a player, in addition to putting the poison of uselessness in the unconscious of the able-bodied – and what are we used for? -, sets up a negative environment against which the Parisian sports director Leonardo has struggled so much and more in the past, grabbing the microphones to swing at will “nothing is serious” or “Nobody died” which have sometimes had the paradoxical effect of increasing, if not the discomfort, at least the tension.

Beyond that, an absence of Mbappé would have an existential significance, just like those of Neymar (metatarsal fracture in 2018, intercostal injury in January) so far: in a club conceptualized to revolve around one or two stars (unlike the Real Madrid this season, for example), their absence is, in essence, more difficult to overcome than elsewhere.

What image did the Parisian team give?

Apart from the magnum of champagne used by defender Presnel Kimpembe to water those who answered questions from journalists after the meeting, it was not time to laugh. “We didn’t play very well, recognized Captain Thiago Silva, with a somewhat baroque contractual situation since he was assured that his Parisian lease, which has been running since 2012, would end after the Lisbon expedition. We encountered a lot of difficulties and we’ll talk about it later [entre nous]. It wasn’t easy to see what happened to Kylian too. So there is a feeling of sadness for him, and at the same time the satisfaction of having won a title. We have time. I hope Kylian will recover as soon as possible, because he is an essential player for us. ”

Besides the fact that he puts the head of the assembly in the bottom of the jump where the injury of a player lies «indispensable», the Brazilian defender hollow out the eternal damnation of a team that wins games because it has to rather than because it wants to, carrying the weight of the enormous means at its disposal – 560 million euros estimated by exercise, the club refuses to communicate on it – instead of seeing it as a shortcut to success. His compatriot Marquinhos outbid: “We’re not always going to put on a show, put in 4-0, 5-0 or 8-0. You also have to know how to win games where you are badly. ” But no one asks him to win 8-0. However, he imagines it and he lives with this 8-0.

Paris-SG won their seventeenth title in the Qatari era on Friday as one pulls aside a tree branch during a walk in the forest, before dismissing the next Friday against OL, then another, then … The friendly matches played by the club for two weeks, negotiated while enjoying the game and on scores of video games (9-0 against Le Havre, 7-0 against Waasland-Beveren …) were in truth almost scripted parodies, shameful from a strict ethical point of view, where the opponent was discreetly invited before kick-off to “Do not put an impact” as had underlined, amused to put it mildly, a defender from Saint-Etienne ten days before the final. It was important not to confuse.

What does post-coronavirus football taste like?

Caught in the immensity of a deserted Stade de France, measuring up to 5,000 spectators in an enclosure that could contain sixteen times more, the presents were severe, sometimes pointing to a certain loss of meaning. Fed to football under the shade as it has declined for three months (even Release of Friday) in the European championships which resumed behind closed doors, viewers were conversely enthralled by the grace of a realization while tight shots in a reversal of situation worthy of the best Hollywood fictions: dimensioned by the engagement physicality and aggressiveness of the Saint-Etienne coached by Claude Puel, Friday’s final was of exceptional sporting intensity, showing qualities of combat, solidarity and courage. Which, until proof to the contrary, make a spectacle, just like the technical virtuosity of Neymar or the speed of Mbappé on his first supports and beyond.

After the match, Puel congratulated his players at length, reduced to ten for more than an hour: “Since the takeover [de l’entraînement] on June 17, they gave themselves the means to be very professional, diligent, with a lot of listening and investment to make a big match. We had taken options and I think they were the right ones until the expulsion. We were enterprising. ” Euclid’s postulate: behind closed doors or not, a football match is what the players make of it, no more, no less

In the appendix: there are two football matches behind each match. The one that one of the two teams wants to play (ball control and speed in the case of the Parisians on Friday, to talk about the technical and athletic abilities of the players) and the one that his opponent intends to play – and it is that of the AS Saint-Etienne that we saw in Saint-Denis, not the other, or by flashes. One of them was enough to bring the Coupe de France into the arms of Marquinos and others.

But Puel understood: since the resizing of the Parisian club in the summer of 2017 and the arrival of Mbappé and Neymar for some 400 million without even talking about the first euro of salary, something is missing in this Paris-SG in the fight and in its approach to the collective gesture. After Mbappé’s injury, Neymar cautiously withdrew from the debates, giving the impression of making an appointment for later: it would have been just as easy to replace him, especially as the number of authorized changes increased from three to five, but that, Tuchel can not do, which underlines the prehension (proverbial, in the case of Paris-SG) of the Parisian stars on the club.

From the Saint-Etienne commitment to the Brazilian’s psyche, post-coronavirus football unrolls the same thread as the one before. He did not fall into chaos. He resists.

Gregory Schneider

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