Coach Henry dreams of Mbappe and gold for Olympic hosts

AFP , Saturday 20 Jan 2024

Coach Thierry Henry hopes that Kylian Mbappe and other French World Cup stars might make themselves available for his team at the Paris Olympics.

Henry, Mbappe
Coach Henry dreams of Mbappe and gold for Olympic hosts. AP

The 25-year old Mbappe, France's biggest star, will be a free agent in the summer and his choice of club has provoked intense speculation.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker has long been linked with a move to Real Madrid.

"Kylian has a special place everywhere," Henry, France's under-21 and Olympic coach, told AFP in an interview on Friday.

"But there's a difference between wanting something and being able to attain it. I don't know where he'll end up, but the club will have a say. I haven't contacted him about it yet."

Hosts France qualified automatically for the Olympics football tournament which kicks off on July 24, two days before the opening ceremony.

Each team is allowed three players over the age of limit of 23, and Henry, who played 123 times for France's senior team, hopes that the prospect of playing at an Olympics at home will attract players, but he said he also had not heard from other over-age stars, such as Antoine Griezmann.

"No one has approached me. They ask each other," Henry said.

"Let's be honest, it's the Olympics in France, so it's a big deal for everyone. If you talk to any player in France, they'd like to do the Olympics. But will they be able to?"

"I have a lot of possibilities and very few certainties," said Henry of his squad. "That's inherent in the youth category."

"It's even truer when it comes to preparing for the Olympic Games, which don't fit into the FIFA calendar. We're at the mercy of the clubs' willingness to release their players."

"I don't know who I will select yet, but let's say I want a player and his current club accepts. If he is transferred in the summer, how do I know if his new club will want to release him?"

The problem is complicated because France have qualified for the Euro 2024 in Germany just before the Paris Games.

"We do not know the squad for the Euro either," Henry said.

But, he said, national coach Didier Deschamps "has helped me a lot."

"DD has 75,000 matches with the French team, 210,000 competitions, he has won everything. I listen to what the boss says."

Henry, who was part of the France squad that won the World Cup at home in 1998, said there will be expectations from "me, the team, everyone."

"It's France. Visualising gold is normal. Getting there is another question."

"It's not always easy to win at home, to transform this pressure into a positive emotion."

Henry said he was not counting on a long coaching career.

"I like coaching but one day I will stop," he said. "Longevity at the level football, apart from DD, it's hard."

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