Football

Premier League challenge awaits Blanc

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Blanc in the shop window at Euro 2012. (©GettyImages)
Blanc in the shop window at Euro 2012. (©GettyImages).

France coach Laurent Blanc has hinted he could move into club management next season, as his contract with the national side is set to expire after Euro 2012.

The 46-year-old may use this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine as a shop window to showcase his managerial credentials, with the Premier League and Italy's Serie 'A' both mooted as potential destinations for Les Bleus boss.

Blanc is facing an uncertain future, as talks with his country's national federation over an extension to his current deal remain at an impasse.

After being offered a four-year extension by Noel Le Graet - the president of the French Football Federation - in September, prior to qualification for this year's finals, Blanc declined to sign at the time, citing the need to reach the tournament first.

The former Inter Milan and Manchester United defender has since indicated he will listen to potential offers if the FFF do not return to the negotiating table, but for the time being his focus remains solely on the European Championships.

"My intention is to continue with the France team. I have not changed my mind," Blanc stated in an interview with Le Parisien.

"But the situation is that my contract has not yet been extended. And I'm not the kind of guy who will keep tapping at the door. If it's clear, it's clear. It is always gratifying to be appreciated by big clubs. [But] my objective remains the European Championship. I am completely focused on this competition."

As Chelsea continue their search for a long-term replacement for Andre Villas-Boas, Blanc's name has been linked with the Stamford Bridge hot seat. The Blues are currently being overseen by interim boss Roberto Di Matteo, who was elevated from first-team coach upon the sacking of the Portuguese tactician in early March.

Di Matteo is mounting an impressive case to be retained as permanent manager, winning 10 of his 13 games in charge, most impressively last night's 1-0 Champions League semi-final first leg success over Barcelona.

That said, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is still thought to be drawing up his own list of potential candidates, though the Italian will be taken into consideration.

Blanc insists he has not been approached by any club side, but speculation in the English press is likely to continue as he remains in the media spotlight, with France due to take on England in the opening game of Group D at Euro 2012, in Donetsk on June 11.

Asked what would prompt him to walk away from the national setup, the 1998 World Cup winner explained: "If an exceptional challenge is proposed to me, I can very well decide to leave the French team.

"I often hear that it is the chief who decides whether or not to extend a player or coach's contract. I agree, but let's not forget that the employee may decide as well. But that is not the case at the moment."

If Harry Redknapp were to take over as England manager, his position vacated at Tottenham could perhaps be an alternative destination for Blanc, who has expressed a desire to one day test himself in the Premier League.

After guiding Bordeaux to the Ligue 1 title in 2008-09, in only his second season in management, 'Le President' - as he was nicknamed during his playing days, because of his strong leadership skills - had already established a burgeoning reputation.

"It is a big goal for me," admitted Blanc, after a Champions League tie against Chelsea in 2008. "England is another planet with a real passion, a history, with great players and lots of money. Chelsea is one of the biggest European clubs."

Having replaced Raymond Domenech as national team coach in the wake of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Blanc has restored a sense of humility and pride in the France squad, and with the side currently on an unbeaten run of 18 matches, are sure to be a threat at Euro 2012 this summer.

His long-term position may be shrouded in doubt, but his status within the game, certainly, is not.

Topics:
Internationals
Football
Premier League
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