Luka Elsner’s assistant to Amiens, Abder Ramdane tells us about his season at the Picard club. Passed by several Championships including the Bundesliga, the technician has a keen eye on football development. He also returns to Djamel Belmadi’s work with Algeria.
“A word on the outcome of the L1 Championship, and in particular the fate reserved for Amiens?
It’s disastrous, sorry … We didn’t give the club a chance, the little chance it had left to maintain itself. We were indeed in a bad situation but you should know that many clubs run away on the wire each season.
Amiens was stuck in the red zone. Do you really think you are going to turn things around …
(He cuts…) Over the past two seasons, Amiens has fled in the final sprint. From the start of the season, we knew it was going to be played in the last third … And then, Saint-Etienne seemed to me very concerned by the final of the Coupe de France. I think the heads of the players were focused on this event. The Greens were not at all in good shape. In my opinion, everything was still largely possible, especially since we have players with the mentality for that.
It has been more than three weeks since the decision of the final judgment was taken. Do you think that we were wrong and that we should have taken the same path as Germany, for example?
Yes quite. I played in Germany (Hansa Rostock then Friborg, 1998-2005) then I worked there as an assistant, notably at FC Sankt-Pauli (2014-2019). I’m still in touch with clubs and leaders. So when I hear that it is a decision that is based only on the financier, I do not agree.
The Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs are very well managed. The risk of bankruptcy is really low. In Germany, they measured the societal impact of football, so they wanted to revive a social bond thanks to the Bundesliga. Afterwards, they gave themselves the means to do so with closed matches, tests and a health protocol. They did the right thing. They reduced the risk as much as possible. I do not understand why France did not wait like Italy and Spain, countries more affected than us …
What did Amiens miss to capitalize more on its quality of play?
It’s hard to understand. I must admit that we too have asked ourselves a lot of questions. Playing against the big guys, it releases the pressure, it also leaves spaces like against the PSG (4-4) or OM (2-2). It was ideal to be able to develop our game. Faced with teams from our “Championship“, it’s more closed, more aggressive, we didn’t really know how to express ourselves in this kind of configuration.
You were Luka Elsner’s number one assistant this season. What was your role?
Luka Elsner is a very field coach, he did a lot of things on the field. I was there to help him, to support him, there was a lot of individual or group work. Then I was also there for the relational and psychological part with the players. We must try to guide them.
Is it different from what you have known so far?
Yes, it’s another approach. So far, from my experience, I have grown up in this role of assistant to Ewald Lienen (TSV Munich 1860, Olympiakos, Munich 1860), a trainer who had let me do a lot. He is someone very well known across the Rhine, he was notably part of the great team of Borussia Monchengladbach. He was more in a managerial role and suddenly I trained the team more.
“Are the French less hardworking?” Unfortunately it’s the truth…”
Greece, Romania, Belgium and especially Germany, you have accumulated experiences over the past twelve years. You returned to France this season. Sometimes we hear criticism that French players are less hardworking than abroad. What is your perception on this question?
Unfortunately, it’s the truth … Even if I think that the arrival of the big stars of PSG has increased the level of requirement. In short, foreigners set the tone for the investment that must be made to get there. During confinement, I watched documentaries about Tony Parker or Michael Jordan. There are always the same leitmotifs that come back. Work, the desire to win … I find that players no longer want to win matches, they want to win money. They prefer to have nice contracts than to win titles. The idea of leaving a trace in the world of football is less present. And even in Germany, we are also evolving towards this state of mind. To sum up, it’s “I’d rather drive a Ferrari than lift a Coupe de France“.
Did you feel a difference in the level of involvement between France and Germany?
Yes, I find it less hardworking in France. After, do not generalize and as soon as we manage to guide them, the players adhere and work without any problem.
What is the problem ?
If they don’t have to do things, they don’t. The vast majority are not applicants. They should be invited to go for sheathing or small exercises before the session. You have to realize that training does not start at 10 am with the ball. In reality, you have to put yourself 45 minutes before in the gym bath to stretch, warm up …
Is this more the case in Germany?
Already there, at the level of the under 15s, there is this process which is integrated in the minds. We arrive an hour before training, we do 45 minutes in the weight room and then we go out on the field. In France, training starts at 10 a.m., if some people could come at 9:55 a.m., they would. They would change, they would train, they would shower and they would go away. 2 hours of training would be enough. But today a Cristiano Ronaldo can work 8 hours a day. Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan became extremely good because they worked … There is no secret.
Talent is not everything …
A bit like in Africa, in France, there is an exceptional talent. But this mentality of work, of pushing its limits and going over it, it is not there. In the coming years, this is the key to being able to increase the level of Ligue 1. In Germany, we know that France is very good in training. I started working at Gladbach in 2006 as a U19 coach. There, I see that my old club has just recruited: Thuram, Cuisance or Pléa … Players who are exploding by their talent but also thanks to a higher level of investment on a daily basis. Talent and work is an often winning formula.
Last season, Jérôme Roussillon, left side of Wolfsburg, told us that he was surprised by the intensity of the daily training sessions: “The coach demands rhythm and the requirement is taken to the extreme“. What do you think ?
During one of my first sessions in France, I asked that we put on the shin pads because we were going to do duels. The players looked at me with a lot of astonishment saying to me that they did not see themselves putting shin guards in training. Whereas in Germany, half of the weekly sessions take place as if they were matches with the protections.
Why this difference?
We have to train like we play. Training is a match, so you protect yourself like in a match because you are as likely to be injured. So obviously, we are not there to break the leg of his teammate but the players are not robots. You cannot train slowly and suddenly go into match mode on D-Day with the push of a button. The warrior mode, it is worked every day.
“Belmadi managed to get each player to give 120% physically, mentally and technically”
You have worked in several countries. Do you ever want to train in Africa within a selection?
Yes why not. The selection is the Rolls Royce of football. We are fortunate to make the best players in a country work. It is an exciting exercise to be able to bring together all the talents at the same time. This is what Djamel Belmadi managed to do with Algeria. I think it’s exceptional and that we haven’t talked enough about it.
What impresses you about this coaching performance?
He managed to get each player to give 120% physically, mentally and technically. This desire to win at any cost, I found it remarkable. It is rare to see an African team playing like a European team.
When did you realize the potential of this team from Algeria?
From the start of the CAN, we understand that it can go to the end. I saw that tactically, it was very well in place. It didn’t do anything. Then talent made the difference, even if in Senegal, there were also. But the desire, the discipline and above all the tactical organization logically allowed Algeria to win this CAN. They played like Europeans, not like Africans, and it made a big difference.
Do you think this selection can continue to progress?
There is a framework with players arriving at their zenith. There is no reason why it cannot continue on the same dynamic. If she manages to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, she has the potential to perhaps finally pass this famous barrier of the quarterfinals that no African selection has yet managed to cross.
We have talked a lot about the coach that you are, but Abder Ramdane is also the player who greatly contributed to the Nîmes epic in the Coupe de France (1996). So in Ligue 1, you had lost in the final against AJ Auxerre of Guy Roux, champion of France the same year. What memory do you keep of this time?
As I told you, I was part of this category of players who played and who did not want to win at all costs. We were already happy to be in the final. We missed this ultimate desire to win a title. We missed these last percentages to get to the end. It remains a very big regret. We were leading until the 80 minute … “
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