LE PECQ, France ( Associated Press) — The president of the French Soccer Federation apologized Monday for criticism leveled at him by National Minister of Sports and Real Madrid Kylian Mbappe that he was “less interested” in Zinedine Zidane’s future. Can” as a coach.
Noel Le Graet admitted that his comments were “clumsy” in a radio interview.
“They do not reflect at all what I think or feel about the player he has become and the coach he has become,” Le Graet said in an apology widely reported by French media.
Le Graët, who recently extended the contract of France coach Didier Deschamps until July 2026, was a guest on the RMC show on Sunday. There, he was asked about the rumors linking Zidane to the Brazil team.
“I would be surprised if he went there, but he can do whatever he wants, I don’t care. I never met him, and we never thought about separating from Didier,” Le Graet said.
Asked whether he would object to Zidane meeting the Brazil coach, he replied: “I could not be less interested; He can go wherever he wants.”
Then, when asked if Zidane had called him recently, Le Graet remarked: “Certainly not. I wouldn’t even have answered the phone.”
Mbappe posted a message on his Twitter account on Sunday night without naming Le Graat.
“Zidane is France; Such disrespect to a legend does not happen”, he reprimanded.
Sports minister Amélie Oudea-Castra went further, asking Le Graet to apologize to Zidane for his “shameful lack of respect”.
Using Twitter, Oudéa-Castéra barely concealed her disdain for Le Graët, putting his position in the federation in quotation marks.
“A ‘president’ of France’s main sports federation shouldn’t say that. Apologies for this excess with Zidane, please,” he wrote.
Le Graët has faced allegations of sexual harassment, and has been the subject of an investigation ordered by the Federation Oudéa-Castéra.
Real Madrid also came out in defense of Zidane, who won him titles as a player and coach.
“These words show a complete lack of respect for one of the most admired figures by football fans around the world and our club expects immediate rectification,” the club said.
Zidane led the French team to victory in 1998, their first World Cup title as hosts. They shone again in 2000, when they were crowned champions at the European Nations Cup.
He has scored in two World Cup finals, with France losing to Italy in 2006.
Le Graët offered his apology in a statement that he distributed to various French media. The federation’s press office declined to share the apology directly with The Associated Press.
Le Graët’s statement also sought to ascribe some responsibility for the comments to the RMC interviewers.
“I gave an interview to RMC that I should not have given, because I was looking for a controversy by confronting Didier with Zinedine Zidane, two monuments of French football. I admit that I made strange statements that led to misunderstandings. Zinedine Zidane knows that I have immense respect for him, like all French “.
Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report from Paris.