The history of ASSE is beautiful, rich in titles and glories. Painful too, marked by dark times and spectacular disappointments. The period the Greens are going through in 2020 has few equals in its past. Humiliated in Brest on Saturday (4-1), they signed their seventh consecutive setback and equaled the worst series in their history in the elite. The year 2020 is a nightmare with 13 defeats in 20 matches or 65% of losses, no one does worse among the 98 teams of the five major European leagues.
And if the vast majority of them have already tried to stop the bleeding by cutting off the head of the coach, that of Claude Puel has never been threatened. The coach pursues his mission in peace as if the results had no influence on his future. ASSE has chosen a path and now seems compelled to stay true to it. For several reasons.
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Jean-Kévin Duverne (Brest) celebrates his goal against Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1
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To separate from Puel would be to call into question the whole project in which he is committed and in which he has especially engaged the club. Remember here that he is not a simple coach. Puel sits on the club’s executive board, the body that makes all day-to-day decisions. He placed a few faithful in strategic positions: Jean-Luc Buisine at the head of the recruitment unit and, above all, Xavier Thuilot as general manager. While he is not untouchable, although he still has two presidents above him, Puel has cleaned up and then woven his web. He is the strongman of the club and his power transpires in all its strata like a Premier League manager.
Unique incarnation of the project
The project he is setting up also required some bulldozing work. Puel transformed the group and now relies on young people. Stéphane Ruffier, emblematic goalkeeper of the most beautiful period of the Greens for 30 years, was expelled from the team bluntly and with the support of management. Even a new coach could not help it, the link is broken.
Stéphane Ruffier (ASSE), during the reception of OM in Ligue 1 – 02/05/2020
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The former Lille coach has built a team in his image, as he likes them, with players from the center and others in post-training. ASSE, today is Puel. A project that appeals to a club that no longer has the means to take other paths. The sales of Wesley Fofana and William Saliba (against 60 million euros) allowed ASSE to survive. The Puel project aims to bring out other great hopes and perpetuate this model.
Fragile finances, exorbitant dismissals
A model which, by definition and since it relies on young people, requires patience. “In Lille, we had not won for 12 matches. We then played in the Champions League and beat Manchester United and AC Milan. In Nice, we lost 7 matches in a row in L1 but we finished fourth in the championship“, he recalled at the beginning of the month, sure of himself as usual. Inhabited by deep convictions, he will never compromise even if the sporting situation gets bogged down and could demand a change of course. With Puel take it or leave it Black or white Never gray.
Claude Puel during the Coupe de France semi-final between Saint-Etienne and Rennes
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And for ASSE, difficult to part with. The Covid-19 crisis combined with the uncertainty that hangs over TV rights is weakening the finances of French clubs in general and those of the Greens in particular. Puel is under contract until 2022 and the Greens have made a big financial effort to secure their services with a monthly salary estimated at 250,000 euros gross. To part with it would be very expensive for the Greens who cannot afford it. They have embarked on a path and have little way out. And whether or not it is a cul-de-sac, Puel remains in control despite the enormous turbulence.
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