Author of a convincing start to the season with the Principality club, Sofiane Diop appeared before the press on the eve of tomorrow’s meeting against Strasbourg. The midfielder took the opportunity to pay tribute to Julien Stéphan. The current Alsatian coach had launched it with the reserve of Stade Rennais.
Asked about his positioning a few hours before the meeting with Julien Stéphan’s Strasbourg, Sofiane Diop smiles: “I think I can adapt to all offensive positions, I don’t really have a preference. Coach Kovac puts me at left but what is funny is that it is the coach Stéphan who started me on the right in CFA in Rennes. “
In 2014, Sofiane Diop left native Touraine to join Stade Rennais. In Brittany, he caught the eye of the coach of the then reserve: “He was one of the first players of the 2000 generation who had won in reserve at that time, in CFA”, remembers Julien Stéphan. “He already had a lot of technical quality and personality in the field, adds the technician. He had done a full half season in CFA before not signing his professional contract in Rennes by joining Monaco.”
A difficult decision to swallow at the time: “It was a period when some young people thought it was a bit stuffy. Sofiane thought that he would not have any opportunities to be able to play. We regretted a lot, we , the trainers, because we knew the quality that there was in this player, and that his personality was made for the high level. He was aware of his qualities but worked a lot. He had all the qualities required to have a good career at the high level, which he is starting to assert himself more and more and making a lot of progress. ”
“Tactically, one of the best coaches I have had”
If the current Strasbourg coach “keeps very good memories” of the 21-year-old player, the affection is mutual. “He was a very important coach for me and I kept a very good relationship with him,” admits the number 37 Monegasque.
“Tactically he is, I think, one of the best coaches I have had. He is very special in all the emotions he conveys before the matches, I lived it in Rennes and it was very strong He was close to coming to Monaco for a period, it had not happened and he had then been number one at Stade Rennais and made some beautiful things to the point of winning a Coupe de France. “
If Julien Stéphan counts a lot for Sofiane Diop it is also because he allowed him to diversify his game. When he arrives in Rennes, the young footballer is used to evolving in the axis, behind the striker “I wanted to develop its palette by making it play on the side so that it adapts to making different efforts, races and movements”, explains the winner of the Coupe de France 2019 with Rennes today.
“It seemed important to me. I told him that it was not sure that he started in the axis with the pros but maybe on one side so he had to live that. We had a lot of discussion around the positioning but also on efficiency, the need for accuracy in the last pass and the last gesture. ” And the two men had the opportunity to talk about it again in the summer of 2019. Sofiane Diop returns from a loan to Sochaux and is preparing to resume with group B of the ASM. It is with his head full of doubts about the coming season that he falls back on his mentor, in Cannes.
“We had discussed at length about his experience, says Stéphan. It was not obvious for him at the time as what career cases can play out at little point. There has been a change of direction in Monaco, Kovac arrived, allowed him to express himself, trusted him. You always have to believe in your destiny. “
An expected reunion
Because today Sofiane Diop shines under the jersey diagonally, author of 5 goals and 3 assists in all competitions since the start of the season. Even if he believes he still has a lot of progress to make, especially on the defensive level, the game without the ball and regularity, he gives satisfaction to the one who put his foot in the stirrup.
“He doesn’t surprise me because he had the natural qualities and the character to be able to do what he does today. On the other hand, I find quite remarkable the sequence of good performances every three days because he discovers that with the European Cup. Having lived it with Rennes, I know that mentally it is not easy to follow up but shows him a lot of consistency. “
Encouragement that he is preparing to admit to him in person tomorrow shortly before 3 p.m. on the lawn of Louis II. “I’m going to congratulate him on his career and ask him not to be too good, that he doesn’t pose too many problems for us”, jokes Stéphan. “It’s been a long time since I saw him and I will be very happy to see him again, enthuses Diop for his part. I know his qualities and I know that he is capable of making very good shots with this team. Strasbourg but I hope he loses against AS Monaco. ”