Invited by AS Monaco as part of the reissue of the jersey for the 1996-1997 season, the year of the sixth French championship title, Emmanuel Petit agreed from the Parisian retro football store Line Up to dive back into its riches for a few moments. Memories in Red and White.
What does this jersey represent for you? It’s the championship title shirt, it’s special. We played great football, we gave immense pleasure on the pitch. There’s a lot of nostalgia and emotion when I try to remember it all. I made my debut in Monaco. It was another time, another world, another football with experienced players who were there to accompany, chaperone and educate the youngsters.
This title, you have been chasing after for years… I won’t go into the details of this period but at the time, winning a title was perhaps a little more complicated in Monaco than elsewhere. This is a goal that has eluded us for quite some time. When I started as a pro in Monaco (in 88), we already had enough qualities to be champions. Unfortunately, we were often dolphins. In 96-97, we had a crazy season. If I remember correctly, we won the championship five days before the end. We were performing. We’re having so much fun on and off the pitch. We were a very united and united group.
A real group of friends? At the end of training, we went to La Turbie for a drink, we went to eat by the beach in Juan-Les-Pins. We were very often together. It was our strength. This bond was made very naturally. I don’t know if that would still be possible. Today there is a very egocentric, very individual side to the midfoot that I don’t like at all.
At the end of this season, you leave AS Monaco. I left on a high note. I had been at the club for almost 14 years. I felt like I had done the trick. With the title, the circle was complete, I had to go elsewhere and satisfy my dream of playing in the Premier League.
Do you remember your last game? Not really, because we had already been champions for a few days. Jean Tigana no longer knew what to offer us in training (laughs). We only played small games. We were already on vacation. The tears came a little later when I announced that I was leaving during the celebrations on the port. I’m going to make a confession to you. When I took my car to go to London, I cried for half the way. The first few months, as soon as I had two or three days off, I had a visceral need to return to Monaco to recharge my batteries. After the sadness, there was this exceptional adventure with Arsenal. I did not have time to have regrets, and fortunately.
This story began in 85 at the ASM training center. What do you keep from this period? Again, really nostalgic. I assume to think that before it was better. In the world in general and also in football. I knew the paternalistic management of Mr. Campora. There was an extremely privileged relationship between the players and all the club’s employees. There was also a great proximity with many people within the Principality. The human side was predominant. I have fond memories of life here. The princely family, the Dolce Vita… Honestly, it was an incredible period.
Your best memory on the Rock? I have so many moments that come back to me. Good and bad by the way… The Coupe de France final won against OM (91) but also the one we lost (89). Furiani’s tragedy a few days before our European Cup final against Werder Bremen (2-0 defeat in 91). My very first match at the Louis-II stadium against Sochaux with the marking of Stéphane Paille. My relationship with Arsène Wenger and Jeannot Petit, my link with the members of the club: Mr. Humbert the former physiotherapist, Luigi the storekeeper, Annie the secretary… There was such a humanity between us, such a joie de vivre. it was felt even on the field.
The teammate you never forgot? I have a deep affection for Jean-Luc Ettori. We were still in Guadeloupe this summer together. I also remained close to Luc Sonor. Of course, I have kept very strong ties with the French champion group. It goes beyond sports. That’s also the beauty of this job.
The coach who marked you? Arsène Wenger. A precursor in its management, in the approach to training, human management, psychology. When we’re together, people like to say that father and son are reunited. It’s not completely wrong (laughs). Arsène was very paternalistic with me from the start. He was the one who gave me my chance, trusted me and supported me. It allowed me to experience the best emotions of my career. He knows everything I owe him.
All has not always been rosy, however. Like the relationship of a father and son, it has sometimes been contentious. I can’t count the number of times I was called into his office after practice, where he took me aside. We took the lead but it was always respectful. There has never been a word higher than the other.
A fight you attended? I saw a few fights (laughs) but I especially remember a clash of titans between Lilian Thuram and Patrick Blondeau. As in hockey, we gave them 30 seconds to fuck themselves and then resume training. That wouldn’t be possible today. They took off the shin guards and started beating each other. Behind, the problem was solved.
Another era! I also remember a match in Bastia (in 94). We had warmed up around decapitated chicken heads or ducks. There were injuries, the invasion of the field. The match was stopped, Canal Plus interrupted the broadcast and we took refuge in the locker room. I had broken Lubo Moravcik’s leg on a tackle. It was very, very tense. It was an epic game. In the locker room, we heard the Corsican coach warming up his men with very, very limited words. We were ready to go to war. There were a lot of strong guys. We were a team of scavengers, I loved that.
Who best reveals this state of mind? Pat Blondeau. You never had to get fried with him because you took a direct right (laughs). It was the good time: you screwed up, you took a pie in the face and everyone moved on.
The most partying player? Jose Toure. He arrived from Bordeaux when I left the training center. The expectations were very high but it went freestyle. He was known more for his night outs than for his performances on the pitch. He got a little lost, it was the beginnings of football business and its failings. That’s a shame. I still remember his legendary goal with FC Nantes at the Parc des Princes in the final of the Coupe de France, which earned him the nickname of the French Brazilian.
The teammate who gave you a hard time? Dan Petersen from Denmark. He is definitely one of the most talented players I have met in training (laughs). In an official match, with the pressure, the context, oddly he lost his means. But at La Turbie, I can tell you that it was a terror for everyone.
The 96-97 team:
Barthez – Blondeau, Djetou, Dumas, Leonard (or Martin) – Petit, Collins, Legwinski – Benarbia – Henry (or Ikpeba), Anderson. Trainer: Jean Tigana.