Guillaume Warmuz dives back into his memories before the round of 16 of the Coupe de France between Lens and Monaco
A prediction for Sunday?
It is not easy. Collectively, Lens is better oiled but the individualities are stronger in Monaco. I really like Ben Yedder. Even in difficulty, he continues to slam goals. These are two teams that have practically the same course in the league. Playing Lens is never easy. it’s going to be a real Cup match.
Does the Lensois season surprise you?
Completely. It’s a team that for two or three years has had a fairly impressive continuity in results. Franck Haise has implemented a real game philosophy with a strong collective spirit. I really like the risks that Lens is able to take in the game. We sent real support from the players to the project.
Conversely, how to explain the difficulties of Monaco?
I do not have all the tenants and the outs but I did not really understand the departure of Niko Kovac. Overall he did a good job. There is logically a bit of instability because you have to assimilate a new discourse.
Your career is inseparable from RC Lens. What do you keep from these 11 years?
It was great. When I arrived, we were washing our equipment ourselves at home. It’s a detail but today it’s unthinkable in any pro club. It was another world. 10 years later, when I left the club, La Gaillette had just come out of the ground. We helped build the club. And we led him to his first title of champion of France (in 1998). It’s set in stone. We had a golden generation who knew how to put their individualities at the service of the collective and above all of a club with a real identity.
Leaving was heartbreaking?
The most difficult to digest was the way it was done. I would have liked to leave otherwise than through the back door in December. Even if it was to sign for Arsenal. But leaving Monaco wasn’t easy either (laughs). I had completely found my marks. I am unfortunately seriously injured in the knee, alone in training with Olivier Kapo. I had keys to continue, but I had done the trick. Recovery was becoming difficult. I didn’t want to do the season too much. I don’t regret anything, ending his career with adventures at Arsenal, Dortmund and Monaco, it’s not too bad (laughs).
There is worse, indeed!
(Laughs) I was a little guy from Blanzy (Saône-et-Loire) who wanted to turn pro like many others. Not only did I manage to make a living from football, but I was on the doorstep of the France team, I played in big clubs. There were people stronger than me but maybe I made the difference through my work and my self-sacrifice. I quickly realized that I had a unique chance and that I had to give it my all. I was ready to go through all the hardships.
Which was the most difficult?
My knee injury in 96 when I almost quit playing. It took me almost a year to come back. I also had a lot of trouble recovering from my departure from Lens. When I arrived at Arsenal, I was not ready. Arsène Wenger had spotted me during a Champions League match. We beat the Gunners at Wembley. The second guard had broken his leg. He saw in me a possible successor to David Seaman. But I was too mentally affected and I never knew how to meet his expectations.
“The visit to Laghet transformed me”
You then bounce back to Dortmund.
I arrived late and I could not impose myself immediately. But I was 33, I didn’t come to drink beers and eat Bratwurst (laughs). Matthias Sammer, a very great coach, and Michael Zork, the sports director, called me to tell me that I would have my chance at the truce. I made an incredible preparation and I passed number 1 in front of Roman Weidenfeller. It was a pride to dislodge a German at home on a regular basis (laughs).
The second season is going a little less well and Didier Deschamps calls you to join him in Monaco.
I arrive, and everything is linked. We miss qualifying for the Champions League against Bétis Sevilla. Behind, Deschamps leaves and it is Francesco Guidolin who replaces him. Collectively, it was not easy. We did not meet the objectives set by the club. Flavio Roma is unfortunately injured. It cost him his place at the World Cup in 2006. It was very hard for him. Me, it allowed me to play almost the entire season. I had never had such strong defenders in front of me: Maicon, Evra, Squillaci, Gillet. I really enjoyed it.
In Monaco, you walked in the footsteps of a certain Jean-Luc Ettori.
My childhood idol! He has always impressed me with his charisma, his consistency and his unique style. His longevity at ASM was a source of inspiration for me.
Your retraining as a chaplain has caused a lot of talk!
It’s true that it’s not common but among Brazilians, Argentines, Africans, it’s commonplace! In France, a guy who has kicked and lives his faith is like falling from the moon. My story made a bit of a buzz, I accept that, but it didn’t have to become a curious animal either. I am happy to help the occupants of nursing homes who would like to live their faith. I was still a consultant at Canal + when it was offered to me. It was quite unexpected. it’s been about ten years now and I haven’t been kicked out (laughs).
How did faith come into your life?
The prospect of never playing football again and the emptiness that surrounded this possibility questioned me a lot after my injury in 1996. It was then that I began to pray again. And then in 2006, there is a second injury which this time sealed my career. One day, I came across the Laghet sanctuary by chance and this visit blew me away. Something very personal and unsettling happened. That day I decided to live from the sacraments of the Church.
Has your relationship to football changed?
Not at all. The foot remains an integral part of my life. The TV is always on on match days and not a week goes by without me being on the pitch. Moreover, for a year, I have been coaching goalkeepers in Mâcon in Antoine Griezmann’s dad’s club!