French FA boss Le Graet under fire for 'clumsy' Zidane comments

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet came under fire on Monday as he was forced to apologise for what he dubbed "clumsy remarks" about Zinedine Zidane's potential interest in coaching the France national team.

Le Graet had quipped dismissively in an interview to French radio station RMC on Sunday that he "wouldn't even have taken his call" when asked whether Les Bleus legend Zidane had rung him to express an interest in taking over as coach from Didier Deschamps.

That drew criticism from France and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who said Le Graet had shown "a lack of respect".

Real Madrid, where Zidane enjoyed decorated spells as a player and coach, also hit out at Le Graet, while French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera demanded an apology.

"I would like to apologise for these remarks, which absolutely do not reflect my views, nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become," said the 81-year-old head of the FFF on Monday.

"I gave an interview to RMC that I should not have given because they were looking for controversy by opposing Didier and Zinedine Zidane, two greats of French football.

"I admit that I made some clumsy remarks which created a misunderstanding."

Deschamps' contract expired after the World Cup in Qatar, where reigning champions France lost to Argentina in a penalty shoot-out after a thrilling final on December 18.

However, Deschamps -- who took over in 2012 -- on Saturday signed a new deal to stay until 2026.

Asked by RMC whether Zidane, who won the 1998 World Cup as a player alongside Deschamps, had called him in recent days, Le Graet dismissed him as having been a potential candidate.

"I wouldn't even have taken his call," Le Graet said. "To tell him what? 'Hello sir. Don't worry. Look for another club. I just agreed a contract with Didier'."

Le Graet also responded curtly to reports of Zidane's interest in coaching Brazil.

"I would be surprised if he left for there," he said.

"It's up to him what he does. It's not my business. I've never met with him and we've never considered parting with Didier Deschamps.

"He could go wherever he wants in Europe, to a big club. But a national side I find hard to believe."

- Government audit -

Zidane left Real in 2021 having won two La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns over two spells in charge.

"These remarks show a lack of respect for one of the most admired figures by football fans around the world and our club is awaiting an immediate correction," Real said in a statement.

Le Graet was also criticised by former players including Laurent Blanc, a World Cup winner alongside Zidane who coached France before Deschamps was appointed.

"We all agree that what he said was very clumsy, to say the least," said Blanc, now in charge of Lyon.

"He apologised, but it is very easy to apologise. It takes two seconds, but what you said remains."

FIFA rules state that national federations must be free of government interference, but Oudea-Castera on Monday hinted that she wanted to see Le Graet removed from his post as she called on the executive committee of the FFF to "take responsibility".

"It is important that they get the measure of the situation," she told reporters.

"I don't wany any more of these situations where he loses it. We have become too used to these gaffes."

France's build-up to the World Cup was marred by accusations made against Le Graet that he had mistreated employees at the federation.

Le Graet denied those accusations, with the FFF launching legal action against the magazine So Foot.

However, the government has launched an audit of the federation and Le Graet has been summoned to attend a hearing on Tuesday.

Le Graet is a former socialist mayor of the small Brittany town of Guingamp who later oversaw the rise of the local football team to a top-flight force during his time as club president.

He was elected president of the federation in 2011 and his current mandate is due to expire in 2024.