“Like Chirac, Macron has a direct relationship with athletes and like Sarkozy, he really loves sports”

5:47 PM, May 24, 2022

Two unlikely advisers tried to consider Kylian Mbappe’s extension to Paris Saint-Germain: Emmanuel Macron and Nicolas Sarkozy. † We talked a lot and they strongly advised me to stay in my country and keep writing the history of my club.Kylian Mbappé confided in the television set of TF1 on Monday. But the final decision was personal† “The current and the former heads of state are two supposed football fans. The first is an avid supporter of Marseille, the second of PSG. The presidents of the Fifth Republic have not always been fans of the round ball. For Jean-Baptiste Guégan, co-author of The Republic of Footballthis growing interest from the executive is a response to the also growing media attention for this sport.

Is this the first time a former president or even a current president has advised a player on a career choice?
Mbappe is the most influential footballer today and what is certain is that Emmanuel Macron has a very close relationship with him. When they meet, they sometimes put themselves aside to discuss. They have a lot in common: they are precocious, they are ten years ahead of their time and they have disrupted their world. Nicolas Sarkozy, he is sir PSG. He is necessarily aware of what is happening there because he is close to the shareholders. He is someone who knows the history of the club very well. Even though he has a more distant relationship with Mbappé, it does exist. Their involvement in renewing Mbappe’s contract is not the same as pressure, for me it is more of an influence. What does a player look for when there are two similar contract offers? Mbappe could sign with Real Madrid, considered the best club in the world, or with his home side. So it is not a question of money. He’s looking for something else. He was offered to become a prophet in his country. Emmanuel Macron and Nicolas Sarkozy probably supported this point. This player knows what he stands for. This expansion also responds to what France refers to internationally: a modern, open and attractive France. Finally, we also need to understand his expansion to PSG as part of Paris 2024. I can’t imagine he’s not associated with the Olympics, especially since there’s a precedent with Michel Platini in Albertville in 1992.

Michel Platini said exactly: “Jospin likes sports, Chirac, athletes”. And Emmanuel Macron, where is he?
Like Chirac, Macron has a direct relationship with athletes and like Sarkozy, he really loves sports. However, he is much closer to the France national football team than the former president was. It must be said that he is the only president who is part of a victorious generation, he does not have the culture of the defeat of the years 58-72. Emmanuel Macron also already understood the political weight this entailed for the nation branding France. You can’t be president without knowing the economics of sports. Emmanuel Macron is like his generation: he knows very well what football has become, while other politicians do not always understand that. He is an ardent supporter of OM, he does not hesitate to stage this Behind the scenes of a winthe documentary about his 2017 campaign. He knows what supporting OM brings him: a popular dimension and the symbolism of a city that rejects the far right.

By saying that Mbappé was a model of assimilation, Jordan Bardella said it all

In The Republic of Football, your latest book, written in collaboration with journalist Clément Pernia, Emmanuel Macron and Nicolas Sarkozy, together with François Hollande forms what you call the “trio of football fans”. What is it ?
The term amateur takes on a double meaning here. On the one hand they have never really played football at a good level, but at the same time these three are interested in it. So they are more connoisseurs than actors. The only one who really made it in his youth was Emmanuel Macron. Nicolas Sarkozy was late. All three contrast with Jacques Chirac, who followed sporting events without understanding, they know what it means. They are the example of the ‘football sassi’ of politics. With the elections to the House of Representatives, we see that many candidates position themselves on everything, including football. This morning Jordan Bardella said on France Info that Mbappe was a model of assimilation. Like others, he tries to instrumentalize football’s visibility to get it back. I go even further. Political commentators today act like sports commentators, focusing more on staging, with a culture of immediate and permanent commentary. Even the terms used to talk about recent cases are often borrowed from football vocabulary. It’s a rather striking mix of genres.

What relationship did previous presidents have with football?
Charles De Gaulle practiced this sport in the preparatory lesson, but it went no further. The passion of Nicolas Sarkozy or Emmanuel Macron for football corresponds to an evolution. Football is linked to social class, it is the sport of the popular class. It is perceived as less noble than other sports such as rugby. This sociological dimension is added to an economic dimension. The relationship of the presidents of the Fifth Republic with football is inextricably linked to its growth as a thriving economic sector. Until the 80s, this sport was not very present on television and therefore it was possible for a president to ignore it. The year 1998 marked a turning point: with the victory of France at the World Cup, football was experienced differently and it became very popular in the media. No president can ignore football anymore.

If the presidents are all going to show their connection to the football world, politically, what is this for?
Football is a means of communication and a means of becoming president, a way of showing that politics is close to the people. The best television audience corresponds to football matches and this is the most widely practiced sport in France, the one with the most media attention. You can no longer be president without football knowledge or being informed on this subject.