Friday, April 10, 2020

Adrien Rabiot, a "Duke" at ease with the Old Lady

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Adrien Rabiot (right) in a game against Fiorentina on February 2. MASSIMO PINCA / REUTERS

For Didier Deschamps, returns to the "Old Lady" tend to be less comforting than before. Of course, the former captain and coach will still be at home in Turin, but there is not too much known head there, or one that is not his: that of Adrien Rabiot.

The 24-year-old Ile-de-France has been out of hibernation for two months, a blow in the middle of a career that was just beginning. He could, Wednesday, February 26 in Lyon, be titular with Juve in 8e Champions League final, after 447 days of absence from stadiums in France.

Read also The Rabiot case in the light of footballer's law

The absence did not weigh too heavily on the French: in the list of the most popular footballers here, Rabiot must be somewhere between Samir Nasri and Nicolas Anelka. His versatility in the midfield and the sum of his qualities – power, technique, striking the ball – find little equivalent but too many missteps have damaged the emerging relationship between Rabiot and French football: in Paris, his demands vis- vis-à-vis the club – post, playing time, salary – sometimes seemed out of step with his involvement in the match; among the Blues, his manners shocked, his "Fear of being hurt" in the Bulgarian cold in October 2017 for his fourth selection to his famous e-mail to the coach to refuse a place as a reservist at the World Cup.

In fact, Adrien Rabiot did not need his mother to degrade his brand image – when perhaps he is, quite simply, a rebellious and honest footballer, therefore a rarity.

Read also Adrien Rabiot: "Didier Deschamps' choice for me does not correspond to any sporting logic"

"Like a fish out of water"

The mother and son have moved once more. After the towers of Val-de-Marne, Manchester, Pau, Paris, Toulouse, Paris again, here is Turin. However accustomed to changing furniture, the young man experienced a "Acclimatization problem", according to Maurizio Sarri, his new coach. It was December 14: Sarri waited for Rabiot to get better before making a public diagnosis. Sarri again: "Adrien is a sensitive boy: when he found himself in difficulty, the mental aspect was added. " A haughty port and aristocratic earrings earned Rabiot the nickname "Duke". Proud and sensitive, like Booba.

Off the field, the Turin Rabiot closely resembles that of Paris. Hardly visible in trendy places frequented by his teammates, as in the media – until recently: on January 16, he gave a first interview on Italian television and he now sometimes stops in a mixed zone, after the met.

The game is talking. In the fall, you had to listen. The few appearances of the Frenchman caused misunderstanding. "Like a fish out of water", had described the daily La Repubblica after his first tenure against Brescia in September. Juve had time: they gradually integrated the club's third salary and Maurizio Sarri repeated their confidence, month after month – the Italian press frequently asks him about the enigmatic kid of Créteil.

Maurizio Sarri believes in him

In an extremely dense midfield – Miralem Pjanic, Blaise Matuidi, Rodrigo Bentancur, Aaron Ramsey, Sami Khedira, Emre Can -, the wounds of some, the suspensions of others and the scrapping of the German of Turkish origin, since transferred to Dortmund, Rabiot kept in touch with the field. Then, after returning from an adductor injury in early December, the Frenchman found a starting position, talked about his wall-piercing physique and his goldsmith's left foot, and never left it.

Thirteen wins in fourteen games when he started: In January, sports director Fabio Paratici dismissed rumors of a loan out of hand, in unison with his coach.

Maurizio Sarri, coach of Juventus Turin.
Maurizio Sarri, coach of Juventus Turin. ALBERTO LINGRIA / REUTERS

For the "Duke", the former Montepaschi banker has words of love. "He is better mentally, he is better integrated into the group and gets used to the Italian game. He still has a lot of room for improvement and I think he can be the real surprise in the second half of the season "said Sarri in mid-December. “He has found continuity, health, confidence, and he is progressing a lot. He is a different player from the one I knew, much more present in the defensive phase, much more aware of the tactics and our style of play, which is different from French football ", he added this month.

Rabiot’s versatility seems to have made him indispensable in the eyes of Sarri, who aligned him successively as a sentry, in place of Pjanic, on the right, in place of Bentancur, and on the left, in place of Matuidi.

Or would it be the reverse? Perhaps the troubles of Didier Deschamps begin there. In recent times, the two friends have been competing head-on in the 4-3-3 bianconeri. Matuidi believes in the automatisms taken with Cristiano Ronaldo and his ability to cover the lack of defensive efforts by the Portuguese – the two have so far been an inseparable couple. But Rabiot offers other advantages, wrote the Corriere della Sera a month ago : "Rabiot manages to make Juve's ball outlets more unpredictable, in turn becoming the low point of the midfield when Pjanic is taken by the opponent. This results in changes of position in the midfield which create spaces and upset the opponent's pressing. "

Back in Blue?

Sarri is well aware of this: he would like to install him later at the low point of his midfielder triangle, this number 6 position responsible for the exit of the ball, which Miralem Pjanic currently occupies. The Bosnian is unbeatable, but he will be 30 years old in the spring.

It is a position that Rabiot did not wish to occupy in Paris for a long time, but in Turin, he keeps a low profile and says he is available to the coach, whatever the position – which probably says more about Paris- Saint-Germain only on Adrien Rabiot.

Will the improvement be enough to seduce the French coach? On February 16, after a match against Brescia, RMC asked the player the question. His answer seems to indicate that Rabiot, for the moment, has few illusions about a return to Blue: "Today, my performances are positive. It’s a choice of the coach. But I do not think that it is the fact that I am tenured at Juve that tells me that I can go to the France team or not. These are mainly my performances. " On the subject, the president of the French Federation, Noël Le Graët, said it this way last month: "(Deschamps) is not spiteful, but he does have a memory. "

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