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France news

Zidane denies bust-up involvement

June 21, 2010

France legend Zinedine Zidane has denied suggestions he still has a significant influence over the dressing room and has been instructing the current players to challenge coach Raymond Domenech's authority.

Zinedine Zidane
GettyImagesZinedine Zidane insists he had respect for Raymond Domenech

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The players returned to training on Monday after they boycotted Sunday's session in protest at striker Nicolas Anelka being sent home after his row with Domenech became public knowledge.

Les Bleus' campaign has been dogged by rumours of disharmony and even suggestions 1998 World Cup-winner Zidane was trying to influence team selection.

However, the former Real Madrid and Juventus midfielder has refuted the allegations.

"Thinking that I can call the players to put pressure on the coach four years after I have retired is serious," he said. "I never had a problem with [Domenech] but I never had a good feeling for him. But I respected his instructions. As captain, I was talking, but he was the coach and I respected the rules.

"I never gave my opinion on the composition of the team. I have always respected the rules."

Zidane also voiced his opposition to the team walking out of training. "I am against the fact that Les Bleus do not train - but I'm not inside the group. That's why it's better for me to be quiet," he said.

"There's a new coach in Laurent Blanc (who takes over from Domenech after the tournament) who will change all of this. I don't think you can blame one player or another but Laurent Blanc's arrival will change everything that is happening within the team."

Zidane was disapppointed to see Nicolas Anelka sent hom for criticising Domenech but also voiced his frustration that a dressing room incident had made front-page headlines back in France.

"Nobody agrees with what he said or did," Zidane said, "but it shouldn't have leaked to the press. It's not up to me to say what should happen."

When asked if he knew who had leaked the story to the press - earning the tag of a "traitor" from captain Patrice Evra - Zidane replied: "Do you know the traitor? Me neither. I don't speak to the players, but I believe they (the players) still don't know it either."

France are facing an early exit from the World Cup, as they experienced at Euro 2008, heading into their final Group A match against South Africa on Tuesday. The side have to win convincingly and hope there is a positive result between Uruguay and Mexico, the two teams currently top of the table.

Zidane still holds out hope his compatriots can regroup after a distracting couple of days and secure qualification.

"Even if many people will laugh, I hope to see France in the final," he said. "I am disappointed by the first results of Les Bleus but anything is possible. There is still a small chance for the team to emerge victorious from this group."

The French Football Federation has already announced it will hold an investigation on the whole affair after the tournament is over and the country's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has also become involved.