Rolland Courbis: Would Jose Mourinho Have Done Any Better?

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Rolland Courbis has never been one to hide his opinion, while away from the game he has featured prominently in various media outlets. It’s no surprise that he has found a good working relationship with Montpellier owner Louis Nicollin.

In an interesting interview with Le Parisien on Friday, the former Bordeaux, Lens and Marseille coach had a laugh at Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho’s apparent need for two or three more good players, spoke about the stark reality of Montpellier having to sell one or two star players and gave his thoughts on current Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Courbis himself admits that he lost 10 years of his career due to his own legal troubles. In 1993 he was given a three-year suspended sentence for receiving money through the transfer of players when he was in charge of SC Toulon.

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The same accusations were made when he was in charge of Marseille between 1997 and 1999 – acting as a coach and agent for the transfer of players inside and outside the club. He had moved on to AC Ajaccio when criminal proceedings against him started in 2002.

Eventually he was found guilty and served a prison sentence between September 2009 and February 2010. His last act was to lead Montpellier back to Ligue 1, finishing second in Ligue 2. René Girard took his place and three years later Montpellier would be champions of France.

Asked by Le Parisien, if he thought his success could have led to him coaching a team like Chelsea, Courbis was frank.

“We’re not suddenly realising only today that I do have some coaching ability. When I arrived at Montpellier, 18 months after the title, the team was in the process of falling apart. It wasn’t solid defensively, it wasn’t effective offensively, and the confidence was shot. Ask Loulou if Mourinho would have done any better in my place? I’m not convinced. I heard Jose Mourinho, after conceding 5 to Tottenham and 4 to Bradford, saying that he was still short of two or three good players. I laughed so much I cracked a rib.”

This is his second season in his second spell at the Stade de la Mosson and he has undoubtedly steadied the ship, guiding Montpellier up to sixth in the table after 22 games. Courbis was asked if he understands why people would be surprised at their position this season.

“Yes, it makes sense, after having lost Stambouli and Cabella, that we were seen as weakened. But the players have progressed under an able staff. It is a real achievement to have kept up that level. It doesn’t stop us asking ourselves where we would be had they stayed. We would be even better with them.”

Like most French teams, Courbis has had to deal with selling his best players, but he isn’t frustrated by it, and admits you have to expect it if you finish low down the table.

“Last year we had to find €10-12 million to balance the books. Next year, depending on where we finish, we may not need to lose a good player. That is why the second half of our season is important. If we finish 15th, we’ll have to lose one or two players. If we finish fifth, we will lose no one. It’s as simple as that.”

However, he is realistic about how far he can take Montpellier, with safety in Ligue 1 the first priority.

“It’s unlikely, considering who is above us. We set ourselves a minimum target of 50 points. Once we achieve that, we’ll see how many matches are left and will set a new target.”

As a former coach of Marseille, it was obvious to ask him how he felt Marcelo Bielsa was getting on in his first season, but Courbis, as usual, didn’t hold back.

“I don’t understand what the fuss is about. Compare with last season when OM played twice against Napoli, Arsenal and Dortmund. The new staff arrives, only needing to play one match per week. Marseille had a seven point lead at one point and was knocked out of both cups in the first round. So why laud a team with 44 points with such an easy schedule? And no team has ever been champion having lost six matches at this stage of the season.”

Montpellier take on Lorient on Saturday and Coach Courbis will hope his side are as fiery as some of his responses. It would be a surprise to see La Paillade finish higher than sixth this season, but this is the team that no one expected to win the league back in 2012.

translation by Jeremy Smith

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