Entretien avec Daniel Riolo, le Platini de la radio

Interview with Daniel Riolo, the Platini of radio

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In the bustling world of those who follow today's football on stage and on the microphone, Daniel Riolo is a character apart. Because with his white shirts and perfectly tailored suit jackets, he is the most elegant of them all. Above all, because he doesn't have his tongue in his pocket and this one hits the mark like no other. An attentive observer and incisive columnist on RMC, slayer of weakness and lousy play in football, Daniel Riolo is these days following the Euro which is being played in the four corners of the continent. While France appears as the main favorite of the competition, the journalist talks about the pace of the game with Hast.

What is elegant about football?

First of all, it has to do with the jersey we wear on the field. A jersey with tons of sponsors on it, and a bad design, is bound to be ugly. On the other hand, there are very beautiful jerseys, vintage ones with minimalist advertisements which are like a souvenir, and it doesn't matter if there is something ridiculous there. Maradona's Napoli jersey from the 1980s had a "Mars" or "Buitoni" logo, which isn't the height of chic; Platini's Juventus Turin had "Ariston", which is a brand of boiler. But no matter: the way everything was written on these jerseys made for a terribly classy design. In truth, it's a bit like license plates. French women have something ugly and English women, who knows why, have a more precious typography. I have also always had a fondness for the jersey of the great Saint-Etienne from the end of the 70s. It is a refined jersey which gives its green color something powerful - whereas in normal times, I find green still very ugly. To be honest, I think that Italian jerseys have always been more beautiful than others, and I'm not just saying that because my parents are Italian. No, there is no jersey as beautiful as those of the transalpine clubs of the 80s. Because they have stripes, because the stripes are designed in a very particular way, because the cut is necessarily original.

Speaking of the Italian jersey, do you remember the one that Squadra Azurra, the Italian national team, wore during Euro 2000?

I remember an image: the Italians dressed all in white with this tight jersey, like an undershirt, who parade on the screen during the anthems of the final of this Euro, against France. It was extraordinary. In this team, there were only handsome guys: Francesco Totti, Fabio Cannavaro, Stefano Fiore, Alessandro Nesta... But with these white jerseys, they were even more handsome. It was like a fashion show. At the same time, I remember that in France, the AJ Auxerre club wore the same type of outfit, provided by the same equipment manufacturer, the Italian Kappa. Normally, we don't associate the Auxerre club with a certain idea of ​​elegance, but there too, something was happening. Thanks to this unique jersey, the players also seemed much more beautiful than they were in real life. On the pitch, Auxerre was real class, great style. It's no wonder if the club's players said: "Since we have this jersey, we feel stronger." »

Apart from the jersey, what touches you about a footballer?

I have always been a fan of players who are beautiful to look at as well as players who are unattractive. What matters to me is not the reflection of a silhouette in a mirror. It’s about having character on the pitch. It's a question of aura, of charisma. In the 1980s, French national team player Luis Fernandez didn't look very stylish with his socks rolled up over his shoes, but there was a real grace about him. Because he was authentic. He was a guy from the street, running around, tackling constantly, and yelling at the referees. There was something very popular there that I liked. Conversely, I like a very classy guy like the Italian Paolo Maldini, with this particular way that he had to pay attention to his hair, and then also this other Italian, Roberto Baggio who played while dragging a magnificent melancholy, like a cursed gambler. Or even the Argentinian Fernando Redondo, so elegant in his handling of the ball. I remember that during the 1998 World Cup, Daniele Passarella, the coach of the Argentine team, chose to do without Fernando Redondo because the latter had long hair, and he refused to cut them. It was so stupid that Passarella would deprive himself of a player like Redondo. What a stupid thing. Passarella must have had old memories of the Argentine dictatorship. It was still General Varela who presented him with the World Cup when he won it with Argentina in 1978.

You have always been critical of the game played by Didier Deschamps' French team. What does it lack in terms of elegance, precisely?

Let's be clear: this is not elegant football. The Blues are not tailor-made. It’s all-purpose football. Better: the football advocated by Didier Deschamps is a businessman's suit that we meet at Roissy, before boarding. The guy will then go and sign some nice contracts. It's effective. It’s intimately linked to the personality of Didier Deschamps, that. He wants this France team to play like that, for victory and nothing else. As long as it works, we love it. You know, there are teams that we continued to love even when they lost, simply because they were beautiful to watch. This is the case of the 1982 French team which lost in the World Cup against Spain. Deschamps' team, when it no longer wins, we will no longer love it.

How do you judge today's football in terms of what it gives off?

Today, there are some who we see are really very careful about who they are on the field, and even off it. Everything Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo does is calculated. He's had plastic surgery, he has a hairdresser who comes to his house every day, and he takes off his shirt to show off his abs whenever he can. It's more or less the same thing with the Brazilian Neymar, from PSG. The problem is that it all sounds false. Everything is manufactured, like in a reality TV show and, above all, everything is in bad taste, and this is gradually spreading everywhere, in all the teams, on all the fields. We also observe a type of athletic formatting in football. The players run a lot, they don't stop for a move. What matters, for teams, for matches, for victory, is the number of kilometers covered on a field, and nothing else. This football no longer allows the emergence of talented players who are timeless, like the Argentinian Juan Riquelme, who was always said to be slow. He was slow, but he was beautiful to see.

There's one football character we haven't talked about in all of this yet. And yet it is so important. The coach…

The real style in football is not on the field, but on the edge, on the sidelines. It’s the coaches who have the most to say when it comes to style. For a long time, Josep Guardiola, today at Manchester City, gave the impression that he went to the match like one goes to a reception. With his suits and leather shoes, he looked very chic. The same for Portuguese coach José Mourinho, at least during the 2000s. Through our screen, we saw that his clothes were beautiful, that they were well cut, that he took care of everything. At a time when players are very careful about who they are, I'm sure they pay attention to what their coach represents, to the way he presents himself to them. That counts for a classy coach. At least as much as a workout. I am sure of it. Mourinho played a lot of that. When we have a classy coach, we are proud of him, we want to play for him, to work hard on the pitch, to experience an adventure alongside him. In a recent interview, French coach Claude Puel explained that, precisely, it is this lack of pace which has long worked against French coaches when it comes to selling themselves to the best clubs.

Listening to you talk about football, we feel a form of nostalgia dawning on you. For what ?

The truth is that all football fans are nostalgic in one way or another, and it doesn't matter how old they are. It's a feeling we all have within us. We all think it was better before. We are all convinced that today's football is missing something, a beauty and madness... Football is a story of youthful emotions, above all. And youthful emotions are necessarily more beautiful.

What excites you about football today, anyway?

I like when, from March onwards, the big Champions League matches arrive. There's suspense, and it's great. Casually, despite the accelerated modernity of things, despite video and the like, football retains a form of dramaturgy, which pleases me enormously. In football, Spring is an apotheosis with the home and away matches in the European Cup. Every year, I find myself vibrating in the same way, like when I was a kid. Same for the decisive matches of a Euro, after the group stages. These moments of tension, these reversals of situations, must not be taken away from us. That's the beauty of football!