If France had won the World Cup under Raymond Domenech, which they very nearly did in 2006, history would have been far kinder the former Lyon boss.
Instead, he will forever be known as the eccentric who allegedly dropped Robert Pirès because of his star sign (astrology played a big part in his team selections apparently), who essentially bullied Zinedine Zidane , Claude Makélélé and Lilian Thuram out of international retirement and who lost control of the team in a squad mutiny at the 2010 World Cup.
In an interview with Paul Doyle of the Guardian released today, Domenech admitted that while he does not regret managing Les Bleus, he sometimes wonders if he would have been happier managing a different country.
He revealed just how close he was to replacing Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland manager in 2003, making the final shortlist of three alongside successful applicant Brian Kerr and one other, believed to be fellow Frenchman Philippe Troussier.
Domenech was, at the time, manager of the French under-21 side, finishing as runner-up to the Czech Republic in the 2002 European Championships in Switzerland. Despite this, he was still largely unknown outside of French football circles and his appointment would have been highly controversial, given the fact that Kerr was the popular choice for the role among the Irish fan base.
In Domenech’s own words:
“I made it on to a three-man shortlist for the Ireland job and was interviewed for it in Paris. In the end they decided to give it to an Irishman, Brian Kerr.
“But I would have adored it if I’d got it. I love Ireland and the Irish. I love the atmosphere there.
“I’m always upset when Ireland don’t make it to a big tournaments because they bring a brilliant atmosphere. When I went to the World Cup in 1994 I made sure I went to wherever the Irish fans were because there was always a drink and a good vibe.”
Domenech reminisced on his two visits to Dublin as France manager – both resulting in 1-0 wins for his side – as well as the controversial Thierry Henry handball incident which led to France progressing past Ireland in a World Cup playoff in November 2009:
“I still remember when we played at Lansdowne Road in 2005 and we won thanks to a goal by Henry.
“..after the game I had to walk through a load of [Irish] supporters. I hesitated, thinking: ‘Oh shit, this could be trouble,’ but I pressed ahead. And everyone just patted me on the back saying: ‘Well done, good game.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
“Yes, I was disappointed for them [in 2009]. They put in an extraordinary performance in Paris but don’t forget that we should have won 2-0 or 3-0 in the first leg so there was a sporting balance that was logical.”
Domenech is still yet unemployed following France’s disastrous showing at the World Cup in 2010, but insists that any job he takes would have to be for love, not money:
“I don’t want to do something just to earn a little money, otherwise I’d already have accepted offers, but I want something different, full of emotions, something that would make me tingle.”
One can surmise from those words that he still has hopes of one day leading an Irish team out at Lansdowne Road.