Newcastle United have had a habit of buying French players over the past few seasons. But their current manager is Spaniard Rafa Benitez, and he admits that the number of French players in the squad is posing difficulties:
“At half-time you have to explain things, little details very clearly, and can I do that in French?” asks Benitez, then answers his own question: “No, it has to be in English but some of them cannot understand English, so how do you explain little things so they will understand?”
The Newcastle manager is no slouch at languages, speaking English and Italian as well as Spanish, but admits his French is rusty: “I learned in school and I was quite good, but so many years I was talking in English or Italian, and Spanish.”
One solution has been to promote French international Moussa Sissoko to the role of captain. Sissoko is a popular player with his teammates, and since being chosen has led the relegation-threatened Magpies to one win and two draws.
Sissoko was criticised for his performances earlier I the season, but his dual role of captain and translator seems to have energised him. Beneitez says: “Sissoko I think is really important… I was trying to explain some little things in training; little details to Mbemba and some others players in French and in English. And afterwards Sissoko was helping me, telling them how you want them to do things and to do specific things like this. He has been important both on and off the training field.”
La Academia works with a number of Premier League clubs and players, teaching various languages to coaches, players and staff, as well as their families. A player who feels at home and can communicate or has someone to help him communicate plays better. We think Rafa may have made a very astute choice in picking French-speaking Sissoko – what do you think?