New France skipper Kylian Mbappe said he would not change after being given the armband by coach Didier Deschamps for the Euro 2024 qualifiers as he promised to be “a different captain” to long-term predecessor Hugo Lloris.
“I don’t have great experience of being a captain and we have important players in the team. I don’t want to decide or impose anything on anyone,” the 24-year-old told reporters Thursday on the eve of France’s home clash with the Netherlands.
“We are a united group and we have shown that when we are all pulling together we can do great things. It would be an error for me to shake all that up.”
He added: “I am not going to change. People listen to what I have to say in the dressing room. I just need to use my words in the right way.”
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar has taken on the armband after veteran goalkeeper Lloris, skipper for more than a decade, retired from international duty in the wake of France’s run to the World Cup final in Doha at the end of last year.
Deschamps chose Mbappe over Antoine Griezmann despite the 117-times capped Atletico Madrid player being more senior at the age of 32.
Griezmann will instead be Mbappe’s deputy.
“I spoke to Antoine because he was disappointed and frankly it is understandable,” Mbappe said.
“I told him that I might have reacted in the same way. What I told him was that as long as I am captain and he is vice captain, I won’t be superior to him.
“He has an experience of playing for France that I don’t have. He is held in high esteem and is liked by the whole squad so it would be a shame for us not benefit from his experience, and his zest for life as well.”
– ‘Something to enjoy’ –
Mbappe shunned the media for much of the World Cup, which he ended as the top scorer with eight goals after scoring a breathtaking hat-trick in the final.
He will now be obliged to speak ahead of every game, but he insisted that will not be a problem.
“Putting all the responsibility to one side it is something to enjoy. I was really pleased when I found out,” said Mbappe, who also indicated he would continue to speak out on important issues, unlike the more reserved Lloris.
Mbappe notably spoke out on social media when French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet indicated in January that he wouldn’t have answered the phone to Zinedine Zidane if the France legend had called him to express an interest in taking over as coach from Deschamps.
Mbappe said Le Graet had shown “a lack of respect”. Le Graet recently stepped down after a series of scandals.
“Everyone acts differently as a captain depending on their personality. I am not like Hugo and Hugo is not like me,” Mbappe said.
“I don’t think the coach made me captain thinking I would be the same as Hugo.”
After facing the Netherlands at the Stade de France on Friday, France will visit the Republic of Ireland on Monday.
Their Euro 2024 qualifying group also features Greece and Gibraltar.
The Dutch team are without several players, including Liverpool striker Cody Gakpo and Bayern Munich defender Matthijs de Ligt, after a virus swept through their camp.
Dutch media reports have suggested food poisoning may have been the cause.