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“With him, it’s go or die”, Heurtel and his choice of Russia make French basketball very uncomfortable

From the Thomas Heurtel all spat. Without any judgment on the choices and the words of his former foal – he wants it to be written – Laurent Mopsus asks enlightening words on the situation in which the French playmaker finds himself, who has not than friends by announcing his signing in Russia in the wake of the Euro, then responding aggressively to criticism on social networks. “By being as he is there, he does Thomas Heurtel. I’m not surprised, ”observes the man who was the coach of Pau-Orthez from 2004 to 2009, and who therefore participated in the emergence of the international future during the 2007-2008 season.

From the outside, there is not much to defend Heurtel, who had signed a sworn statement before the European Championship certifying that he was not engaged and that he did not intend to be. with a Russian or Belarusian club for the duration of the conflict with Ukraine, according to the wishes of the French Federation. All that to carapate at the Zenith Saint-Petersburg two days after the final, and to dismiss those who found the process slightly cavalier. “Know that I don’t give a damn,” wrote the 33-year-old basketball player on Wednesday. And please, above all, buy yourself a life. »

Enough to ruin the good impression left at the Euro, where the leader finished fourth best scorer and best passer for the Blues, even donning the costume of national hero during the money-time against Italy in the quarter-finals. What, also, to further strengthen the image of the certainly brilliant but unmanageable player, forced to leave Barça at the beginning of 2021 after weeks of tension with the management, and whose adventure at Real Madrid ended in blood sausage the last season. Sidelined after a night out in April, he had watched his partners win the championship and reach the Euroleague final from afar.

“With him, it’s do or die”

“He is someone who is shaped with a quality that has made him successful: he is not afraid of anything. He loves being in the field, being a clutch, he likes taking risks, explains Laurent Mopsus. This has its advantages, but also its limitations. “The ones that appear quickly when you look at your navel too much in a collective sport. “It would be wrong to say that he does not think of the collective, nuance the former coach. But he perceives it through the results, the performance, not the notion of team. He is focused on his project. When successful, he can lead a team. But when it’s not, it can be complicated. »

We understand that Thomas Heurtel is the type to know what he wants, and to listen only to him to arrive at his destination. With him, it’s do or die, in a way. Beyond his sometimes hectic departures, it would seem that he left in the locker room where he passed a few very angry teammates, even if many at the Blues claim a real attachment for this entire personality, too, in a good sense. term.

The person concerned does not seek to smooth his image. Stingy for great interviews, he had agreed to be questioned at length by L’Equipe on his career and his character, in 2020. Assuming his divisive side. “I was determined. And hard. But with myself too. And if the others didn’t give their all, it hurt everyone: them, the team and my project, he explained. The way I expressed myself was not necessarily the right one, some were upset at the time, didn’t understand, and then when they received two or three caviars under the basket, they forgot. »

We come back to this famous “project”, the one he says he imagined since he was 13 years old and for which he fought so hard afterwards. As if nothing else mattered.

“You must not believe, it was complicated for him to build his career. He went to look for it, points out his former coach. He was slender, identified as an attacker, without necessarily the ability to defend, he went to Spain very young… I think that there are sometimes misunderstood athletes, and that he is one of them. Not compared to the current situation, always. And suddenly it leads him to make significant acts. The setting, with this type of player who feels very strong, is what defines it. And sometimes when we feel too strong we go out of bounds. »

Paradoxically, we feel at Heurtel, through various statements, a need to be better heard. In his interview at The Team, he admitted that he was also trying to open up a little so that those who would have “a distorted or negative idea” about him. “You can believe in arrogance, but it’s my character, I’m whole, and there is a part of shyness. I want to protect myself,” he defended himself. The Héraultais apparently protects himself very well. Two years ago, his friend at the Blues Evan Fournier said that when he arrived in selection, he had heard about Heurtel and his reputation as a “little con”. Usurped, according to him. “He’s a huge character. But you’re never just a hothead. You just have to know how to manage this kind of personality, talent, ” pleaded the Knicks player.

Not the only one to have made this choice

Nor has Heurtel ever sought to smooth things over. This aspect of the career of a top athlete has never captivated him. “There remains this trait that he may not be able to measure, manage, anticipate. I don’t know”, recognizes, pensive, Laurent Mopsus. For him, his former player is a “not easy” subject of study. But who does not “in any case deserve the guillotine”. Especially since the boy is not the only top athlete to have privileged his contract to a certain form of ethics. Livio Jean-Charles and Louis Labeyrie, ex-internationals, also play in the Russian Superleague, like Jenia Grebennikov in the volleyball championship.

The French team’s libero recently explained to 20 minutes having stayed at the Zenit Saint Petersburg “because he was dependent on the market”, even adding that he was going to repatriate his wife and children for above-ground convenience reasons, seen from our window:

“They are going to come back with me, because the crèche over there is so good. The infrastructures are incredible, there are eight students for three teachers. I’m in an incredible building, there are plenty of sports, the city center is magnificent. If there was no war, it would be paradise. »

The French Basketball Federation, which did not wish to respond to our requests, is also careful not to make any final decision about Thomas Heurtel. After covering his absence during the media return of the Euro 2022 silver medalists in September to the tune of “don’t worry it’s for family reasons” as he left to sign his contract in Russia, the FFBB leaves the door open to a return for the 2024 Olympics if the person concerned had to leave Russia at the end of the season. At least that was the unofficial trend before the new leader of Zenit sent everyone to graze on Instagram.

Source: 20minutes

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