FC Barcelona Center Back, Jean-Clair Todibo sat down with Onze Mondial for an interview, and for the first time in his career, completely opened up to talk about his childhood, his career, and many more.
Can you tell about your childhood?
I was born in Guyana. I lived there for four years with my grandparents. I then arrived in France, more precisely in Bagnolet. I grew up there. My father was a coach at the Red Star. I touched my first balloons there. My childhood revolved around school and football.
What type of boy were you?
I was a cool, sweet guy. I was a little puppet at times, I liked too much to make others laugh. I loved only one thing: football.
How were you at school?
At school, I was an involved and diligent student. But I chatted too much. My big problem was the chatter. It caused me a lot of problems. I was until Terminale S. Six months before the bac, I quit. I said to my mother: “it’s over”. I didn’t really want to go to school anymore. I was focused on football. I didn’t want to do both at the same time, so I quit school and got into my football.
Do you have a great story to tell about your childhood?
Not really. I have nothing in mind there (he reflects). One thing that proves that we have grown up is that at the time, the matches against Esperance Moussa Diaby, Youssouf Fofana, and the others were big derbies. We competed against each other when we were young and now we find ourselves among the pros, it’s beautiful.
Have you tried other sports?
Yes, I did wrestling, judo, and athletics. I liked athletics, judo too. But judo, I had to stop because I had my car accident. Afterward, I resumed, I wrestled, but I stopped because I made a choice. We wanted me to go into sports studies and I said no because since I was little my goal was to become a professional footballer and not a wrestler. If I had gone back to sports studies, it would have taken me too long compared to football.
How were you recruited by Toulouse?
It was in U17, second year. I was still at Les Lilas and I was having a great season. We were evolving in DHR, the level was not crazy we will say. But I played my matches, I had fun, I had a good time. Several possibilities arose: Toulouse, Le Havre, Nottingham Forest, and Manchester United.
How was your United test?
It was a crazy thing! I went from Lilacs to United. It was a dream come true when in reality I hadn’t done anything, it was just a try. Everything had gone well, but I was not taken. I do not know for what reasons my essay was not successful. Until today, I still do not have an explanation.
After signing in Toulouse, how did you experience the distance from your family?
The family estrangement did not bother me. I was ready. This is what I wanted to do and I was aware that by going to a training center, I had to go through it. So it didn’t necessarily bother me. It marked my mother more, my sister too. They were the ones who were most affected by it. I was quiet, I was fine. Well after, I didn’t play the first six months, I was really in the hard. For six months, I didn’t play with the first year U19s.
You didn’t have the level?
Yes, I had the level. But I had some misconduct. Coach Jean-Marie Stéphanopoli gave me a good lesson. Then, when he saw that I understood that I had to change my behavior, he started to play me, and it worked.
What was this good lesson?
He showed me the way to work. He asked me to be hardworking, humble, to try to help others when you can, and to shut up too. Only be silent. I opened it a little too much. When I didn’t like something, I said it loud and clear. There, I understood that it did not work like that.
Who marked your training?
Three people marked my training: Jean-Marie Stéphanopoli, Jean-Christophe Beginning and Issou Dao.
When you come from the Paris region, is it easier to win in the provinces?
To say that it is easier is wrong. In terms of football, Paris players are better, I have no doubts about that. In Île de France, the level is very high. But it is not easier. There are some very, very good players in the south as well. To say that when you come from Paris, it’s easier, it’s wrong. This is not true: it is harder precisely because we put a label on you, we stick an image of a thug, of a guy from 93. A bad image. Especially when you get to the south. When you arrive in the south and come from Paris, you get the wrong label right away. “The Parisian” what… “He is the Parisian”… It’s even harder. This is also why I had the first six difficult months. As soon as I arrived, the tag was on my forehead. Coach Jean-Marie tried to take it away from me.
Tell me your biggest stupidity in Toulouse?
There is no greater stupidity. It’s just that we were fighting in the hallways. We clashed between generations. We have fun like that between boys. I had marked a friend of mine in the face. That’s all. But it wasn’t a crazy thing, it was quiet. The coaches hadn’t said anything.
How did you start with the pros?
It was with Alain Casanova because Pascal Dupraz, it had not worked. Casa directly made all the young people understand: “You all have a card to play”. He made us understand that a new coach had arrived and that if a young player did the job and had the level, he would have his chance. Then the weeks went by. We young people worked well, we did the best we could, we gave our all. Friendly matches have started. The first preparation match was triangular between Red Star and Rodez. I remember I hadn’t played. I said to myself: “I admit it’s hot”. When I got home, I was like, “What’s the heck of it? Am I not doing it right or what? “. I still continued to work, again and again, and then the other games start. And I started to play. I played pretty well. Then comes a friendly match against Ajaccio. At the end of the match, Casanova came to see me. He said to me: “How do you like playing a defender?” “. I say to him: “If you put me, defender, I will play defender, but I don’t want to become defender”. He replied: “It’s up to you to see if you want to play a defensive midfielder for a whole season in the CFA or play with the pros as a defender, it’s your choice.” After telling me that, he laughed. I told him directly: “Me, I prefer to play defender as a pro” (Laughs)! Gradually, I took a liking to the post and Casa began to trust me more and more. I have played all the friendly matches except the one against Crystal Palace. The training was going well, I was the only youngster to train with the pros. My beginnings as a pro, it was at home, in Toulouse, against Bordeaux. After the 4-0 defeat against Marseille at the opening of the championship, Casanova summoned me to his office and said “Are you ready?” “. I say to him “Yes I am ready, but ready why? “. And there, He takes me out “Are you afraid? “. I answer him “No, I’m not afraid”. He said to me “You are going to play against Bordeaux this weekend”. I tell him okay. He said to me “It’s okay, you don’t have any pressure? “. I tell him: “No, I don’t have any, I’m good and relaxed”. I was happy to play. He tells me ok. The weekend, I play against Bordeaux and there, it starts. He goes out to me “Are you afraid? “. I answer him “No, I’m not afraid”. He said to me “You are going to play against Bordeaux this weekend”. I tell him okay. He said to me “It’s okay, you don’t have any pressure? “. I tell him: “No, I don’t have any, I’m good and relaxed”. I was happy to play. He tells me ok. The weekend, I play against Bordeaux and there, it starts. He goes out to me “Are you afraid? “. I answer him “No, I’m not afraid”. He said to me “You are going to play against Bordeaux this weekend”. I tell him okay. He said to me “It’s okay, you don’t have any pressure? “. I tell him: “No, I don’t have any, I’m good and relaxed”. I was happy to play. He tells me ok. The weekend, I play against Bordeaux and there, it starts.
In your dreams, did you imagine such a professional debut?
I have dreamed of my professional debut several times, but I can’t tell you about them (laughs)!
Come on, tell me…
In my dreams, I was already in the Champions League (Laughs)! I was already up there! I was a little phew, but that’s normal, as long as dreaming, you might as well dream big. I never dreamed of a debut like that, but frankly, I will never forget them, it was too good. In addition, the team was in a good dynamic, we had good results.
You quickly found yourself in a mess around signing your first pro contract. Weren’t you unsettled by the solicitations and the discussions?
Not at all. I manage to separate things between extra-football and football, on and off the pitch. When I’m in the field, just before, you can tell me about your life and say “There, JC, it’s hot”, but as soon as I’m in the field, I’m focused. I am in my match and I forget. And after the match, if you want, we’ll talk about it again.
Your name came out a lot in the press, everyone was talking about the “Todibo case”, it’s not easy for a young person of 18 anyway…
Frankly, I wasn’t paying too much attention. It was my mother who sent me the stuff or my friends who said to me: “There is this, this and this”. I wasn’t very focused on it. I was more focused on the field. In addition, when I started pro, many new things happened like my first selection for the France team (U20, note). You don’t have much time to think. If you start thinking about these things, you can’t play soccer anymore. I was fine with it.
Many young people have already been unsettled by such a situation …
I can understand it. But we are all different, we all react differently to certain things.
You decide to sign for Barça. Why this choice? Wasn’t that a bit too big for you?
Because Barça is my favorite club! I go there thinking I can win, and above all, it’s a dream to play for Barça: the best club in the world. I go there, I enjoy it. After that, what people think doesn’t matter.
You never thought: “Barça, it will be a little too strong”?
No, I wasn’t afraid of that at all.
How was the choice made?
Many big clubs were interested. I was very close to signing for a club and then as soon as Barça pressed the accelerator, the case was folded. I couldn’t say no. It’s nice to sign your first professional contract with FC Barcelona.
You discover a locker room of great players like Messi, Suarez, Piqué. Were you impressed?
I was totally detached from it all. To tell you the truth, it took me a while to realize that I was in Barça’s locker room. At first, it was as if I was in Toulouse, I was quiet. When I made my debut with the pros, I realized it was really serious. I remember, I said: “Today, I was on the field and I passed to Leo, it’s madness”.
What did you learn from the contacts of such players?
That life is actually normal. The stars, whom we all adore, are normal people. They live normally. They laugh, make jokes like everyone else. They work in the room, have a smile. You see, you get up in the morning and you go to work, well then, it’s the same, they go to work, they make jokes, then they go home.
For you, being in the locker room of Toulouse or Barça, is it almost the same?
Yes. Any locker room works much the same way. At Barça, it’s just that the status changes. And then, the level is different in terms of football, the requirements are higher. In terms of atmosphere, it’s the same, it’s not because the players are considered stars that they are different.
Did they make you feel welcome right away?
Yes right now. They were trying to talk to me, to find out how my adaptation was going, if I needed anything… At first, the language barrier blocked me. As it went, it was fine. And then there was Sam (Umtiti), Ousmane (Dembélé), and Clem (Lenglet). Antoine (Griezmann) arrived later.
In terms of the field, have you discovered new things?
Serious! I learned well (laughs). When you’re on the pitch, if you hit two hits when you had to make one, you can see it straight away when you’re in the middle of great players. The first few months, it was weird, I questioned myself. I exchanged a lot with those around me.
Did you say to yourself, “I’m not that good”?
Yes, you arrive at training, you see a Busquets who does not lose any ball in the session. You arrive, you lose four, five, six… Whereas five or six, in a training, you say to yourself that it is nothing. In any case in Toulouse, you lose six, they tell you “it’s nothing”. But I ‘m not lying to you, when I saw that Busquets did not lose any ball in training while I lost six, I was forced to question myself.
What were you asking yourself?
I said to myself: “How does he manage not to lose any ball, and I am here and I lose the balls “. I then tried to correct my football. I said to myself: “Why am I losing the ball and not him”. And I watched what he was doing, what other people were doing. I watched the movements in training, the way others were doing and I tried to adapt. I was doing my best to get up to speed. Either way, you have to get up to speed, otherwise, you kick.
Apart from the French in the locker room, were you marked by the advice of a player?
(He thinks). No, not necessarily advice. But one player supported me well, it’s Gérard Piqué. Especially for my first match at Camp Nou, against Sevilla. I was with him, it was fluid. I have a very good relationship with him on the pitch. He’s a simple guy, a quiet guy.
As with your first pro game, you weren’t afraid to start at Camp No?
Yes, first match at Camp Nou, I had the pressure before the match. If the coach had asked me: “You have the pressure” before the match, I would have answered “yes”. My first at Camp Nou, I was under pressure. It was seen during the first twenty minutes. I was excited and at the same time, I had the pressure.
Did you know you were going to start?
Yes, I had known that for a week. I was excited, it was hot. I had spent an incredible week preparing for this match. At that point, Seville was ahead of us in the standings. We had to win. There is pressure. But afterward, when we scored the first goal, it started to calm down.
Can you compare Ligue 1 and La Liga?
Ligue 1 is more physical. But in terms of level , technique, and tactics, La Liga is above.
How did you manage to adapt to the Spanish game?
I think I have a Spanish game at the base. I have always tried to play the ball. When I was little, I watched Barça a lot. Having fun, circulating the ball from left to right, moving well, that has always been my thing.
Did you think you were going to have more play time?
Yes. For me, this season, I deserved more playing time. The first six months, when I arrived, I didn’t mind not playing because, in training, I saw that I had no not yet level. But this year, I would have deserved to play more. But I didn’t make a big deal out of it because it was the coach’s choice and I understand. Today, people can tell me what they want about Piqué. If I am a coach, I prefer to put Pique in Todibo. He has a real track record, he’s a great player. But I think I could have played some games.
And you, Todibo, would you rather wear Pique?
No, I prefer to be played anyway (Laughs)! And even if Todibo makes a big mistake in the middle of the field, I make him play (laughs).
What do you need to get to the level of Pique?
The experience. I have to play matches. He played incredible matches. He is a world champion with Spain, he won three Champions Leagues. It is the experience that is lacking there. That’s why if I’m a coach, I prefer to wear Pique rather than Todibo. He played great matches. What had I played at that time? I had ten Ligue 1 games and had played against Huesca and Celta Vigo. You can’t compare that with a guy who played Spain-Netherlands in 2010.
Is that why you went for a loan?
For me, I had the level to play with Barça. But it’s just that having the level to play with Barça and jump Pique is two different things. Especially since he is a “Mister” at the club. He has done a lot for Barça. Does the question arise of how to gain experience? When you train with Barça, you gain a lot of experience, but the best experience is that of the green rectangle, those of official matches. That’s why I joined Schake 04 on loan. I played, I gained experience, and I will take more.
What are the results of this loan?
A mixed review. There was a pre-coronavirus and an after. The before was going very well for me. I was in good shape. I had fun, I discovered the German stadiums, the atmosphere, the supporters. But it was a frustrating pleasure because the results didn’t follow. We couldn’t win. I had fun on my own, but it’s not interesting to just take pleasure in a personal capacity. I’d rather the team win and draw a draw than lose by being very good. I always favor the collective. Just before the coronavirus, we played against Hoffenheim. I was hurt. The coronavirus allowed me to rest but not to make a good 100% recovery.
And then comes the match against Dortmund and your quarrel with Haaland. What can you tell us about this episode?
I can’t say anything special. He hit me, I got on my nerves and I reacted badly by insulting him. My words have made people talk a lot. But you have to put everything in context. It was a replay match right after the coronavirus, I wasn’t 100% and the team was in trouble. So I clenched my teeth to help the team. And I was frustrated by the physiognomy of the match in addition to my physical pain. Then comes a corner. I’m on normal marking, and he gives me a free-kick. It surprised me and it made me twist because on top of that I’m not a mean player, I hate that kind of vicious stuff. Especially since I was not expecting it. It came out on its own. And There you go…
You regret ?
Of course, especially since this is not the image of myself that I want to send back. And then my mother saw the pictures and heard what I said… It is obviously not something to reproduce. Afterward, we are humans, it can happen to react badly. I especially regret the media propensity taken by this episode. Everyone heard because the stadium was empty. But if there had been the fans, no one would have heard. And in football, insults, and quarrels, it is frequent. The players bump into each other, sometimes insult each other and at the end clap each other’s hands. It is also our competitive spirit that does this …
Can you compare Bundesliga and La Liga?
Technically and tactically, La Liga is above it. It plays more ball, it’s more fun to watch or play a La Liga match. Then, you know, all championships have their characteristics with strengths and weaknesses (He cuts). You can’t say that there is one championship that is stronger or above the other in reality. You can just say that this championship suits you more than this one. Otherwise, the Bundesliga and La Liga are totally different. The Bundesliga is the Premier League for young people because a lot of young people play there. In Germany, the matches are super intense but there is a lot of waste. In La Liga, it will play a little more calm, but lost balls are rare.
How is the Todibo that just spent 6 months in Schake different from the Todibo of December 2019?
That’s a good question (He thinks). Already, on a defensive level, I am no longer the same player. I have experienced actions that I had not experienced before, whether in La Liga or Ligue 1. I cannot give you a specific example. But in my head, it’s clear, these are situations that I did not know. It was new for me to defend in this way. I learned new defensive techniques, I added strengths to my palette. Especially on corners and counter-attacks.
Explain to me…
In the Bundesliga, it plays a lot on the counterattack. When you’re a defender you often find yourself running towards your goal or defending on the shorthand, and on that, I’ve discovered new things. On the corners too, I have to work on my offensive head game. But for example, I made good progress on my outings here. I think I have passed a milestone even if before, I think I managed them rather well. My blunder against Bremen also did me good. You know, you learn a lot by making mistakes. This is why I am different from December 2019.
What type of defender do you define yourself as?
I would have a hard time defining myself. I don’t really like to define myself. I don’t like to say: “I am like this or I am like this”. I don’t like to talk about myself at all. I prefer to let the specialists do it.
You have to accentuate your work on what points?
On my head game, on my investments, lots of little tactical tips. I can still learn a lot at this level. On some actions, when I watch the video, I just need to take two steps to close the space, but I don’t and leave the space. Well, there are times when I can catch up with my speed but at other times I get caught and it’s a risk for the team. Then perfect my ball outings too, make better decisions. It’s all me and my football. For example, sometimes, instead of going on a ball line, I just had to pass my goalie just to breathe the play. And conversely, at times, I would have to go on a ball line instead. to give the ball behind me. I have to find the right balance in my football.
Do you make a lot of videos?
Yes totally. I watch all my games. Sometimes I’m just interested in my footage and sometimes I watch the whole game. I work with an analyst. He sends me his comments, tells me what’s going on, then we debate. We work well.
How is Jean-Clair Todibo facing an attacker who is starting to gain the upper hand?
If he gets the better of the action, no matter what, I’ll do my best to regain control right after. We are going to fight. It’s nothing. In fact, when I play soccer, I see it like I’m playing for the city. When you’re downstairs and playing, the attacker is going to stare at you and pass you by and there everyone will scream and roar. But quiet, the next action, you play “hard feet” as they say and you win your duel. And during the whole game, it’s like that. In the Champions League, Liga or Bundesliga, the principle is the same. You bump into it for 90 minutes, in the end, you shake your opponent’s hand. For example, the match against Inter. I had Lautaro and Lukaku in front of me. Some people will say that I took over Lautaro and others will think the opposite. Everyone has their vision of the game. The reality, it’s that he won duels, I won some too and it was like that during the 90 minutes. We gave it our all until the end of the match. I loved this game.
Do you ever think about a game?
Never. I’m not the type to doubt. Making a mistake will not make me lose my means, it will disturb or annoy me, but it will not prevent me from playing my football. It’s not going to destabilize me. One game made me open my eyes last season. I was in the stands, I watched the match. And at one point, Busquets lost the ball in front of the box and we took a goal. Three minutes later, he left to ask for the same ball again. This time he released the ball cleanly as he wanted. When he did that, I said to myself: “He’s a big one”. Because after the error, many players would not have dared to ask for the same ball. Bah him, no, quiet. Despite the pressing of opposing players and the pressure of the result, he did the same. And he succeeded. I said: “In fact, that’s football.” It is normal to be wrong. Making mistakes is part of football. There you go, that’s my way of thinking.
What is a great central defender?
A great central defender must know how to do everything. First, get the ball out, and in defense, he must be untouchable. No one can pass. A defender who reassures his partners. When you are a striker or a goalkeeper and you know that you have this defender with you, you are calm, zero worries in your head. Guys must be in the mode: “We have him behind, we can go”. When you get to that stage in your football, where just your presence is good for all your teammates, you are one of the best. A bit like Van Dijk in Liverpool. Just the fact that he’s there makes the difference.
A defender must necessarily hurt his attacker?
No, not necessarily. I’m not like that at all, in the delirium: “I’m going to hurt him”. I don’t think like that at all. Hurting is of no use. But, defend well anyway! If you can avoid a tackle and shattering her ankle, do it. From the moment you get the ball back, it’s fine.
Who is your example? Van Dijk?
No, I don’t necessarily have an example. Me, I look at all the defenders. I even watch those my age, I watch what they’re doing. I like. Like Dan-Axel Zagadou, Ibrahima Konate, I like what they do too. Yet we are the same age. Afterward, you look at the Pique, Clément Lenglet… Clém, I find him really strong. He’s super hot.
Have you ever watched a game and said to yourself: “I’m bad”?
Have you never felt like picking it up?
No never. Except when, as I said when I arrived at Barça and I lost six balls and they lost zero.
If you had to talk about Jean-Clair Todibo, what would you say?
JC, he has flaws, eh (Laughs)! More seriously, I am a quiet person. I do not take the lead too much. I play soccer and I go home. That’s all. I’m not doing much. In everyday life, I am super smiling! I like to make jokes. I am calm, calm. I’m kidding, I mess around every now and then.
What’s your mood?
Sometimes there are “bad moods”, but often “good moods” are more frequent! With me you have to have a good time and laugh. I take life at the right end.
Younger, you were a very confident person. Are you still so sure of yourself?
Yes. I am even more sure than before. But it’s more measured. I pay more attention. I try to avoid showing it even though it’s hard. And then, it can be taken badly. It is often badly taken. But it’s my personality that’s like that.
What are you sure?
I am sure about my football. You can tell me what you want, but I will never doubt my football. Because it’s my conception of football. It is as it is and there is no one who can change my mind. When I say I’m sure of myself I’m only talking about football.
Are there things outside of football that you’re not sure about?
I still have things to learn. I am only 20 years old. I am not a Daron. I don’t have the wisdom yet, which means that sometimes I make mistakes. I am wrong, I get corrected and I try to improve myself.
Can you tell about a good correction that you were able to take?
There are many. I can’t tell you everything (Laughs)!
Do you have nicknames?
Yes, it’s my mother who gives them to me. But I keep them to myself because I will show myself too much (laughs)! I give zero! Just JC, it’s square.
Your father was a coach, he still follows your career?
My father left the ship quite early. He didn’t do much for me. I grew up only with my mother.
Wasn’t it too complicated growing up only with your mother?
When you live only with your mother, you quickly realize certain things. You realize that you have to work in life. I had no right to fail. Me, I wanted to become a footballer, suddenly, I had the obligation to do so. People saw me in a very specific way, whereas I had a completely different way of thinking. In my head, it was: “I have no right to fail”. But people saw me as someone who couldn’t care less. He thought I was like that because I had the demeanor of a confident boy. They thought I was lax and I didn’t care, but not at all actually. I had no right to fail because I knew I had to help my mother. She has always been there for me and I will always be there for her. I absolutely wanted to be successful for her. I wanted her to be proud of me.
What place does she have in your life?
My mom has a big place in my life, but I don’t show it much. I’ll do everything for her, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to call her every day. But I love him as hard as I can.
What is the most beautiful thing that you have done for her?
I don’t know, she’s the one to ask (smile). But I think the best thing I would have done for her would have been to bring her the Bac S …
How do you resist bad temptations with notoriety?
What are bad temptations?
Outings or bad food?
Bad food, everyone loves it. Me, the first. But there are times for everything. In particular, I have a home chef who helps me eat properly. It happens to me to please myself from time to time. Overall, I am careful. After going out, it never really appealed to me. I’m not going to tell you: “I never went out”, that would be wrong. I am 20 years old, I also need to decompress, like everyone else. So yes, I already went out, I tasted a bit of it… And then, I didn’t do it again.
And notoriety, how do we manage that?
Notoriety… I took a long time to understand that I was known, that it was not like before. At first, I was going out anyhow. I was tap dancing in Barcelona, as in the days of the neighborhood. But that is my personality. I am calm, I do not take the lead too much. I took a while to notice that there were things I couldn’t do. But when you understand how it works, it goes well. It’s just that there are some constraints. You have to pay attention to everything.
What image do you want to convey of yourself?
I want to send back the image of a quiet guy, calm and above all accessible. This is the image I want to send back.
Do you think you are returning this image?
I’ve no idea. I haven’t communicated much until now. I am only at the beginning of my career. People have an image of my performance in the field. Well, since the quarrel with Haaland, some must think negative things while not at all.
Can’t wait to become a star?
What are your goals ?
Impose myself in a big club and win lots of titles. To be a regular in a club that stacks up the titles.
And the France team?
It is a dream for any French. I would like to go there, but I still have a way. Still a long road ahead … For now, we watch them on TV, eh. And we work on our side, trying to catch up with them.
What is the ideal path?
It’s complicated to answer this question, there is no ideal path. There are some courses that are incredible. N’Golo Kanté for example, his career is incredible. He was in Caen, he went to Leicester and he won the Premier League! If that’s not incredible, what is it? Afterward, he signed for Chelsea and now he’s a boss in the France team. There is no path to follow.
The next step is the Hopes and the Olympic Games for you?
Yes, in the short term, I am aiming for the Hopes and the Olympic Games. I will do everything to achieve this goal.
Would it be disproportionate to think of Euro 2020?
I don’t think it would be too much considering football today. Everything can happen. I hope to be there. For that, I have to find stability, that is to say, a place where I will play, where I will impose myself, and where we will win.
There are a lot of good exchanges in France. How to stand out and find your place?
You play your matches and then you just look at the lists (laughs)! There are plenty of good exchanges in France. Bouba Kamara, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Ibrahima Konaté and so on… Jules Koundé, William Saliba… and here I am talking about young people who have not yet been called in A. With Presnel (Kimpembe), Clément (Lenglet), Sam (Umtiti), Raphaël (Varane)… These four are hot!
As you are a self-confident person, you will get there …
I hope to get there! But to move the guys in place, you’ll have to be tough.
Do you think staying at Barça is going to be complicated?
It all depends on many things: discussions with the coach, with the leaders. After that, that doesn’t mean I’m going to close my doors in Barcelona. When I go home, I will give myself fully to training. Because on top of all that, I really love this club. If the coach says to me: “Stay and you will have playing time”. It will inevitably make me think. But staying in Barcelona to play three games in six months is not interesting. I am only 20 years old, I need to play and gain experience.
You often run the mercato sections, what is your ideal project?
Already, it’s just playing football. I just wanna play. Doing a whole season is something I haven’t done yet. Since the start of my career, I haven’t done that.
What are your non-football dreams?
At the moment, there aren’t many. I’m not thinking too much about it yet. I just hope I can start a family, have a wife, and then live my life.
If you hadn’t been a footballer, what would you have done?
I would have done the same. I would have lived a normal life. I would surely have chosen the easy way. However, if I hadn’t played soccer, I would have really hung on to school. Because it was very important to my mother. And school brings you a lot of things, it opens doors. By quitting school, I have already closed some of them. As I went along, I would have quickly found my way during my studies. I think I didn’t continue because I didn’t know what I wanted to do if football didn’t work.
If you were a journalist, what question would you ask Jean-Clair Todibo?
Good question (He thinks). Frankly, I don’t have one. You have trick questions. If I had been a journalist, I would have avoided trick questions. I would have turned the interview around the person, I would have asked him to introduce himself, to explain as he is, in order to know the player’s personality well. I find that it doesn’t really make sense to do an interview with someone without trying to get to know them a little. I would have tried to put a bit of proximity with the player. I would have sought to know, to know why this, why that… How he is in everyday life for example to be close to the person, to understand how he thinks. It would then have allowed me to write constructive things about him, after his matches for example. I wouldn’t have looked for the headlines to sell the paper. When I insulted Haaland, lots of articles were written. I would have preferred that they were written differently, that they tried more to understand my gesture and the situation. Even if my gesture is obviously not excusable. When you know football, everyone knows that insults are heard… I would have liked to be this journalist who always writes good things, even bad things. I would have been a journalist who tries to shine a light on everyone.
If you had to end the interview with a phrase that represents you, what would you say?
(He thinks). Ah, it’s good, I have my sentence: “I said, I feel invincible”. It means “I said I feel invincible”. It’s Pop Smoke who says that in a sound (Invincible, editor’s note). And I listen to this music before every game. Just to motivate me. I like the idea of feeling invincible. To feel that there is nothing that can touch me. I like this sentence because when I listen to it, it turns me on. She puts me in the direct path. When I hear this sentence, it means that there is no attacker who will pass, because I feel invincible.
If you had to score yourself out of 10 for this interview, how much would you score?