Henry sparks controversy in French football world with criticism of Ligue 1

Thierry Henry's criticism of the predominantly defensive playing style of teams in Ligue 1 has stirred up quite a reaction in France. The legendary former international attracted the ire of Montpellier coach Michel Der Zakarian, but remains calm amidst the uproar.

Henry sparks controversy in French football world with criticism of Ligue 1
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Henry, now the coach of the French U21 team, said last week that he would like to see more attacking football in the French league. 'On Sunday, there were no shots on goal. There's no action. Nice is second with only thirteen goals scored,' the 46-year-old legend stated in a press conference following a low-scoring weekend. 'Teams don't want to open up because they are playing against direct rivals. I hope these are the only two weekends with so few goals.'

These comments did not sit well with Der Zakarian, who has been working as a coach at smaller clubs in France such as FC Nantes, Clermont Foot, Stade Reims, Stade Brest, and since this year again at Montpellier. 'I disagree with Thierry Henry,' said the sixty-year-old Armenian in a conversation with Midi-Libre. 'Where has he been a coach? What did he do in Monaco? He left after three months. He works for the French federation and criticizes French football. What nonsense.'

Der Zakarian added that it's easy to score goals with the French U21 team against teams like Cyprus U21 (9-0). 'Let him win 5-0 against Spain or Italy, then I will say bravo.' Henry took all this in stride and refused to fan the flames on Monday evening. 'I know some journalists like to speak for others, but if you were at the press conference, you know I didn't attack anyone,' he said during a press event.

Former international Jerôme Rothen, speaking on RMC Sport, was outspoken and condemned Der Zakarian's statements. 'As colleagues, you should have respect for each other. Attacking Henry personally on his coaching career and taking words out of context is disgraceful. That's completely irrelevant. I could also say that Michel Der Zakarian has never coached a big club and hasn’t won any trophies. And as a player, I could really ridicule him.'

Rothen noted that Henry had previously praised the level of Ligue 1 in a broadcast on RMC Sport and advised Der Zakarian to look at himself first. 'If he's happy with what Montpellier has shown in the last two matches, he should consider doing something other than coaching a Ligue 1 club. What he said is cheap. It smacks of jealousy and bitterness. Either he's a liar and has twisted the words of Thierry Henry, or he hasn't listened properly.'