Born in Arles, Gaël Givet took his first steps with his hometown club before joining the academy of AS Monaco, where he signed his first professional contract in 2001. The defender spent seven seasons on the Rock before going on to play for Marseille, Blackburn, Arles-Avignon and Evian. In addition to his club career, Gaël Givet (12 caps) was in Raymond Domenech’s squad of 23 for the 2006 World Cup, which saw the French team beaten in the final.
Returned in the summer of 2016 to the Principality, the faithful partner of Sébastien Squillaci in central defence is now an assistant to Frédéric Barilaro with the U19s, a coach he knows well since he himself trained with him as a player. With a touch of frustration linked to the fact of not having been able to finish the 2019-2020 season which was on a very good track, Gaël Givet looks back at the campaign from preseason to a first match won 6-0. It is in the new Academy building, the Diagonale, that the former captain under Didier Deschamps spoke with us about his role as trainer.
Gaël, you are coming out of a somewhat unique preseason with several months off following COVID-19. How did it go knowing that you also change players every every year?
It’s true that we were a little frustrated at the end of this season, we are especially frustrated for the players we had last year who were having a very good run in the league and in the Coupe Gambardella. Not being able to finish the season is a disappointment. Then there was this long break for everyone. We tried to keep our players in shape, keep them in good shape, so as not to start from scratch. After that, it is true that this year, 100% of the players we had last year went to play with the reserves. It’s a big change but we took our time to get back to it.
🔙 Les U19 de l'AS Monaco 🇲🇨 de retour sur les terrains ! #RESTART
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) July 25, 2020
The first two weeks were spent in Monaco. We started off slowly at the technical level, and not too much intensity at the start on the physical level. Then we went to Saint-Martin-Vésubie for an training camp, the intensity increased and we also started to increase the physical level, but also our level of demand from the players. It’s been a crescendo to be ready for the start of the league season.
Exactly, it was last weekend and you started well with a 6-0 win. How did you experience this first match alongside Frédéric Barilaro? What are your impressions of this first match?
We have a very young group, with a lot of first year players or 17 year old players. We knew that Toulon was a very strong team from the experience of years past. But we also knew that we had done well, that we were ready, and the players showed that they wanted to get back to competition. We responded to this team that faced us with plenty of ambition. We had a good game, it’s a good start, but it’s only one match. You have to keep working, have humility and not get carried away. The second game is this Sunday (at Pieve di Lota), we have to show the same spirit if you want to keep doing good things.
Is it a plus to have you, a former professional player of AS Monaco, in this kind of match where you have to be able to manage things and not do well too soon?
I’m with Fred (Barilaro) who has a lot of experience too, and even with as trainer, we stand behind that idea of experience. We have to explain to them and make them understand that this happens every day. You can’t have one day when you do things well and the next day when you slack off, that is not possible. If they want to be successful and last at the top level, they have to give their all every day. On a daily basis, you have to have high standards with yourself and with your teammates.
In preseason, Manu Dos Santos put a lot of emphasis on this requirement, the mentality, the state of mind. Is it so important at this age?
There has been a big evolution. Today, there are more people around young footballers, sometimes in a positive way but also in a negative way. We have to manage this, but it is our duty to ensure it. At the top level, the important thing is to last. It’s not about succeeding in three matches and then it’s over. It is every day that we have to work and be demanding, we must never slack off. This is an important message to pass on to all young people, especially those who are coming up. For Manu (Dos Santos) it is even more important because the players usually come from clubs where they have been the stars. There is more to be learned here, the AS Monaco institution is above everything, and everyone is working to make it to the first team one day.
— L'ÉQUIPE type (@lequipetype) April 10, 2017
We know that it is difficult to set goals when you change the squad every year. Did you settle down quickly with Frédéric?
There is no target in terms of the table. Obviously we get caught up in the match, especially for the players because it is the carrot, but above all we want a state of mind, that the players can work well, can understand what we are asking for and what we want, can show constant progression. If some people get lost on the way, we try to catch them up. We have a real goal of working with a positive mentality, a mentality of being able to give the best every time.
The objective is therefore to help them towards a career as a professional player …
We are in training. I will say it again, but of course we get into the matches and want to have the best results. Me, Fred, the players, want to win, but that’s because we’re competitors, and how! You have to have this competitive mindset because the highest level is all about competition. But our daily goal is not the results, it is to train players.
Tell us a little bit about your role alongside Frédéric Barilaro, what the distribution of tasks is like.
I get along very well with Fred. We have more or less the same vision of football and of life too. We are not very talkative. He’s about supervising things a bitmoe and I try to be a little closer to the players, to see if there are any problems. If there is, sometimes I tell him about it, sometimes not, but it’s true that I try to be a bit of a link with the players. After that, Fred has so much experience that the roles are natural. At the start of the season, we each took different groups of our players to work on different things, and then we traded. He asks me for advice on what I see or I will tell him. Sometimes I tell him that I saw something, and depending on what I tell him, he can act. We really work in total transparency.
It must be special to work with the man who coached you at AS Monaco …
When he was my coach, Fred was already someone I liked. When I had the opportunity to work with him, knowing that he has a lot of experience, that he is a big football fan because he lives and breahtes football, he has a great knowledge of the game, I didn’t hesitate. It’s a chance for me to work alongside him.
Do you think it is important that the Club give its former players a chance to be able to get involved in training and promote the Academy of AS Monaco?
I think it’s good to have former players at all clubs, but you have to have former players who are doing their job, who are there to work and to contribute. You don’t have to have former players just for the sake of it, and who don’t work, it doesn’t add much and it’s even counterproductive. But as far as developing an identity, it’s important, to remember that even before that, things were happening. Before Toto (Squillaci), me, or even Manu played here, there were great players, great results. This reminds us that AS Monaco is a great French club and one that must be respected. There is nothing being given for free, as a player, you have to stay calm, work hard, and do your best to earn a chance to play.
Sébastien Squillaci talked to us the other week about the younger generations. Is it difficult to adapt to this, how do you approach this change?
It’s hard for me to say this, but I sometimes feel like an old jerk. There is a progression that I don’t necessarily like, but you have to adapt, that’s how it is. Maybe at some point we will go too far and we will realize that we are overstepping the line a bit, but in terms of values and these sorts of things, I think we are taking a somewhat difficult step. Once again we will have to adapt, to go with it, to find a happy medium, and to make the young players understand that there are things to be respected but also to be a little more flexible.
Hence the importance of working on one’s mentality, on one’s state of mind?
The qualities of the player on the pitch obviously have to be worked on, that is important. But it is essential to have a good mentality, a good state of mind. If one has that, if one is hardworking, respectful, humble, one will always progress. Maybe some players with less quality will be more successful than those who are less hardworking but have more intrinsic qualities. We have seen plenty of examples like that. And then if we are lucky enough to have a player who has great quality and who understands that if he works hard every day he will succeed, we know that we have a future top player.
Do you think the players know who you and Sébastien Squillaci are, who Manu Dos Santos is?
We are not there with a sign to tell them. Honestly, I don’t know, but I think they need to get on the internet and watch. But I don’t know, because I don’t talk to them about it. I’m not here to tell them I’ve done this or that, I’m here to try to make them understand what high performance is and what it takes to get there.
It must be special to be with Sébastien Squillaci, your former central hinge partner, back in training ….
Yes, especially since we are very close, Seb and I, we get along very well. We are happy to be back at our club, the one where we came of age and made our debuts. It’s a nice set of circumstances. We talk about the players, because last year we had a team that he has this year in National 2. He also had the U17s before, so there is a lot of interaction. We like to discuss the matches, the players, the training. It’s cool.
To have facilities like this is amazing. There are no more excuses, the players are in the best condition and only have to think about one thing: to play football and to train properly. They can prepare well, have doctors, can receive care. We’ve got it all here and it’s really great. We couldn’t ask for more..
Finally, how did you come to the idea of being a coach?
It came naturally. I love football too much, so I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than football. And I love being on the pitch. What I want is to be on the pitch because that’s where I feel good. Sporting director, for example, it’s less my thing because it takes a little more to be in contact with people, whereas being in a locker room and with players on the pitch is something that I love. I have started working on this and I want it to continue.
With about your personal goals?
To keep working and to take the DEPF. There is also the manager’s exam that I wish to pass. We will see how things develop, but one must not go too fast, one must take one’s time, and watch how it goes, learn, and be humble. There are lots of people who have more experience, you have to take everyone’s experience into account and add your personal touch, that’s for sure, but you also have to be patient.