OM – Montpellier – Interview – Téji Savanier: « I want to freak out both the opponent and the neighborhood »

This Thursday morning, in Montpellier, the Bernard Gasset training center is bathed in a playful mood. The spring weather and the heroic snatch victory against Monaco on Sunday helped to lighten the mood. In the midst of the professional workforce who work in front of goal, Téji Savanier is like a fish in water. He has fun among his teammates, adjusts the guards of cross strikes and lobs to the millimeter. And especially bedroom, bedroom and bedroom again. Everyone goes from hitting the clouds of Jordan Ferri (“oh! watch out for the cars anyway”) to the hesitant control of Mamadou Sakho.

To close the session, « Couille », as his teammates call him, ends up in goal. « I warn you, nothing is happening. Even if I have to leave a shoulder there, I have my gypsy pride » At 30, the captain of the MHSC shines on the field and lives his childhood dream in his heart club. Interview with a fulfilled man, voted best player in L1 in December, that nothing can upset. Not even his suspension this Saturday for the round of 16 of the Coupe de France against OM.

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You have just been elected best player of the month in December in Ligue 1, are you at the top of your game?

TS: At the top, I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that I feel good on the pitch. This trophy acquired, in addition to Kylian Mbappé, makes me very happy. It is very important and I am proud of it.

Have you ever felt so strong?

TS: I also have less good passes but I play in a position that I love, in number 10. I am proud to bring to Montpellier as I do today. My change of position on the pitch has taken me a step further this season, I’m faster forward and closer to the goal. It allows me to put strikes and assists.

We have the impression that the departures of Delort or Laborde, who could have weakened you because we know your ties with them, have almost made you stronger.

TS: We were sad to lose Gaëtan and Andy. They are two very good attackers but above all two very good friends. They decided to leave, I’m not going to give them a headache for 50 years either. It’s like that. We recruited players who do the job very well. It also allows others to show off like Stephy (note: Mavididi) who is having a great start to the season. We are proud of what we do, of showing the values ​​of the club and of La Paillade.

Téji Savanier (Montpellier) strikes a pose in front of Jordan Ferri

Credit: Getty Images

How are you living this season? All this praise for each of your performances? You are, at 30, the fashionable player.

TS: I live it very well. You know, I’m not the kind of player who gets into this stuff. It’s me. I will not change because of the media coverage or because I play good matches. I am simple, I remain who I am. A lot of people tell me that I’m under pressure because I play good matches, because I’m captain. But no, I play my football and I have fun.

Five years ago, I was in L2 and today, I am best player of the month in L1

Do we savor even more when we struggled and revealed ourselves late?

TS: It makes me proud. Five years ago, I was in Ligue 2 and today, I am best player of the month in Ligue 1. So yes, I am proud. It’s a nice climb. I hope it won’t end there. To believe me arrived, it is not at all my mentality. The confidence I have in myself and that of the club or the coach makes big differences. I feel good with my club, my teammates. There is nothing more important.

When do you think your career changed?

TS: With Nîmes, the rise in Ligue 1 was decisive for me. I knew the high level not so long ago finally. When I faced players who had a name in L1, I started to think to myself why them and not me. It gave me wings. I knew at that time that it was up to me to make my name in Ligue 1.

Did you doubt at any time, especially when the top level refused you?

TS: I never really doubted. I signed in Nîmes two days after the judicial liquidation of Arles. I was not thinking of the L1 at that time. I had extra pounds, I was exhausted at the end of the matches. Over time, when we went up to L1, I said to myself: it’s playable. It was a dream, today I achieved it. I hope it will continue.

Teji Savanier (Montpellier)

Credit: Getty Images

If I don’t take pleasure here, when do I take it?

I want to understand what is going on in your head when you play. What guides you: pure pleasure?

TS: You have to have fun, that’s the basis. My treat is getting up every morning and telling myself that I’m going to come and play football here. Playing at La Mosson, being captain, in the middle of all that… frankly… If I don’t have fun here, when do I?

What is the part of instinct and work in the game?

TS: I play on instinct, without thinking. As recently, against Troyes, I did not think and I took a red. It’s me… I’m like that, you have to deal with it.

Where does this love of the beautiful gesture come from?

TS: It comes from my neighborhood. When I was young, I liked to piss off the grown-ups. When I succeeded in my dribble, the older ones tried to catch me to hit me. Today, on the ground, I try to transcribe that. In fact, I try to freak out the opponent like when I was a kid in the neighborhood. Afterwards, in Ligue 1, there are a lot of experienced players, it’s more difficult but I try (laughs)… When it passes, it’s nice.

Montpellier face Marseille in the Coupe de France on Saturday. Dimitri Payet is perhaps the player who most resembles you in Ligue 1. What do you think of him?

TS: I’ll be honest, I never watch football at home but I do watch his videos. He’s a great player. We know what he did with the France team. He’s a football player, by instinct. It’s a treat to see him.

Teji Savanier: « Verratti was my idol »

You belong to the same family of players…

TS: (he cuts) Yes, but I’m not going to say that I see myself in him… It’s Payet, he played for the France team, in big clubs… He has his character, I have mine . He is a very, very good player.

Who are your models, your inspirations?

TS: The player who inspired me is Zidane. He is a 10, the best player in the world, a Frenchman and more. He was my role model.

Verratti was a bit of my idol

And among the creative players today De Bruyne, Messi, Neymar…

TS: No… I don’t have any other role models. Or Marco Verratti when I was playing lower. He has this ability to keep the ball and enjoy himself. He was kind of my idol.

Umut Bozok, Andy Delort, Gaëtan Laborde: they all had the best time of their career with you. Today, Mavididi is exploding, Wahi too… That’s also your pleasure, your goal in this game: to blow up your attackers.

TS: I’ve always played to make my teammates shine. It is a source of pride to mark a colleague. I prefer that to scoring myself, I find it classier, prettier.

Laurent Nicollin, on Sunday, said: « Téji Savanier wants to stay, and I also want him to stay ». So your extension is settled?

TS: It’s not settled. We will discuss all this in the coming days and we will see what will happen. I have a year and a half of my contract left…

If I can be captain on the day of the inauguration of the Louis-Nicollin stadium, I can’t explain the thrills to you…

Would you like to embody the future of Montpellier, to be the first captain of the MHSC in the Louis-Nicollin stadium in 2024?

TS: Yes, it would be a great pride. We are seeing the various projects with the president. This one is close to my heart. If I can be captain on the day of the inauguration of the Louis-Nicollin stadium, I can’t explain the thrills to you…

You are 30 years old, you have never played in the Champions League. In Montpellier, it could be difficult. Is that still a goal?

TS: It’s a dream for all players. To feel the sensation, this music… I experienced it as a supporter at La Mosson. Just in the stands, I had chills everywhere. I hope to experience it one day. With Montpellier, it would be the best.

Bernard Blaquart, your former coach in Nîmes, told us: “I remember a discussion I had with Teji before he left Nîmes. I said to him: don’t you have other ambitions? With all due respect to Montpellier, I saw it above.« 

TS: (cuts off) I remember that discussion. I told him that my dream was to play for Montpellier. If I could go, why deprive myself of it? He was the first to know because he was my coach, I had to be transparent.

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How do you respond to Mamadou Sakho when he says that your career is a mess and that you could have played in very big clubs?

TS: He already told me. It’s nice to hear that from the mouth of such a player. But I don’t ask myself such questions. Today, I am in Montpellier. Tomorrow, I don’t know where I will be. I have a year and a half of my contract left. We’ll see.

When you see Guendouzi, Tolisso or Rabiot, don’t you think there is room for Savanier, the best player of the month in L1, in the France team?

TS: I don’t like to compare myself. Afterwards, we will say that Teji believes he is stronger than one or another. If they are selected, they deserve it. I work on my side. If it should come, it will come. I don’t worry about Guendouzi, Tolisso… Good for them. I won’t stop dreaming.

World Cup ? A dream to participate

Is the World Cup in Qatar in November a goal?

TS: It remains a dream to participate. I am 30 years old, after that it will be too late. If I am good with my club, I will let the coach do it. I don’t mind.

Have you already discussed with Didier Deschamps?

TS: No I never discussed with him.

If you had a message for him…

TS: Hello and good luck (laughs).

No player has had his first cap at over 30 since 2008 and Steve Savidan. But you have a unique background so…

TJ: It’s still a dream. But it’s not my priority. My priority is to make good matches with my club. If I’m good with Montpellier, Deschamps will watch me.

What is your biggest dream today?

TJ: To be European with Montpellier. If that happens, I will be the happiest player in the world.

Teji Savanier (Montpellier) against FC Metz

Credit: Imago

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