« The most impressive was Adriano, he had a shot, let it go! »
Foot Mercato: Jonathan, we find you in San Fernando, in the Tercera Division in Spain, where you have been playing since the fall of 2020. Explain this career choice to us?
Jonathan Biabiany: I was free after my departure from Trapani. As there was the Covid problem, I didn’t see my family for three, four months. I live in Spain. My priority was to stay close to my family. To avoid being far away, I told myself that I was going to play in Spain. I have known the president of San Fernando well, for many years. He told me about this possibility, about a project they have to go up to the 2nd or even the 1st division in a few years. I accepted the project and chose to stay to play near my home.
FM: and how is this new adventure going?
JB: it goes well ! We missed the climb last season during the play-offs. This season, we didn’t start well, but we had a good series that brought us closer to the play-offs. The objective is to make the club progress, to go up.
FM: In 2021, you were the most used player. At 33, what is the secret of your longevity?
JB: I would say be ready, stay in shape, don’t get hurt and be consistent in performance. I pay a lot of attention to food. I also work indoors before and after training. It pays on the pitch, it pays physically.
FM: What is the level of Tercera, where you mainly face reserves from La Liga clubs?
JB: I was surprised at the level, I thought it would be lower, it would be quiet. The level of the third division here is higher than in Italy. There are plenty of reserves from La Liga clubs. There is a lot of quality, promising young people, pros who are coming down. It raises the level. It’s a good championship, it plays a lot with the ball, it’s fast, frankly, I did not expect such a high level. I like it !
FM: without wanting to be indiscreet, the level of salary must be very different from what you have known
JB: it is sure that these are not first division salaries, but it is a choice that I made with my family. And then, I still have a salary that allows me to live well. I thank God. I always look at what I have rather than what I don’t have.
FM: you are out of contract at the end of the season. How do you see the sequel?
JB: my contract ends in June. We are in a period of renegotiation, we will see what we will do. I have already been contacted by several teams, in Spain, abroad, everywhere. We take things into consideration. We have to speak with the president afterwards and we will see what will happen. Me, I want to continue playing, that’s for sure.
FM: Is there any chance of seeing you return to France to complete the loop, you who started in Blanc-Mesnil?
JB: I, frankly, live here, in Spain, so I prefer to finish here. I’m fine here in Spain, I like life here. I already spoke Spanish, since Inter. But France has always attracted me, I come from there, my parents are there, my family is there. I have never closed the door to a return to France. I had offers to be able to come back in the past, but it never materialized. It had not been done, I do not prefer to say the names of the clubs. I’m fine here, we’ll see. In any case, I am not closing the door to France.
A future to be defined
FM: have you already received any offers?
JB: yes, I have contacts in Spain, in Italy, the countries where I am best known, let’s say, and others in exotic countries.
FM: Looking back, how do you view your career?
JB: I am satisfied with my career, even if the last few years have not gone too well due to the Covid and my choice of clubs. And then, it’s not over, I can still do great things.
FM: Can you remind us how you went, at just 16, from Blanc-Mesnil to Inter?
JB: we were playing a game with my team. An observer from Inter was there to supervise players from another team. As he was early, he saw my team and he decided to recruit me and leave out those he had initially come to see play!
FM: once you arrive at Inter, the hardest part begins…
JB: when you arrive at a big club like that, you have to learn as much as possible and work as much as possible. I focused on work. I managed to get out of Inter. It was a little easier to start your career when you have the Inter card.
FM: You have rubbed shoulders with incredible players and attackers during your career, from Mario Balotelli to Hernan Crespo via Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito, Giampaolo Pazzini, Antonio Cassano, Amauri and so many others. What memories do you have of it?
JB: I also had the chance to train with Adriano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I often trained with them when I was young, then I played with the Primavera. I started in the Italian Cup playing with Luis Figo, Alvaro Recoba, Adriano… It’s incredible. At the beginning, yes, we say to ourselves that we are lucky to be with great players. Afterwards, I wanted to show my qualities and show that I wanted to succeed.
FM: Did any of them particularly impress you?
JB: they all marked me. Afterwards, the most impressive thing, he didn’t have the career he should have had, because he had problems afterwards, was Adriano. He had a phenomenal force of nature, technically he was too strong. “He had a strike, let it go!” He was a really complete, fast, powerful player. After the death of his father, he had problems. But he’s the most complete striker I’ve seen in my career.
FM: At Inter, you also played a lot with Mauro Icardi. How do you view his current difficulties at Paris SG?
JB: I played with Mauro, I can tell you that he is one of the best surface attackers, with his way of moving and his effectiveness in the area of truth. It is true that he has shortcomings outside the surface. He’s not the one who’s going to play, turn around and dribble past three defenders. He does what he knows how to do. PSG bought him and knew his game. Afterwards, he has non-football problems which complicate everything. And then he plays at PSG with Mbappé, Messi and Neymar in front of him, it’s normal for him to be behind them. It’s up to him to be ready when called upon. He would not be the only one on the bench with these competitors.
Adriano, Icardi, Mbappé and the Blues…
FM: Kylian Mbappé, precisely, what do you think?
JB: I have always liked fast, technically strong players. Kylian Mbappé surprised everyone, he arrived very young and he confirms what he is. He will fight for the Ballon d’Or regularly now, we will hear a lot about him in the next few years.
FM: you have a few selections with the France Espoirs team. What did you miss to taste the A’s?
JB: I was called up to U23, yes, I even scored, but I can’t remember against whom! At the time, I was with Mamadou Sakho, David N’Gog, Emmanuel Rivière, Maxime Gonalons… For the A’s, I don’t know. I’ve always wondered. When I was 21-22, I started at Inter. But the Blues never called me. Afterwards, there are 1000 players who are strong in France! It’s not like in other selections. There really is competition, coaches who favor certain players over others. It’s like that.
FM: speaking of the choice of coaches, in 2010/11, while you are a starter, Inter changed coaches. Leonardo, now sports director at Paris SG, succeeds Rafael Benitez. You disappear from the screens. Do you want him?
JB: I don’t have bad memories of him. He arrived, he spoke with the veterans of the team, he made his choices. When Benitez left, Benitez’s players were sidelined. I was inside. Leonardo has made his choices. Each coach has his preferences, his style of play. I played on the side, he saw no place for me in his system, with one number and two axial attackers. He said to me: « if you stay, it’s on the bench ». So I went on loan to Sampdoria. I’ve always prioritized playing time.
FM: why is Serie A so complicated for attackers?
JB: I love Italy, it’s where I grew up, where I was trained. For me, it’s the best defensive league in the world. All attackers struggle. Cristiano Ronaldo arrived and scored 40-50 goals in Spain. His first season here is only 20 goals. It is very difficult here. Even the last in the standings, here, to score against him, you have to sweat. In Italy, it’s harder physically, there’s also a lot of tactical work, especially defensively. There isn’t too much of that defensive work in Spain in comparison.
FM: You went to Sparta Prague in 2017/18. How was this season in the Czech Republic?
JB: I followed an Italian coach there that I knew, who recruited 13 foreign players. This didn’t sit well with Sparta fans. When the coach was fired, foreign players were put aside. There was pressure to get us out of the club, to leave the money behind. It was a battle to recover the money. It was a good experience in terms of the city, we really liked it with my family. In terms of football, it didn’t give us what we wanted, but, thank God, it only lasted a year and we came back to Italy.
FM: In 2014, you were arrested for a heart problem. Italy is very strict with this subject, as we have seen for Christian Eriksen. How did you experience this delicate episode?
JB: I had detected a small problem during a check. I had to stop for three or four months and leave again. Eventually, the Parma club, where I was playing at the time, disappeared and I went a year without playing. I was able to return to Inter fortunately. Italy, they are really strict on this subject. Each country has its rules. I saw that Eriksen could play in Denmark or the Netherlands. It is sure that at the beginning, you are afraid, you reassure yourself and, when you come back, you have a little apprehension but you quickly move on to something else.
FM: Are you already thinking about post-career?
JB: for the moment, I play and I see what I can do in the future. For now, I’m thinking more about non-football stuff.