Laurent Batlles, coach of Troyes and former player of Toulouse, Saint-Etienne, Marseille or Bordeaux, is currently leading the Ligue 2. Less than two years after his debut as a coach with the pros.
The sun is shining on the training area in Troyes. Sharp silhouette, the coach distills his advice, bedroom, shouts and gives voice with the accent of the south. An unwise observer would think he saw Zinedine Zidane in the middle of a session in Valdebebas. But the shadow of the Stade de l’Aube recalls the context. This coach is therefore not Zizou but Laurent Batlles. This comparison with the genius of Real accompanied Battles during his long and rich career in Ligue 1 (654 games in nine clubs). A comparison that is hard to bear and that Batlles has often assumed thanks to his above-average football IQ and a technical accuracy which, all things considered, recalled that of the 1998 world champion.
Today, Laurent Batlles is a prominent trainer, at the head of ESTAC since August 2019. Almost by chance, after the departure of Rui Almeida. And he succeeds. Arrived in a club which had known, during the summer, 16 arrivals for 17 departures, the objective was clear: the maintenance. But the Trojans did better. Interrupted by the Covid-19, the 2019-2020 season deprived the Champenois of playing the climb at the end of the championship: they were then fourth and on a dynamic of hell.
But this first successful exercise was not intended to be a simple epiphenomenon: this season, Troyes prances at the top of Ligue 2. And if the top of the table is very tight, the players of the Aube are clearly among the favorites for the direct rise in Ligue 1. Under the leadership of Laurent Batlles.
Filiation with Christophe Galtier
The comparison with the coach of Real, Laurent Batlles quickly evacuates it: “It is true that a player, I have often been told, because there are the physical similarities and the role of rather technical playmaker brought us closer . But today, we do different jobs. Even if I look at what all the coaches do, in a club like Real, Zidane has to deal with egos, pressures, which have nothing to do with what I am doing. screw.”
Batlles, on the other hand, recognizes a certain affiliation with another division leader, Christophe Galtier, coach of Lille, 2nd in Ligue 1 (tied on points with the leader, PSG): “I learned a lot from Christophe. that player, at the end of my career, he made me his relay between him and the field “. If the desire to train existed in the native of Nantes, his last years in the field, under the tutelage of Galtier, reinforced his desires: “We had to give ourselves the means to become a trainer, by passing the diplomas and then learning. I thank Saint-Etienne, who allowed me to train by coaching the U19s then the reserve “.
Quickly, Batlles became, for the followers of Troyes and Ligue 2, what the press calls a good customer, with a smiling and open communication. “It is certain that by evolving alongside Christophe Galtier, I also witnessed his communication, he notes. He is among the best in France, I was inspired by that too.”
A human coach, demanding, with a playful philosophy
What about the game itself? Batlles was a ball player, he is today a coach who continues to love the game. This is what he asks his teams, as evidenced by Dylan Chambost, whom he first coached as a youngster at Saint-Etienne then now in Troyes for two years: “He is a very human coach, very lighthearted too, but he also knows how to create a distance in order to be able to be demanding with us”. Batlles confirms: “I don’t ask the players for things that they are not capable of, but I want them to be demanding of themselves, so that they learn to respond to match situations on their own”.
Like the player he was, Batlles relies on personal development in the service of the collective. “The coach always tells us that there are things to be gained in a season both personally and collectively, but that one does not go without the other,” explains Chambost.
Very much on his permanent upgrade, Batlles watches football. Lots of football. “I’m interested in two types of teams, he explains. The ones with the best attacks in their league and the ones with the best defenses. I’m trying to figure out what makes them excel.” Before concluding that “success must come through play”. And Dylan Chambost to support: “We had two setbacks before the truce, but the coach tells us not to change the way we play, and that success will come back by playing football and too bad if we occasionally have trouble facing to low blocks “.
Batlles will not depart from his philosophy as a player coach, an attitude that should not displease the City Football Group (Manchester City group) at the head of ESTAC since last September. A philosophy that especially appeals to an entire region, which wants to see ESTAC again in Ligue 1, five years after relegation. Troyes and his coach are eight games away from the Grail.