PARIS, France, (AFP) – French football boss Noel Le Graet on Monday apologised for what he dubbed his "clumsy remarks" about Zinedine Zidane's potential interest in coaching the France national team.
Le Graet had quipped dismissively in an interview on French radio that he "wouldn't even have taken his call on the phone" when asked whether Zidane had rung him to express an interest in taking over as coach from Didier Deschamps.
That drew criticism from France and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who called Le Graet's comments "disrespectful".
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera also waded in, demanding an apology from Le Graet for his comments, which she said showed "a shameful lack of respect".
The apology from the 81-year-old head of the French Football Federation duly came on Monday, Le Graet saying: "I would like to apologise for these remarks, which absolutely do not reflect my views, nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become.
"I gave an interview to (French radio station) RMC that I should not have given because they were looking for controversy by opposing Didier and Zinedine Zidane, two greats of French football.
"I admit that I made some clumsy remarks which created a misunderstanding."
Deschamps' contract expired after the World Cup in Qatar, where reigning champions France lost to Argentina in a penalty shootout after a thrilling final on December 18.
However, Deschamps on Saturday signed a new deal until the 2026 World Cup.
Asked in the RMC interview whether Zidane, who won the 1998 World Cup as a player alongside Deschamps and was a runner-up in 2006, had called him in recent days, Le Graet dismissed the former Real Madrid coach as having been a potential candidate.
"I wouldn't even have taken his call," Le Graet said. "To tell him what? 'Hello sir. Don't worry. Look for another club. I just agreed a contract with Didier'."
Le Graet also responded curtly to reports of Zidane's interest in coaching the Brazil team.
"I would be surprised if he left for there," he said.
"It's up to him what he does. It's not my business. I've never met him and we've never considered parting with Didier Deschamps.
"He can go where he wants, to a club. He would have as many as he wants in Europe, a big club. But a national side is hardly credible, to my mind."
Zidane left Real Madrid last year having won two La Liga titles and three consecutive Champions League titles as manager of the Spanish club.