This summer during the transfer window, So Foot returns every day of the week to a transfer that marked its time in its own way. For this 34th episode, back to 2005. Or when FC Metz thought they had a big hit by attracting Ahn Jung-hwan. The story will very quickly become a fiasco.
End of a peaceful day on Lake Maggiore in the summer of 2005. We are on the Italian side of the lake. Carlo Molinari is on vacation. The historic president of FC Metz is taking a little rest after seeing his club obtain a second straight stay in the top flight. 4 p.m., the phone rings. At the other end of the line, Philippe Gaillot. The sports director is very annoyed: Ahn Jung-hwan, Italy’s worst nightmare during the World Cup three years earlier, is about to put on the garnet tunic. The agreement between all parties is found, despite tough negotiations. Molinari unfolds the evening that awaits him. “Gaillot explains to me: “The player is there, we all agree, but he demands your presence for the signing of the contract.” I said : “Oh, firecracker!” » All-out battle: Molinari jumps into his car, heading for Lorraine, 550 kilometers further. “I arrive at 11 p.m. sharp at the Novotel in Metzhe continues. Gaillot, Joël Muller, the trainer, and Ahn are waiting for me. In ten minutes, it was over. Everything was ready. I just had to be there. At midnight, the time to drink a coffee and a coca-cola so as not to fall asleep on the road, here I go again. He made me do 1100 kilometers. At 5:30 a.m., I am again on Lake Maggiore. I can’t forget this guy. »
On July 13, it is therefore a small event in France: the arrival of the author of the terrible golden goal which caused the Nazionale during the 2002 World Cup. Fired a few days after this exploit by the president of Perugia, his club, accusing him of having “ruined Italian football” , Ahn had taken refuge in Japan for a few seasons. Before therefore trying his luck again in Europe, in Metz, for a one-year contract. With the firm intention to shine. “Of course I have the ambition to score as many goals as possible.he hopes during his presentation. And thus allow the club to gain places in the standings so that it is recognized within the elite. I especially want to discover this championship and mark my time at FC Metz. »
“You sent a rebound block, it stuck to his foot at the reception. He was very elegant, with a low center of gravity, so he was lively, quick on the first steps. And with a big hit. He had an interesting football IQ. » Stephane Borbiconi
Play it like Beckham
If the signing is slightly talked about in France, it has the effect of a huge bomb in Asia where the former Yokohama striker is a huge icon. “In the locker room, we were told that they had signed an international stardetails Mehdi Meniri, former defender of the garnet house. I said to myself : “Damn, Metz only takes national or international players, and there, a star!” We learn that it was the Korean who eliminated Italy at the World Cup. » The Sébastien Renouard, Grégory Proment and other Laurent Agouazi then discovered the marketing phenomenon: “The Asian Beckham, that’s how we were introduced to itlaughs Meniri. His wife was Miss South Korea a few years ago. It was to say that we really had a star, with this life, à la Beckham. » “We watched him in pubs for shampoo when we saw him every dayis still surprised Stéphane Borbiconi, another Garnet of the time. We were laughing. » Sportingly, Ahn above all symbolizes a new ambition for FC Metz. Carl Medjani: “The club had taken five or six internationals during this transfer window. But he was the spearhead. »
Ahn’s debut is (very) good. And even spectacular. On July 23, six days before the opening of the Ligue 1 season, Ahn scored his first friendly goal against Lokeren. Mehdi Meniri remembers it perfectly: “He comes in and after twenty minutes, he scores us a Jay-Jay Okocha-style goal against Bordeaux! We said to ourselves: “Damn, we hit the jackpot!” » Rebelote at the Parc des Princes: for the first day, Metz sinks in Paris (1-4), but Ahn goes there with his pawn, all in cold blood to adjust Lionel Letizi after being served in withdrawal. All this five minutes after entering. “Technically it was very, very cleanportrays Borbiconi. You sent a rebound cinder block, it stuck to his foot at the reception. He was very elegant, with a low center of gravity, so he was lively, quick on the first steps. And with a big hit. He had an interesting football IQ. »
“The kitchen in this house didn’t suit him, so we bought a new kitchen. We got him a driver who had to speak English at least (…) We did everything he wanted to make him feel good. Her diva behavior was unbearable. »
Carlo Molinari, angry president
“He was surprised that we didn’t wash his car during training”
His goal at the Parc was only followed by a second, at Sochaux, in December. Very quickly, the Messina adventure turns into a fiasco. The functioning of the South Korean on a daily basis challenges more than one. Because it’s not just Ahn Jung-hwan who lands in Metz, but the multinational Ahn Jung-hwan. “He had his cook, his driver, his translator… Each time, there were four or five around him, even in the locker roomswears Borbiconi. He wasn’t just a player. He was a little surprised that we didn’t wash our car while we were in practice. » Carl Medjani still can’t believe it: “What shocked us a bit was the translator. Being younger, he had such respect for the player that sometimes it was borderline embarrassing. He did everything, even if it meant carrying his water bottle, his shoes… We weren’t used to it. We had to come to terms with that. » Molinari and Metz therefore learn to deal with the whims of their star, and try to satisfy her by making her life as pleasant as possible. The current vice-president of the FCM lists everything that has been done. “We found him the house he wanted outside the city. The kitchen in this house did not suit him, so we bought a new kitchen. We got him a driver who had to speak at least English. We had received his family as it should … We did everything he wanted to make him feel good. Her diva behavior was unbearable. »
“He said that in South Korea, it was normal. Carrying him his bag, washing his shoes… It was part of Korean culture. » Mehdi Meniri
Two worlds so different
Not really on the same planet as the club and the city of Metz, Ahn quickly cut himself off from the group. The link is never made. The only times Meniri and others manage to talk with him are during the greens when the South Korean was not accompanied by all his personal staff. “We discussed it with him, he let go a littlenarrates Meniri. We spoke in broken English. He spoke good Italian. He said that in South Korea, it was normal. Carrying him his bag, washing his shoes… It was part of Korean culture. » In January, express exfiltration: direction Duisburg, where things will not go much better. If he was certainly not in the right place at the right time, Ahn Jung-hwan was above all not ready to play maintenance (Metz will be relegated at the end of the season) and to tear himself away for the club according to his former partners. Stéphane Borbiconi explains: “You are a star, you arrive in Metz, you play the maintenance, you are told that you have to put on the overalls … A lot of players blamed him for a lack of investment. He did not register in the long term, he did not hang on. He felt that the season was going to be complicated. »
Above all, there was no local DNA, which was undeniably necessary, according to Borbiconi: “Metz is a very beautiful city, but the club has a reputation for working hard, with a somewhat Germanic mentality: work, rigour, humility. We, that was it, maybe he wasn’t lost, but…” Eighteen games, ten starts, two goals and a star transfer that made pschiiit. “All this effort for nothing at all” still plagues Carlo Molinari, who has always had a question that remained unanswered:“The fact of demanding my presence, knowing that I was still quite far away, was it not to possibly leave without honoring his contract because he no longer wanted to come? » And to conclude, always very bitter:“In terms of impact, it was quite spectacular. But we would have done better to take the striker from Hauconcourt, an amateur in Moselle. » To believe that he has still not digested his 1100 kilometers swallowed up in barely twelve hours.
By Timothé Crepin
Comments by Ahn Jung-hwan taken from a press conference. Those of Stéphane Borbiconi, Carl Medjani, Mehdi Meniri and Carlo Molinari collected by TC.