Man in words

They said it: Just Fontaine

France national football team's former Just Fontaine speaks during a press conference

For more than half a century now, Just Fontaine's legendary moment in the sun has been trotted out for discussion whenever a FIFA World Cup™ rolls around. The prolific striker hit a remarkable 13 goals in six games for France at Sweden 1958, setting a record that has never once looked under threat in the years since. Fontaine was on fire during that Scandinavian summer, just as he had been for the two previous seasons with iconic club side Stade de Reims.

To put his incredible scoring feat in perspective, only Ronaldo (15 goals), Gerd Muller and Miroslav Klose (both 14) have found the net more times than the Frenchman in FIFA World Cup action – and all of them needed two or three editions of the competition to do it. Even Pele required four FIFA World Cups to reach his tally of 12.

Although he called time on his career aged just 28 in 1962, 'Justo' has stayed close to the sport, working first as a coach and later as a media pundit. A monument of the French game, his thoughts on football are always shrewd, often humorous and occasionally biting. brings you some of his most memorable.

When I arrived at Nice, people said: "You need to be wary of that guy." Other people would ask: "Why? Does he have a good shot?" "Yes, and he shoots with both feet." "Does he head well?" "Yes." "Is he quick?" "Yes." "Does he have good technique?" "Yes, but that's not why you need to be wary of him. You need to be wary because he's got his A-levels."
Fontaine underlines the importance of the mental side of the game. He spent three years at Nice from 1953 to 1956.

For my World Cup record, my big advantage was that I'd had an operation on my knee in December 1957 and came back in February. That gave me a little winter break which meant that, in June, I was fresh and the others weren't. If the English won in 1966, it's because they were playing at home and ended their league a month and a half beforehand so that they'd be prepared.
On rest as the key to success

What I didn't like was him saying he discovered me. If he discovered me only to never play me, that'd be quite good going. After I set the record for goals scored at a World Cup, suddenly everyone had discovered me.
On his former Nice coach, Luis Antonio Carniglia

I don't like champagne, but I had to drink it whenever we won. It was a nightmare!

Personally, I liked big defenders because, as the former France international Jean-Jacques Marcel used to say, "During the time it takes him to turn around, you've got enough time to beat a donkey to death with a Basque beret."
Fontaine makes sure to cite his sources

I don't like champagne, but I had to drink it whenever we won. It was a nightmare!
On his six seasons with Reims (1956-62) in the heart of champagne country

Like many of my illustrious colleagues such as [Alfredo] Di Stefano, [Johan] Cruyff and [Raymond] Kopa, I think the standard of technique has fallen in modern football and players' qualities have evened out. What the players have gained in physique, power and endurance, they've lost in finesse and creativity. That's why someone who adores football the way I do can't help but love and support FC Barcelona, given how their players manage to prove, even today, that you can still play good football… and win against the tactical and physical monsters of the game.  
Those who watched Stade de Reims in the 1950s often compare their style of play to the current Barcelona side

In 1967, I served the shortest ever spell as national team coach. After just two matches (which we lost), I was out. Another record!
Fontaine's first experience in the dugout was brief, but he went on to enjoy greater success at the helm of Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse and Morocco.

If you had to name the three greatest teams to win the World Cup, you'd undoubtedly mention the Brazil side of '58 or '70, Argentina in '78 or '86, or even Uruguay in '30 – but definitely not France in '98.
On France's FIFA World Cup triumph in 1998

It's our ultra-modern television screens that give the impression that football today is faster than it used to be. It's rougher and more demanding, but not faster.

If Ronaldo wants to have a great World Cup as a forward, he needs to feel good about himself, be free of worries and be confident. He shouldn't get married before the tournament, nor should he leave his fiancée, and he shouldn't start thinking about the poor season he's had. He needs to forget that it's [Zinedine] Zidane's last World Cup, avoid thinking about his leg or the weight he's carrying, not over-think things in general and not be obsessed by records. All he needs to do is… enjoy himself.
Fontaine doles out some sage advice ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, in which Miroslav Klose finished top scorer with five goals

People say to me: "If you played now, you'd be a billionaire." I tell them I am one just to stop them from bothering me about it.
The striker was the inaugural president of the first players' union in France

I managed my affairs well for life after sport. I was never a high roller – a bit of a show-off maybe, but not a high roller.
Fontaine on investing his money in clothing and sports boutiques

It's our ultra-modern television screens that give the impression that football today is faster than it used to be. It's more physical, that's true. It's rougher and more demanding, but not faster. Let's not forget that people were already running the 100 metres in ten seconds in the 1930s. What's more, it was our intention and the way we played to run quickly with the ball either to score or shake off a marker.
Fontaine adds a little colour to football in black and white

My wife has a lot of patience and deserves praise for having stayed with me as I can be difficult to get along with. For example, I can't tolerate people being late – my name isn't 'Just' ['Accurate'] for nothing.
On the 50th anniversary of his wedding to Arlette

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