Former symbolic player and DFCO coach, but also PE teacher at Dijon College, Stéphane Jobard now coaches … Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese, with five golden balls, is considered one of the best players ever. He signed at the end of December 2022 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, at Al-Nasr Stadium. Nadi, the leader of the Saudi Championship, where Stefan Jobard has been Rudi Garcia’s assistant since the summer of 2022 – also a former coach of Dijon.
France Blue Bourgogne – Stéphane, when you were told: “You will train Cristiano Ronaldo”, what was your reaction?
Stefan Jobard – At first it was a rumor, there are a lot of them about Saudi Arabia, every morning we are told about a new player in our club. So I patiently waited for him to finally be with us. Indeed, I do not hide it, I know what he represents in the world of football and the tremendous career he has made. He is an exceptional player over the past 15 years. I told myself I had an obligation to learn by seeing it daily.
Then I said to myself: “How do I run Formula 1”? I can’t wait to see how this relationship will develop, and how we will work together to get the best out of it. I will record the moments I spent on the field with him as best I can.
Tell us about your first meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo?
The first meeting was a little out of context, as he was welcomed into our stadium, which was protected, where 25,000 people were waiting for him. This access went a little beyond Al-Nasr Club, all of Saudi Arabia was waiting for it! For the record, there were signs everywhere in the city of Riyadh between the airport and the stadium welcoming him.
He was introduced to us briefly before the official show, and we rehearsed in front of over 20,000 people, so it was really hard to connect with him. But the first contact in a festive atmosphere!
How is he on a daily basis in training?
We’ve been with him for a week, so it’s hard to make any final judgments. In any case, he is a charming person, who does everything to please his partners and employees. One morning, he came to have coffee with the staff, to talk about football, about the Portuguese national team, the World Cup. He’s a soccer fanatic! And then he remains a top-level athlete, with exceptional footballing qualities. I still talk about a man who won the Ballon d’Or five times in the last 15 years, for me he’s still a foreigner.
Do we train Cristiano Ronaldo the same way we train other players?
In general, yes, because he is part of a group, so we train him in the same way as everyone else. After that, his management is different, because he has a special aura. When we bring in Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s to get him to play, to fully integrate him into the project. Then, he’s a 38-year-old player who will have to be managed as much as possible in order to remain effective on the field. But given what he’s done in recent years, I’m not worried!
And his teammates? How did they test the arrival of the CR7?
The Saudis were impatient to welcome him, and today they are gauging the opportunity to rub shoulders with him to grow alongside them. He will be a big brother and daily mentor to help them grow. Before their eyes the level of requirements that we can get at each session. What we can feel about Ronaldo is that he is a natural competitor, he has come to fill his trophy bag, put extra lines on his list, announce it clearly, and he broadcasts it on a daily basis.
We take this opportunity to check out the myth: Is he really doing 1,000 abs a day?
(Laughs) I don’t know, he’s a very thin, “manly” build. On the one hand, I can confirm that he arrived very early at the training center, namely to leave for the gym. He takes care of his body, he knows his tool lasts and that he must spare it.
Will he “walk” in this Saudi championship? Or will he need time to adjust?
No, he will be struggled by the opponent’s defenses. He will face good Saudi defenders, and I remind you that Saudi Arabia presented a good World Cup despite everything. As well as old European glories. He’s seen quite a few games on video, he’s seen our last win, so adapt may not be the right word, but it’s going to take Ronaldo well, very well to perform and score goals.
On a personal level, how does this experience go in this new tournament?
Well, the adaptation was gradual, but I got used to Saudi life. Saudis are very welcoming, we live a bit like Europeans in an expat village. On the ground, we have taken the measure of Saudi football players and managed foreigners with them.
You find Rudi Garcia, your coach at the time at DFCO in 2022, and whose assistant you were at Olympique de Marseille…
I’ve found the person I let go, a passionate, whole person, a ball of energy. It’s interesting to work with him, he leaves a lot of autonomy, he trusts, he delegates a lot. It all goes well for an assistant!
What is the level of the Saudi League?
It is difficult to establish a European Championship comparison. It is a sixteen-team tournament, heterogeneous, with teams at the top of the table having a very good level, and others more difficult. To give an idea, we met teams from the Spanish first and second division, we didn’t lose to them, so the level remains good.
Last question, do you continue to follow DFCO’s results?
naturally. I watch the multiplex, I see the team develop, it’s not very lucky at the moment. We see it coming out of these dynamics as complicated, but I think DFCO is equipped to hold its head up. She’s on track to rack up points and walk away, and I don’t doubt that for a moment. It’s so narrow at the bottom, all it takes is a positive line to end up in the middle of the table, so no results to worry about!