“It’s go or die with him”, Heurtel and his choice for Russia make French basketball very uncomfortable

Van de Thomas Heurtel spat everything. Without any judgment on the choices and the words of his former foal – he wants it to be written – Laurent Mopsus puts clarifying words about the situation in which the French playmaker finds himself, who not only made friends by announcing his contract in Russia in the wake of the euro, then by reacting aggressive to criticism on social media. “By being the way he is there, he does Thomas Heurtel. It doesn’t surprise me,” observes the man who coached Pau-Orthez from 2004 to 2009 and thereby helped shape the international future during the 2007-2008 season.

From the outside there is not much to defend Heurtel, who had signed for the European Championship a certificate of honor declaring that he was not engaged and that he had no intention of staying with any Russian or Belarusian club for the duration of the conflict with Ukraine, according to the wishes of the French Federation. All that to carapate to the Zenith Saint Petersburg two days after the final and dismiss those who found the process a little more arrogant. “Know I don’t care,” the 33-year-old basketball player wrote on Wednesday. And please buy a life for yourself. »

Enough to ruin the good impression at the European Championship, where the leader finished fourth best scorer and best passer for the Blues, even donning the costume of national hero during the money time against Italy in the quarter-finals. Whatever, to further enhance the player’s image certainly brilliant but unmanageable, who had to leave Barca in early 2021 after weeks of tension with the management and whose adventure at Real Madrid ended in black pudding last season. After a night out in April, he had watched his partners win the championship and the final of Euroleague.

“With him it’s do or die”

“He is someone who has been shaped with a quality that has made him successful: he is not afraid of anything. He likes being in the field, being a clutch, he likes taking risks, explains Laurent Mopsus. This has its advantages, but also its limitations. “The ones that appear quickly when you look too much at your navel in a collective sport. “It would be wrong to say that he doesn’t think about the collective, the former coach nuances. But he sees it through the results, the performance, not the idea of ​​a team. He is focused on his project. If he is successful, he can lead a team. But if not, it can be complicated. »

We understand that Thomas Heurtel is the type that knows what he wants and only listens to him to get to his destination. With him it is in a sense do or die. Aside from his sometimes frantic departure, it looks like he left in the locker room passing some very angry teammates, even though many at the Blues also claim a genuine attachment to this whole personality, in a good sense.

The person concerned does not try to smooth out his image. With the help of great interviews he had accepted be extensively interrogated by means of The team about his career and his character, in 2020. Departing from his divisive side. “I was determined. And hard. But also with myself. And if the others didn’t give everything, it hurt everyone: them, the team and my project, he explained. The way I expressed myself was not necessarily the right one, some were upset then, did not understand and when they were given two or three caviar under the basket, they forgot. »

We come back to this famous “project”, the one that he says he imagined since he was 13 years old and for which he fought so hard afterwards. As if nothing else mattered.

“Don’t believe it, it was complicated for him to build his career. He went looking for it, points out his former coach. He was slim, identified as an attacker, without necessarily the ability to defend, he went to Spain very young … I think sometimes there are misunderstood athletes, and he is one of them. Not always compared to the current situation. And suddenly it leads him to important deeds. The setting, with this type of player that feeling very strong is what defines it. And sometimes, when we feel too strong, we go too far.”

Paradoxically enough, at Heurtel, we feel the need to be heard better due to various statements. In his interview on The team, he admitted that he also tried to open up a bit so that those who have “a distorted or negative idea” about him. “You can believe in arrogance, but it’s my character, I’m whole, and there’s a part of shyness. I want to protect myself”, he defended himself. De Héraultais apparently protects himself very well. Two years ago, his friend at the Blues Evan Fournier said that when he arrived at the roster he had heard about Heurtel and his reputation as a “little jerk”. Appropriated, according to him. “He’s a huge character. But you’re never just a hothead. You just have to know how to deal with this kind of personality, talent,” the Knicks player pleaded.

Not the only one who made this choice

Nor has Heurtel ever tried to smooth things over. This aspect of a top athlete’s career has never fascinated him. “There remains a quality that he may not be able to measure, manage, anticipate. I don’t know”, Laurent Mopsus admits thoughtfully. For him, his former player is a “not easy” subject of study. But who deserves “in any case not the guillotine”. Especially since the boy is not the only top athlete who has privileged his contract to some form of ethics. Livio Jean-Charles and Louis Labeyrie, ex-internationals, also play in the Russian Superleague, just like Jenia Grebennikov in the volley-ball.

The libero of the French team recently explained that 20 minutes to have stayed at the Zenit Saint Petersburg “because he was dependent on the market”even adding that he would repatriate his wife and children for above-ground convenience, as seen from our window:

“They are going back with me because the nursery there is so good. The infrastructures are incredible, there are eight students for three teachers. I’m in an incredible building, there are plenty of sports, the city center is beautiful. If there were no war, it would be paradise. »

The French Basketball Federation, which declined to respond to our requests, is also careful not to make a final decision on Thomas Heurtel. After covering his absence during the media return of the silver medalists of the’Euro 2022 in September to the tune of “don’t worry, it’s for family reasons”, while he left to sign his contract in Russia, the FFBB leaves the door open for a return to the 2024 Olympics if the person concerned the Russia at the end of the season. At least that was the unofficial trend before Zenit’s new leader sent everyone on Instagram to graze.