He is one of those shadow world champions whose aura has changed, but not actually his career. Djibril Sidibé is currently 31 years old and plays for AEK Athens in Greece. A decline? Trojans, regularly plagued by injuries, don’t want to see things that way.
He maintains his ambition by returning to the Vélodrome against OM in the Europa League on Thursday evening, October 26 (18:45). He believes that his career is not close to recovery and that he will preferably be in the top 5 of Europe. “If we want to exist in football, we have to be successful on such evenings,” he even mischievously jumps in, while the player who still dreams of the French team is stuck with 18 points and one goal on the counter.
We could have imagined that your career would take a more spectacular turn after your coronation in 2018. Today you are playing in Greece, it is far from the very high level of Europe. How do you evaluate your journey?
Jibril Sidibe. This World Cup has been a great collective and individual satisfaction. I’ve never experienced that in terms of group atmosphere. Reaching this level requires a lot of sacrifice and I have had the chance to fulfill a childhood dream. Then, as months and years pass, we see that higher-level demands require us to renew ourselves, surpass ourselves, and stay at our best. It’s not easy for everyone. I won’t say I made bad choices. Looking back, I am very happy with my journey. But mind you, I didn’t come to Greece for a vacation or early retirement. The life of the football player has changed, we see players who continue at a very high level until the age of 38, 39.
So, do you have the ambition to find the top 5?
Yes, of course. When I left Monaco a year and a half ago, my motivation was to return to the European Cup and win the championship there. We did. I’m in great demand right now. Last winter I was contacted by some very top clubs, the same is true today, but now is not the time to talk about the future.
You’re still very careful, obviously…
My ambition is solid. I still have hope that I will recover again. One thing is for sure: I always want to play at a very high level. Even though we are very competitive there, Greece is not part of it in theory. We are playing against Ajax, Brighton, OM… If a club in the top 5 puts an offer on the table, of course I will examine it carefully and ask about the manager, playing time etc. I will see whether it is suitable for me or not.
How is life as a world champion in Athens?
There is a more family atmosphere compared to Monaco. The Greeks are real fanatics. I’m in pretty high demand, people respect me, especially in the club every day. This recognition is nice. It’s not undeserved, but there you go, I want more. I am enjoying this time in Greece and we will see my future destination later.
How difficult was it to manage the post-World Cup period?
There was a huge emotional breakdown. A peak that must be managed on a mental and physical level. This has happened to many players, Rapha (Varane) or others. Personally, the World Cup was so intense that I needed to get back to Earth. Your life changes, people’s perspectives change. That’s the hardest part. You are no longer the same during a summer with little rest. You must be beyond direct accusations. You are not just a very good player anymore; You have to be a top player in your passing, in your attitude towards people in the club and the outside world. There’s a lot of pressure. Contrary to what people think, football takes a lot of time and you shouldn’t distract yourself too much. For me, the situation was complicated, especially at the family level. I have a very, very large family in France and Mali. The demands were huge. However, we remain human with the need to be alone with our family.
There were contacts with Atletico Madrid right after the World Cup…
Yes, I even talked about this with Antoine. (Griezmann) during the competition. I gave my contract. The problem is that ASM was a little too greedy for my taste. There was some disappointment at the time, but I pressed on quickly. That’s what career is all about, not everything depends only on us. There are no regrets, but in an ideal world we would definitely tell ourselves that maybe our career would have gone in a different direction.
You also spent one season in the Premier League (2019-2020)…
One year at Everton, yes. I would like to stay, unfortunately, both parties could not reach an agreement. Then, a year and a half ago, I decided to leave. This was a turning point. Looking back, if I had decided to extend, I would undoubtedly have had the opportunity to postpone the Blue jersey. But I don’t lose hope, I fight for it every day.
Didier Deschamps hasn’t called you since October 2019. What kind of connection do you have with it?
Nothing in particular, just text messages about holidays and birthdays. On the other hand, I am still in contact with the guys from 2018 through the association we established (Generation 2018). I talk to Paul often (Pogba), Rapha, Hugo (Lloris), A little bit of everyone.
Isn’t it very difficult to follow the matches from your couch after tasting the selection?
Honestly, it’s always a pleasure to watch the players play at half time. I remain sane and pragmatic. Today I have a situation, there is progress in the French team, there are improvements and there is still progress to be made in some positions. I’m not angry or jealous. The truth is the ground.
No catcher emerged at the right-back position. You will definitely think about it.
I have great respect for those who are called. Jules and Benjamin (Koundé and Pavard) They are there because they perform well. The guys here don’t need my advice (laughs). However, it is true that this full-back position has a certain complexity; It is perhaps the most complex position after the attacker and striker position. Because we are asked to be very careful both in defense and as a base, but at the same time we are asked to bring something more offensive by ensuring regularity, which is the most difficult thing.