Étienne Youté interview

Étienne Youté interview
Étienne Youté interview

He's strong and a good passer of the ball, young Étienne Youté has made his mark in Le Havre's central defence in recent months. His physical qualities, duels with Lukaku, Valbuena, and Mbappé, find out more about the former Olympiakos man making his mark in Ligue 1 Uber Eats

Let's talk about your physical qualities, how tall are you and how much do you weigh?

I'm 1.95m tall and weigh 91 kilos. This may surprise you, but there aren't many tall people in my family! Just one of my older brothers and my father are a little taller than me. The others are 'small'.

Have you always been the tallest in class? 

Always! And in my football teams, I've always been the tallest, except once. Two years ago, at Olympiakos, there was a goalkeeper who was a bit taller than me.

If you were almost always the tallest member of your team, does that mean you were always put in older sides at youth level?

From a certain point on, that was the case. For example, when I was at U13, I was quickly promoted to U15. Then I was upgraded to U16 and U17 sometimes. And when I was supposed to be in the U17s, I moved up to the U19s. I was almost always upgraded by two years but, in general, I started the season with my age group and then I was upgraded during the season.

At the time, how difficult was it to play with and against boys two years older?

To be honest, it didn't make much difference. The thing is, I was used to being outclassed from a very early age, so that was always the norm for me. On the pitch, I

didn't feel any particular difficulties and, off it, I didn't feel any gap either. When you're young, you don't think too much about things like that.

Because you're so tall, have you always played as a central defender?

No, I started out as a striker and gradually moved back. I became a midfielder and then a central defender when I was about 13 or 14. It was my coaches who forced me to move back, but in the end it was logical. In the beginning, they played me up front because I was tall and they sent me long balls. I liked that because, thanks to my size, I often scored. But I'm not going to lie, technically it wasn't like that (smiles). So I backed off and then, as I played more and more games at the back, I got used to it.

"I'm not fast, but I'm not slow".

What clichés do you hear about tall players like yourself?

People say they're slow and technically clumsy. I wouldn't say I'm fast, but I'm not slow, I'm average in terms of speed. People who see me play for the first time are often pleasantly surprised. And those who know me are sometimes surprised too because, for example, in training you don't often get the chance to do a 50 metre sprint, so when it happens in a match and it goes well, it can be surprising.

Does fighting these clichés give you extra motivation?

Yes, it's a pleasure to prove those who doubt me wrong. It shows that what I'm achieving on the pitch is good! Especially as these clichés exist everywhere. Before I played at Le Havre, I was in Greece and Italy, and it was the same thing. These clichés were perhaps even more prevalent in Greece because the standard of play is lower there, so the defenders I came across who were over 1m90 tall were often slow and not technically brilliant.

For those who have never seen you play, how would you describe yourself?

I'm good technically, so I'm calm with the ball, especially when I'm throwing it forward. I'm good at reading the game and thinking ahead. Another of my qualities is that I'm good at duels. As for my faults, I sometimes have lapses of concentration and I sometimes have problems with my positioning. But the coach sets up specific sessions to help me improve in these areas.

"In Ligue 2 BKT, it's war all the time!"

When you're tall, do you have to be good with your head?

Yes! Before, I wasn't very good with my head either. Even last season, you could see it in a lot of games. As a result, we've worked a lot on that with the coach this season, with specific work on crosses, with video... My defensive heading has improved a lot thanks to that.

You were talking about last season and your six months in Ligue 2 BKT. It's often said that it's a very physical league, even more so than Ligue 1 Uber Eats, and yet it's this season that you've made your mark... How do you explain that?

I find it easier to play in Ligue 1 Uber Eats. There's more space and more time. In Ligue 2 BKT, it's war all the time! There are duels all the time!

In recent weeks, you've played a lot of centre-half with Gautier Lloris, who is also over 1m90 tall. Does the fact that you're playing next to another 'big guy' force you to adapt your game?

 Not particularly. Gautier is a player who moves quickly when he's on the ball, so we didn't have to change much...

"Against Mbappé, it's a bit different"

Is it more complicated for you to play against small players?

Yes, even though, as I said, I'm not slow. It's true that small players are quicker on changes of direction than I am, but that's not a particular problem for me. For me, it's the same to defend against Samuel Grandsir or Yassine Kechta as it is against Mohamed Bayo.

And yet you'd think it would be difficult against the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder or Kylian Mbappé, who you've come up against this season in Ligue 1 Uber Eats…

It's true that against Mbappé, it's a bit different because you don't really have him marked, it's only at the last moment that you see him coming. And Ben Yedder is perhaps the player who has caused me the most problems this season. It's not easy to defend against him because he's so good at positioning himself.

What about your former clubs?

At Olympiakos, I found myself defending against Mathieu Valbuena and it was complicated! He changes pace and direction very quickly, so you always have to stay on your feet. And at Inter, it's Lau