Back in Clermont after his successful loan spell at Le Mans, Lorenzo Rajot spoke to Goal before the season’s first match, against Caen, on Saturday.
Lent to Le Mans at the end of last season, Lorenzo Rajot is back in Clermont this summer. Trained at the club, the 22-year-old hopes to win in the team coached by Pascal Gastien, who had a significant playing time in Sarthe, before the end of the Ligue 2 championship. Saturday (07.00) Clermont meets Caen during the first day of the championship. Before this meeting, the midfielder learned Goal.
This summer, many Le Mans fans have expressed their desire to see you extend the adventure. Finally, it’s under the colors of Clermont that you begin the new season. Le Mans, is it definitely behind you?
Lorenzo Rajot: I think so. They have completed their recruitment in midfield so we can say that it is over. Afterwards I spent two very good months there. It allowed me to play. To discover an extraordinary city, stadium and general public so I do not regret my adventure in Le Mans at all and I thank all the people at the club who welcomed me and the supporters.
Despite the club’s relegation to National at the end of the season, how do you see this experience?
We quit … So I can not be 100% satisfied with this loan. It’s a bit of a failure from a collective perspective, even if the season ended earlier than expected. In my contract there was an automatic purchase option for maintenance, so I, originally, had left to stay at Le Mans. From a personal point of view, I think I was right to make this choice to join this club, it made it possible for me to play and show a little more than in Clermont.
“I’ve never been able to do a whole season, between injuries and this virus … Now I really want to play as much as possible”
In Sarthe, with 605 minutes played (7 times in 8 days), you have almost doubled your playing time compared to the one in Clermont (313 minutes). Do you have the feeling of having progressed during this period?
Yes, because when you go through matches you necessarily gain self-confidence, you develop. And then it allowed me to discover two other coaches, other ways of working, it’s always enriching from that point of view. Learning new things, with new teammates, did me good, yes.
At the time of your loan to Le Mans, Pascal Gastien was openly satisfied that your loan did not have a call option. Seven months later, when your loan proved to be sporting successful, what is the coach’s discourse against you?
The speech is more or less the same as before I left the loan. He knows he can count on me. We have known each other for a long time, he was also my coach at the gym. He knows my qualities. But he also told me that the other players in my position had just had a good season, so it’s normal for them to start with priority at the beginning of the season.
Personally, you have not been established in recent friendly matches. Is your desire to stay in Clermont and try to clear playing time, or will the idea resign at the end of the transfer window?
No, I’m not completely closed to the idea of leaving. The idea is always the same, it is to play as much as possible and aim as high as possible. Afterwards, I’m not at all against staying in Clermont. The exact opposite. But if an interesting project comes up, the club and I will not be closed to it.
Braked by serious injuries at the beginning of his career, stopped by a virus after rediscovering sensations in a team that fought for its survival and finally back in Clermont this summer … How do I deal with this chronic instability, just 22 years old?
It is clear that it was quite complicated to handle. I’ve never been able to do a whole season, between injuries and this virus … Now I really want to play as much as possible. I try to give my maximum as soon as I have the opportunity to play so that I can stay in the team and manage to connect matches.
“By coming to Clermont, every player knows he will find a quality in the game”
From a collective perspective, you will find a group that could have claimed a rise without a forced stop linked to the health crisis. How does this forced closure melt?
I think it was a very difficult decision for them to accept. They were very well placed to walk up, even directly. Their goal was not even to compete in the playoffs, it was to go straight up. But now we have started a new season and everyone wants to use the end of last season to be directly in a positive dynamic to play leading roles.
Despite retiring from the club’s top scorer, is the person Clermont Foot’s ambitions intact about Adrian Grbic, who has signed up for Lorient? What are the goals that have been set?
Management has not yet set specific goals. Clermont remains a club with an average budget in Ligue 2, so I want to say that whatever happens, the goal is first and foremost to try to maintain. The Ligue 2 championship remains a complicated championship. There are many teams there that will try to play the lead roles. Afterwards, among the players, yes, everyone wants to play the playoffs. But it will not necessarily be easy, we have just lost two managers with Maxime Dupé and Adrian Grbic resigning. But they have been replaced, and I think the club had a good transfer window this summer to compensate. I think we can claim that we are playing the top of the table.
What teams do you think of when talking about the candidates for the climb?
For example, to teams that missed their goal last year. I am therefore thinking of Guingamp, Caen … In addition, Toulouse and Amiens will want to go up immediately. Ajaccio did not go far last year, Troyes wants to come back, Valenciennes and Le Havre also want to play the lead roles. There are almost fifteen teams that want to be in the fight, so there will be a lot of competition. We must not make negative series …
Speaking of Adrian Grbic, there are many who in recent years have left Clermont and immediately settled downstairs. Do you have any ideas to see the springboard work every summer?
Of course. Afterwards, it is mainly offensive players who are highlighted, and especially attackers. This is the consequence of the game that the coach advocates. By coming to Clermont, every player knows that he will find a quality of the game, a regular game project, so he comes with guarantees. It is clear that this is not a club with a large stadium, large infrastructure or even a large budget. But in the game there are the guarantees. It’s an asset. I think, for example, that Jordan Tell probably had more exclusive clubs interested, but he knew he would come here that he would be placed in good conditions.
“Clermont is the football I like to watch and I like to play”
In recent years, Clermont has been considered one of the teams that plays the most attractive game in Ligue 2. Personally, is it a football where you recognize yourself?
Honestly, yes, it’s football that I love to watch and that I love to play. For me, it is important that a player feels concerned about the playing field and that all the elements that make up the squad speak the same language on the field. This is what makes us strong, and it is the strength of the coach that manages to convey this to everyone. Afterwards, everything becomes much easier on the ground. Everything is in order and with the ball we always have solutions. It is much easier.
Saturday night, the 2020-21 season begins with the reception of Stade Malherbe Caen, 14th in the final practice. How do you approach this amazing return to competition?
Everyone is anxious for the competition to resume. It has taken a long time … The preparations have been longer than usual so everyone wants to resume and make a good match. We know it will not be easy against a fantastic team from Caen, who have just had a pretty good preparation. After that, we know we can win and that will of course be the goal. We also look forward to meeting people at the arena and having a good evening.
The following days Clermont will face Dunkirk (J2), Auxerre (J3), Toulouse (J4) and Troyes (J5) …
It’s a great start to the season … We must not miss the train. Of course, if we arrive at the end of September with few wins and few points taken, it will of course be difficult to catch up with the top teams afterwards. Like I said, there are so many good teams that every match becomes difficult.
Can playing as a candidate for the climb at the beginning of the season be an advantage to know where you are?
If we get to the end of September next year, I think the rest of the championship should go well. Last year we had a good start, and this good start made it possible for us to dampen our slack a little later and stay in the game. We ended up in fifth place. So it is very important to get started. Especially in front of large stables. There will be good matches, and we’ll see where we stand.
Interview by Simon Fuentes.