They are perhaps the two most popular players of Saint-Etienne but they could well be, this summer, two problems for ASSE. One, Loïc Perrin, to his defending body. The other, Stéphane Ruffier, with his overly rigid mind.
Loïc Perrin, the emblematic captain of the Greens where he spent his entire career, 17 professional seasons, had planned to hang up the crampons at 34 at the end of the 2019-2020 season. His retraining was all traced in the club where he had to join the marketing department and start training for administrative work.
The problem is that Perrin has not played since February 9 and a defeat in Montpellier (0-1). The premature end of the season then prevented him from saying goodbye to the Stéphane public. Faced with this anonymous outing, the captain of the Greens asked if he could sign another season. A request well received by supporters and even Stéphane leaders.
But since his arrival in Forez, Claude Puel has seen that Perrin was more and more often injured in the knee and hip, and was training under anti-inflammatory drugs. From a sporting point of view, having an iconic player with a unanimously praised but declining mentality prolong it doesn't really make sense. If the leaders keep their word to let Puel build his 2020-2021 team as he pleases, the matter seems complicated for Perrin.
The two men spoke and agreed to allow time for reflection. Puel would like Perrin to announce publicly himself that he made the decision to hang up the crampons.
Ruffier doesn't want to give up his salary
If Perrin, by leaving the locker room permanently, could cede his state of mind to Stéphane Ruffier, he would solve a big internal problem. The goalkeeper, 33, at ASSE since 2011, is in open conflict with Puel. He did not accept that the latter, in front of his faulty kicking game, asked him to blow two games before resuming his place.
He slammed the door, literally, of Puel's office and then let his agent, Patrick Glanz, publicly and excessively tancid ("Puel spits on a legend of the club" …) the decision of the coach. Where players' agents are sometimes supposed to ease tensions, Ruffier's has poured a barrel of oil over a small flame.
Since then, Ruffier, a man with a strong and rigid character, refuses to make amends. Puel therefore decided and announced that his usual lining, Jessy Moulin, will hold next season. The message is clear: Ruffier, who has informed his staff that he does not accept being number 2, can leave if he wishes. But under contract for another year, he does not want to give up his comfortable salary of 200,000 euros monthly which he could not objectively find anywhere else.
The standoff is underway and could last until ASSE agrees to open the wallet to free itself from its guardian. Healing his exit is a delicate art at the moment in Forez.