January 6, 2017. Avranches, then in difficulty in National, eliminates Laval (Ligue 2) in the Coupe de France and qualifies for the 16th finals before slipping to the quarter. In the locker room, Damien Ott keeps a promise: he shaves his hair in front of the cameras. A 24-year-old man, then unknown, holds the mower, laughing. Jonathan Clauss, the group’s ambianceur, tastes his first moment of glory. Damien Ott’s hair had time to grow back and Clauss’ career to take off. Five years later, he is in the France team and his former coach cannot believe it: “It is impossible, unreal, totally improbable. Only a big liar or a crook could have imagined that at the time of Avranches“, Ott rewinds.
“I wouldn’t have put a ticket on itanswers Gilbert Guérin, president of the Norman club. He had above-average physical qualities. But in 32 years of presidency, I cannot even say that it is the player who impressed me the most. He had a bit of a tourist side. He didn’t have the necessary lifestyle to go very high, he lived in the present moment.” Clauss is therefore the story of an express and unexpected promotion of a young man, fired from the Strasbourg training center, who chained food jobs at La Poste and did not envisage a professional future.
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His arrival at Avranches in 2016, after an experience in… CFA 2, is a turning point in his career but, it too, is a miracle. The player is recommended to Damien Ott by a friend. And the Avranches coach, who has since become Laurent Batlles’ assistant in Troyes, chooses to put him on trial because Clauss is, like him, an Alsatian. “If he hadn’t been, I would never have watched himconfirms Ott. So Jonathan crosses France, arrives on a Monday morning. It took me two minutes. No need to be called Guardiola or Klopp to detect the crazy potential.“But since Clauss does not then see football as a potential professional outlet, he does not put all the ingredients to succeed. In training, in matches, he performs. But forgets invisible training.
“It was necessary to give codes, standards, values that he did not haveremembers his trainer at the time. His spontaneity, his enthusiasm, it was his strength but it had to be placed in a collective challenge” For the second game of the season, he arrives late for morning training and will start the game on the bench. It will be the one and only time of the season. In Avranches, Clauss learns rigor. “With us, he took the right lane“, sums up President Guerin. The following year, he signed with Quevilly-Rouen and turned professional in the summer of 2017. His career will take off little by little at Arminia Bielefeld then in Lens from 2020.
If one day I come to Clairefontaine, I want at least the tracksuit
“His strength today is his mentality and his strength of characterenlightens us Sylvestre Guyonnet, defensive midfielder during the epic of Avranches. He has known odd jobs, the amateur level, what has he got to lose today? It’s easier for him than for others because he doesn’t ask questions. Since Avranches, he plays liberated, everything is a bonus.” What remains of the whimsical right piston of Avranches in the French team five years later? “It’s the same, slice Ott. It’s a nice story that proves that being quirky, sometimes, can be good. It is not formatted, it may have taken longer to learn. But the generosity he has playing today is the same as he had at Avranches.”
In any case, it has lost none of its freshness. Even at 29 after a few years of professionalism, his reaction to his selection and his first steps at Clairefontaine, especially when discovering the equipment of the Blues (“I said to myself: ‘If one day I come to Clairefontaine, I at least want the tracksuit‘”, he dropped in front of the FFF cameras), remind us that Clauss is not made of the same wood as all his new teammates. His tortuous journey places him in a unique category. From the Coupe de France to 2017 to the World Cup in 2022, the story seemed impossible.His feat is to have made it now credible.
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