Paris (AFP)

To validate their ticket for Euro-2022, French basketball players are in Podgorica to face Montenegro on Saturday (8.45 p.m.) and Great Britain on Monday (5.00 p.m.) in qualifying, with the notable presence of Thomas Heurtel as leader.

Between his serious injury (partial rupture of the patellar tendon) in the summer of 2019 during the preparation for the World Cup and the Euroleague matches with FC Barcelona during the international windows, Thomas Heurtel no longer had the opportunity to put on the France team jersey since August 5, 2019 (74-69 friendly defeat against Turkey).

In December, the player trained in Pau found himself at the heart of a quarrel with Barça.

He left the club where he played since 2017 on bad terms, after the humiliating episode that saw the group return to Catalonia from Istanbul without him.

An episode which resulted in the termination of the contract on January 19, already mentioned by both parties.

The 31-year-old point guard has not played a single minute of a basketball game since December 13, and finds himself without a club.

"It's been a very complicated month for me and my family. I've already turned the page and I hope the future will be bright," he hoped at a press conference.

His days in Catalonia before joining the France team, he spent them training in a room in Barcelona, ​​alone with a physical trainer, at the rate of two sessions per day morning and afternoon.

"I did the best I could to come to the France team and keep in shape," he explained from the Montenegrin bubble, integrated by the Blues at the start of the week.

- "More varied offensive play" -

"I am happy to put this jersey back on, especially after my injury and the World Championship that I had missed. Also happy to find the sensations in five against five in basketball. Glad to resume the pleasure of playing basketball again", a- he added.

In the perspective of a possible selection for the Tokyo-2020 Games (July 23-August 8), Heurtel will have to choose after the international window between the "different proposals", including Asvel, which he has received.

"I haven't made up my mind yet whether I will end my season at a club or not."

"The arrival of Thomas is a plus for us. He has a more varied attacking game than me. We know he has the experience and the level. It's a chance to have him in the squad and we're going to use it, "Blues captain Andrew Albicy said on Friday.

Qualification for the next European Championship, postponed by a year (September 1-18, 2022) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will require a victory either against Montenegro on Saturday or against Great Britain on Monday.

Saturday against Montenegro, "we will have to be careful with their back-to-basket game, because they are efficient in attack. We will have to defend hard on them and in attack impact them athletically, especially with Mathias (Lessort) and Jerry ( Boutsiele) ", slipped Alexandre Chassang.

During the first leg in February 2020 in La-Roche-sur-Yon, Vincent Collet's players had outclassed Montenegro (85-66), which will not be able to count on the support of its supporters on Saturday, because the match will take place in behind closed doors in the Podgorica room, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

© 2021 AFP