Jean-Baptiste Sarrazin, with AFP 20:34 p.m., March 28, 2023, modified at 20:40 p.m., March 28, 2023

Impressive in the cages of the France team against the Netherlands (a penalty stopped) and against Ireland, the new goalkeeper of the Blues Mike Maignan seems to have become the undisputed leader. An opinion shared by the consultants in the program "Europe 1 Sport".

The costume of goalkeeper number 1 seems to fit like a glove to Mike Maignan, the successor of the historic Hugo Lloris, decisive or even "exceptional" in his parades and who, beyond his performances, supervises and reassures a team of France in mutation. Succeeding the former captain of the Blues (145 caps), young retired from the selection, is not a heavy task for the aerial doorman of AC Milan, inducted new king of the tricolor cage for his first full gathering, at 27 years old. Present in Europe 1 Sport (every evening from 20 p.m. to 23 p.m.), Pauline Gamerre detects in the Milan doorman "a leader who will weigh in the dressing room".

"There was Hugo, a captain who also did very good things, spectacular saves too. But Mike has all the qualities, the scope and the mental because he is a leader," enthused Didier Deschamps from Dublin. Maignan left the Irish capital with the feeling of accomplishment, two victories in the bag and no goal conceded, a majuscule performance in view of the many hot shots experienced against the Netherlands (4-0), Friday, and the Republic of Ireland (1-0), Monday. "We have the look of Didier Deschamps who has known all the very good goalkeepers. If he says that, he doesn't say it to please," Algerino said.

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Against the "Oranje", the Guyanese won the duel of specialists opposing him to Memphis Depay on penalty, in the very last seconds of extra time. The human tide that buried it said everything about the admiration and communion of the France group around its last rampart. Against the "Boys in Green", Maignan saw all the colors before the gong, from the head against his side signed Jules Koundé, slammed above his goal, to the powerful head of Nathan Collins that he pushed back from the skylight, with a firm hand in a spectacular stoppage.

The first witnesses of this superb reflex have chained superlatives to describe the parade in front of journalists after the match. "It's a fantastic stop, one of the best I've seen. I thought it was in it," smiled poor Collins, a handsome player. Ibrahima Konaté also laughed as he recalled the scene. "I saw her in goal. He appeared out of nowhere... Exceptional!" said the Liverpool defender. The dream debut of "Magic Mike", forfeit on injury at the World Cup, did not surprise his partners, nor his coach.

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"No doubt"

"I had no doubt or uncertainty. There was a relay to take, but Mike in full possession of his means, it is of the very high level, "said Deschamps. The same goes for Benjamin Pavard, when asked about the performance of the big guy: "It's normal, it's Mike Maignan! We're used to it." In recent months, the former Lille player had moved closer to the French cage, first by stealing the number 2 spot from Steve Mandanda, then by grabbing a few matches as an alternative to Lloris, especially in June.

His calf injury forced him to stop at the time of the World Cup, but here he is now without obstacle or direct competitor to keep the tricolor nets. The player trained at Paris SG, France champion in 2021 with Lille, did not wait to be a starter to make his hole at the Blues, which he joined for the first time at the beginning of the summer of 2019. With forty match sheets to his credit, Maignan is already a pillar of the selection, a bridge between generations and a voice that carries in the dressing room.

Before facing the Netherlands, he raised his voice to pass his instructions, as a guide and watchdog of the defense. "Guys, on set pieces, we position ourselves quickly in the zone. Quickly! And I tell you 'lower or higher'. But we quickly take positions, very important, "he recalls, according to a video released by the Federation. Through his stops, his charisma and his authority, Maignan quickly imposed himself. And for a long time, most likely.