Maxime Chanot: “When we lose and concede goals, I will always take part of the responsibility.So, I always get mad.”(Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
PURCHASE, N.Y. — A little reminder to New York City FC fans:
If City loses or gives up a goal or two, you just might want to avoid Maxime Chanot. He may not be in a good mood.
“My wife always gets mad when we lose a game because she knows she is going to spend a hard time with me,” he said. “I’m like that when I concede goals or when we lose a game.”
That’s because the Luxembourg international center back takes his craft quite seriously. He said he will watch a game at least two and sometimes three games on video to look at his performance.
“I’m someone who likes to work hard and for sure, and when we lose and concede goals, I will always take part of the responsibility,” he said. “So, I always get mad.”
That type of work ethic and preparation could be a reason why NYC FC head coach Patrick Vieira wanted him on his team last season.
Chanot’s leadership qualities impressed the coach the most.
“We knew that it wasn’t easy for him when he came,” Vieira said after training at SUNY-Purchase Wednesday afternoon. “It was the first year and it was quite really difficult for him. But we knew it would be better for Maxime. … His leadership. The guy who likes to defend. He puts his head where people are putting their feet. So, it’s good to see him play at this level.”
Chanot? It was a chance to play for a World Cup winner such as Vieira, who enjoyed a 18-year career as one of the world’s top defensive midfielders, most famously with Arsenal and the French national side, but also with club teams Cannes, A.C. Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City.
“I got a chance to work with someone like Patrick Vieira and play with players like Andrea [Pirlo] or Frank [Lampard] or David [Villa],” he said. “It was a good experience, a chance to improve myself and also to be part of this project, New York City FC, for so many improvements. I am very happy with my choice.”
The 27-year-old Chanot was born in Nancy and eventually moved to Luxembourg and became a citizen of that country. As luck would have had it, Vieira turned out to be one of his heroes.
“Yeah, of course, for every French player,” he said. “Even I’m Luxembourg, I’m French. Everyone remembers what he had done with the French national team and everyone knows his career. When you have a player like that who has become a coach, you know that he can help you out to improve yourself. That’s exactly what happened, he improved me.”
The 6-1, 172-lb. central defender admitted he had trouble acclimating to the team, league and his new surroundings. He hardly was happy with his performance.
“To be honest, the first six months I spent in New York was hard,” he said. “For me it was a new country, a new football, a new adaptation because the team was in full season and I came during my preseason.”
Chanot joined the team last July 16.
“So, I missed my preseason,” he added. “The first four months I spent with New York was really hard for me. I was really disappointed with my performance at the end of the season. I know I didn’t show what I could show.”
Getting an opportunity to have an actual preseason and work together with his center back partner, Peruvian Alexander Callens, worked wonders.
“This season it is totally different because I get a chance to make a preseason with the team, work harder with all the group and the same with Alex,” Chanot said. “We got a chance to work together during preseason. We work hard tactically.”
The NYC FC backline and team defense struggled during its 2015 maiden season and improved to an acceptable level last year. The performance of the back four has improved considerably, much of that could be attributed to the addition of Chanot and Callens. Even the harsh critic Chanot admitted that.
“A lot since I came here for the first time only eight months ago,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t understand that the hardest project in the team is the defense. Why? It takes time to get in shape. It’s exactly what’s happened with New York. It has taken more than two years.
“It is much better. We still need to improve. So, I think it will better the next sixth months and after three-four years it will be perfect.”