French soccer chief Noel Le Graet apologized on Monday for what he called his “clumsy comments” about Zinedine Zidane’s possible interest in coaching the France national team.

Le Graet had joked dismissively in an interview on French radio that he “wouldn’t have even answered his phone call” when asked if Zidane had called him to express interest in replacing Didier Deschamps as manager.

That drew criticism from France and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who called Le Graet’s comments “disrespectful”.

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera also weighed in, demanding an apology from Le Graet for his comments, which he said showed “a shameful lack of respect.”

The apology from the 81-year-old president of the French Football Federation duly arrived on Monday. Le Graet said: “I would like to apologize for these comments, which do not at all reflect my views or my regard for the player that he was.” and the coach he has become.

“I gave an interview to (French radio station) RMC that I should not have given because they were looking for controversy by opposing Didier and Zinedine Zidane, two greats of French football.

“I admit I made some awkward comments that created a misunderstanding.”

Deschamps’ contract expired after the World Cup in Qatar, where reigning champions France lost to Argentina in a penalty shootout after a thrilling final on December 18.

However, Deschamps signed a new contract on Saturday until the 2026 World Cup.

Asked in the RMC interview if Zidane, who won the 1998 World Cup as a player with Deschamps and was runner-up in 2006, had called him in recent days, Le Graet ruled out the former Real Madrid coach as a possible candidate.

“I wouldn’t even have taken his call,” Le Graet said. “To tell him what? ‘Hi sir. Don’t worry. Find another club. I have just agreed a contract with Didier”.

Le Graet also responded tersely to reports of Zidane’s interest in coaching the Brazil national team.

“I would be surprised if he went there,” he said.

“It’s up to him what he does. Not my problem. I never met him and we never considered parting ways with Didier Deschamps.

“He can go wherever he wants, to a club. He would have as many as he wants in Europe, a great club. But a national team is hardly credible, in my opinion.”

Zidane left Real Madrid last year after winning two La Liga titles and three consecutive Champions League titles as manager of the Spanish club.