Jean Tigana says racism was partly behind his failure to be appointed coach of France two years ago.

Tigana told France Football magazine he believes French Football Federation chief Claude Simonet blocked the 2004 appointment because of his skin colour.

“I knew several days in advance that I was going to be turned down,” Tigana said in an interview to be published today.

“I knew that because Simonet told a very important figure in French football, someone I have known for 30 years ‘Now there are too many blacks in the French team, we’re not going to have a black coach as well’.

“It’s a terrible thing to say even if I am utterly convinced that M. Simonet is not a racist,” added the Mali-born Tigana.

Simonet reacted furiously to Tigana’s comments. “It’s shameful to say that,” he said. “They’re trying to drown me.”

Tigana said his bid for the France job was damaged by his legal battle with Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed.

But Tigana said he is sceptical of that theory and insists he has never been formally told why he was overlooked.

“I wasn’t ruled out because of my abilities,” said the former French international now in charge at Turkish side Besiktas.

“I hear it’s because of my legal action with Al-Fayed but I never heard anything officially.”