Ismaël with Nürnberg in 2014
|Date of birth||28 September 1975|
|Place of birth||Strasbourg, France|
|Height||1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)|
|Playing position||Centre back|
|2001||→ Strasbourg (loan)||9||(0)|
|2003–2004||→ Werder Bremen (loan)||32||(4)|
|2006–2007||Bayern Munich II||7||(2)|
|2011–2013||Hannover 96 II|
|2013–2014||VfL Wolfsburg II|
|2014||1. FC Nürnberg|
|2015–2016||VfL Wolfsburg II|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Ismaël made his debut for Strasbourg against AS Cannes on 15 January 1994. He went on to make 77 league appearances in his first spell with the club. Additionally he appeared in five UEFA Cup matches, scoring once.
Ismaël became the most expensive player in Crystal Palace history when he signed for £2,750,000, from Strasbourg in January 1998. Despite this he only played 13 games for the London club and was only there for ten months (January–October 1998), before moving back to his native France to Lens.
Ismaël moved to R.C. Lens in October 1998. Here he regained his form after his brief, and expensive, spell in England. He played 83 times, scoring five goals. He also had a short loan spell at his old club Strasbourg during the 2000–01 Division 1 season but could not help them avoid relegation. He did however play for Strasbourg in the 2001 Coupe de France Final in which they beat Amiens SC on penalties. He returned to Lens for the 2001–02 Division 1 season where he was in particularly good form – playing 33 times and scoring on four occasions. However he was sold back to Strasbourg for the following season following their promotion back to the top tier.
Back to Strasbourg
On moving back to his former club for a third spell, Ismaël was appointed captain. He led the club to a respectable 13th position and attracted interest from Europe because of his composed performances in defence. In his last spell at Strasbourg he made 26 appearances and scored twice. He appeared for his home club a total of 167 times in all competitions and scored 7 goals.
Ismaël was loaned to Werder Bremen in 2003 where he appeared 32 times, scoring four goals. Bremen went on to win the German double in his first season at the club. He was sold to Werder prior to the following season, where once again he appeared 32 times, scoring four goals. However, Werder could only finish third. He made seven appearances in the UEFA Champions League as well, scoring twice.
Ismaël arrived at FC Bayern Munich in July 2005. He received a red card on his debut for the club, but finished the season winning the German league and cup double for the second time in his career. However, he only featured once in the 2006–07 campaign for the club due to his long term injury and was eventually released to join Hannover 96 in January 2008. He made 31 league appearances for Bayern without scoring and eight Champions league appearances, scoring once against A.C. Milan in a 4–1 loss.
Ismaël was brought to the club in order to strengthen the struggling defence and to provide leadership for his new team-mates. His first game for Hannover was against his last club, Bayern. Ismaël played well for 45 minutes and helped his team maintain a 0–0; after he was substituted with a minor injury, Hannover conceded three goals in the second half. After overcoming the injury, he became a key player for the team. Due to further injuries and a bad prognosis for recovery he retired on 5 October 2009. In total he made 18 appearances for Hannover.
Ismaël had appearances for all French youth national teams. When he was not called up to the French senior national team, he wanted to play for Germany. However, he was rejected by the German Football Association (DFB) because there was not enough connection to Germany. Answering questions of the German sports magazine "kicker" Ismael said the report that was published by the German tabloid Bild, the following: "That's not quite true. I am French, and I still hope for my chance to play for France. I'm feeling fine in Germany, but I do not want to volunteer. Only if Klinsmann wants me, then we would have to talk about it." If the former German coach Jürgen Klinsmann was interested in him, Ismaël wanted check his ancestry. Gernot Rohr, an expert of French football, explained the permanent non-consideration of Ismaël as follows: "Although Valérien was a U-21 international, he was never associated with the Equipe Tricolore. Of course Valérien one of the above-average center-backs, but he was never so striking that he could compete with the placeholders for the national team." Rohr accounted afterwards: "Ismaël has failed due to some powerful competitors." Ismaël saw it differently: "There used to be big names, okay. But today, I am no worse than those who are there." After Ismaël offered his services in October 2005 again to the German national team, he received again a rejection. Later in March 2006, the German Football Association announced that Ismaël was not eligible to play for Germany because he had played a U-21 European Championship qualifier for France in August 1996. According to FIFA rules, he would have needed German citizenship already back in 1996 to switch now.
It was reported that Togo also wanted to call up Ismaël to their squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, given his former wife is partially Togolese descent, but the player denied the approach and interest in the offer.
On 10 October 2009, Ismaël was named as assistant general manager by Hannover 96. From 24 June 2010 he was also board member of the club. In November 2011, he took over the job of manager of the second team, Hannover 96 II. In the 2011–12 season, Hannover II finished in sixth place with a record of 14 wins, eight draws, and 12 losses. During the 2012–13 season, Hannover II finished in fourth place with a record of 16 wins, six draws, and eight losses.
Ismaël was manager of VfL Wolfsburg II between 1 July 2013 and 5 June 2014. Wolfsburg II won the Regionalliga Nord in the 2013–14 season and lost to Sonnenhof Großaspach in the promotion playoff.
Ismaël became the new head coach of 1. FC Nürnberg on 5 June 2014 and won his first match in charge against Erzgebirge Aue 1–0 on 3 August 2014. He went on to lose eight of his next 13 matches and was sacked on 10 November 2014; three days after a 2–1 loss to SV Sandhausen. He finished with a record of four wins, two draws, and eight losses.
He returned to VfL Wolfsburg II on 1 June 2015. Again, Ismaël won the Regionalliga Nord with Wolfsburg II. Again, Wolfsburg II lost in the promotion playoff. This time Wolfsburg II lost to Jahn Regensburg. Dieter Hecking was sacked as the first-team head coach on 17 October 2016 and was replaced by Ismaël on an interim basis. Wolfsburg II was in ninth place at the time of the appointment. He won two of his first four matches as head coach of the first team. The interim tag was removed on 7 November 2016. He was sacked on 26 February 2017.
- As of matches played on 24 February 2017
|Hannover II||28 November 2011||30 June 2013||64||30||14||20||116||90||+26||46.88|||
|Wolfsburg II||1 July 2013||5 June 2014||36||23||6||7||85||29||+56||63.89|||
|Nürnberg||5 June 2014||10 November 2014||14||4||2||8||14||25||−11||28.57|||
|Wolfsburg II||1 June 2015||17 October 2016||48||30||8||10||105||42||+63||62.50|||
|Wolfsburg||17 October 2016||26 February 2017||17||6||1||10||17||26||−9||35.29|||
- Coupe de la Ligue: 1997, 1999
- Coupe de France: 2000–01
- Bundesliga: 2003–04, 2005–06
- DFB-Pokal: 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06
- DFB-Ligapokal: 2007
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