The former French international was questioned by readers of the Sud Ouest regional newspaper when the subject of African players was raised.
Sagnol caused a stir with his reply, saying, "The advantage of what I would call the typical African player is that he isn't expensive when you sign him, [he is] a player who is ready for combat, but football isn't just about that. Football is also [about] technique, intelligence. You need a bit of everything.”
Following widespread criticism over his remarks, the Ligue 1 manager attempted to explain himself and duly apologised for his comments in a press conference on Thursday.
"If, by my lack of clarity, or my imperfect semantics, I may have shocked, humiliated or hurt people then I am sorry," he said. "The interpretation that these people may have made does not reflect my way of thinking in any way, or my humanist convictions.
"When I spoke about the African [player] who is cheaper and ready for combat, I simply meant to talk about the young African player arriving in Europe with all of his will to win, and often to escape from a precarious situation.
“Then, since we were in a debate about football, the intelligence I spoke of was obviously related to tactical intelligence. The forming of young players in Africa, probably because of a lack of financial means, or [lack] of infrastructure, isn't always as complete as what's available in Europe.
"In no way did I mean to talk about an individual's intelligence in the proper sense of the term. Regarding certain accusations of racism, I'm 37 [and] I've spent 32 of them in a football dressing room. I've never had a problem with anyone," the former Bayern Munich and AS Monaco right-back said.
Sagnol’s former international team mate Patrick Viera took to Twitter to condemn Sagnol’s remarks.
"We Africans are once again discredited and offended," Vieira wrote. "Willy is spreading very serious prejudices and cliches about the African football player."
Yet Bordeaux captain and Senegalese international Lamine Sane defended his club coach, insisting he is not racist.
"He doesn't have any twisted ideas,” Sane told French radio. “He believes in all the black players in the team. We believe in him and we hope to go very far with him."