Starting price: €10m.
Interested clubs so far: Wolfsburg, Fulham, Cologne, Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor.
His name: Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Yes, this is the same Gignac who finished as Ligue 1’s top scorer back in 2008-09 with 24 goals for Toulouse; the one who went to the 2010 World Cup and played in every game for France and after the tournament, and joined then-champions Marseille for €16m.
‘Two seasons at rock bottom,’ is how La Depeche describes his time at Marseille, but perhaps that comes as little surprise given the background to his move. In summer 2010, coach Didier Deschamps wanted to sign Luis Fabiano from Sevilla but Marseille could not agree a fee with the Spanish club: they wanted €10m, Marseille offered €8m. Deschamps also wanted Alberto Gilardino but that didn’t happen either. Gignac was the choice of sports director Jose Anigo, as was Loic Remy, who signed for €15m from Nice at the same time. The amounts now seem absurd, especially as the haggling with Sevilla was for so much less.
But while Remy has risen to the challenge of life at Marseille and proved himself to Deschamps, Gignac has failed to do so. Regular injuries—the latest a groin strain within minutes of coming on as substitute against Caen a fortnight ago which might rule him out until February—and confusion about his best position (last season he said he would rather not play than play through the middle, so he stayed on the bench) have not helped. Nor has the fact that Gignac is a José Anigo man, the sports director whose long-running feud with Deschamps burst into the open this season.
Eight goals in 30 league games last season, mainly from the left-wing, was not a terrible return, but not enough for Dechamps to want Gignac to stay.
It was all arranged: the Frenchman had agreed a deal with Fulham, and was in London on transfer deadline-day waiting to sign when Marseille’s efforts to get Amauri as his replacement fell through (the second year running that Marseille’s plans had failed).
Gignac headed back to southern France and agreed on condition of confidentiality to attend a spa in Merano, Italy to lose weight. It did not stay confidential for long. ‘Gignac at Fat Camp’ ran the headlines, much to the striker’s displeasure. (The striker hates his puppet on Les Guignols, which is always stuffing its face with Big Macs. The latest ‘Guess his Weight’ game came in at 850kg.
Gignac’s situation came to a head before Marseille’s Matchday Five clash against Olympiakos last month. Named on the bench again, Gignac could not contain his frustration: he threw a water-bottle against the wall, and swore, loudly and offensively, at Deschamps. “The dressing-room walls trembled and the players were shocked by the intensity of the exchange,” wrote L’Equipe.
The next day, Gignac refused to apologise for his outburst and, in front of the squad, accused Deschamps of putting on poor training-sessions, being slack with his tactics and manipulative with his players. “At that point, no-one intervened to stop Gignac,” L’Equipe continued, “but it was hard [to do so] as some of them, even those who don’t like Gignac, pretty much agreed with what he was saying.” Deschamps, shaken with his authority so clearly undermined, told Gignac to stop addressing him using the informal ‘tu’ form, which Gignac said he would do when Deschamps stopped using ‘tu’ with him.
The Gignac row may have benefited Deschamps after all: since it happened, Marseille have beaten title favourites PSG (3-0), Caen (2-1) and came back from 2-0 down to dramatically beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 and reach the Champions League Round of 16.
One week after their clash, after a few days training with the reserves and a tense 45-minute meeting with the coach, Gignac apologised for his behaviour and was brought back into the fold. Deschamps needed to play Gignac to put him on the market, but those plans were shot to pieces as he lasted barely ten minutes of the win over Caen.
“He wants to succeed so much that he is bound to fail,” said former Marseille coach Rolland Courbis. “You can see in his eyes, his behaviour, he gets angry too easily: it’s not just the row with Deschamps, but on the pitch against opponents, and the referee, he is wound up far too easily.”
For pundit Christophe Dugarry, the Gignac saga has gone on long enough. “First it was Merano, then centre-forward or left-wing, then he’s injured, then he insulted his coach. Frankly, I’m fed up of Gignac,” he told Canal Plus. “The best thing about him being injured is that hopefully we won’t hear about him any more.”
That’s not quite true though. The next few weeks will be filled with speculation about where Gignac might end up in January. If his injury does not heal quickly or Marseille fails again to recruit another striker, then he will have to stay, which suits no-one.
The question interested clubs must ask is whether Gignac is a one-season wonder: he has only scored more than ten league goals in a season just the once, and the following year at Toulouse, 2009-10, he reverted to type and scored eight goals. Gignac has earned one huge move on the back of his glorious 2008-09 season: can he do it again?