Ligue Un kicked off last weekend, and champions Bordeaux opened their title defence in style, romping to a 4-1 win over promoted Lens. This set a new Ligue Un record – Les Girondins had secured their 12th successive league victory. The previous record of 11 consecutive top-flight wins was set by Lille 60 years ago.
After having also won the 2009 Trophee des Champions, beating Guingamp 2-0 two weeks previously, Bordeaux fans are understandably reveling in their wonderful start to the season. In the meantime those A.C. Milan tifosi that are au fait with their French football were undoubtedly watching the success of Bordeaux and cursing their luck.
Why? One reason – Bordeaux talisman Yoann Gourcuff: the one that got away.
The link between both of the aforementioned victories, Les Girondins’ number 8 was named man of the match for his brilliant performance against Guingamp and grabbed a brace against Lens to continue last season’s sensational form.
Milan snapped up the talented playmaker from Rennes for an essentially paltry fee in 2006, but owing to the frequently fantastic Kaka and some bad luck with injuries, Gourcuff found first team opportunities hard to come by and struggled to make an impression in a mere 13 league starts. Then-manager Carlo Ancelotti failed to be convinced by Gourcuff, describing him as ‘psychologically weak’ and so questioning his ability to play for a club of Milan’s level. The arrival of Ronaldinho last season was the final nail in the talented youngster’s coffin, and, surplus to requirements, the Rossoneri chose to loan him to Bordeaux.
The gifted 23 year old was an inspiration last term. After scoring on his debut, he helped himself to 14 more goals and 15 assists in all competitions and helped his team to a Championship and League Cup double. His magical performances earned him Ligue Un’s ‘Player of the Year’ award and a place in the ‘Team of the Season’, and (though several of his sublime goals could have been chosen) his astonishing strike against PSG was named ‘Goal of the Season’. He started his international career in a similarly flamboyant fashion. After making his debut in August 2008, his first goal for Les Bleus was a spectacular 30 yard drive against Romania in October.
Unsurprisingly, Bordeaux took up an option to buy him, and though Milan director Adriano Galliani did his best to ‘try and persuade him to return’ the former treatment of the Frenchman and the fiscal factor for Galliani proved too great. ‘I am slightly sorry that he [Gourcuff] has gone. However, given the fact we bought him for three million and sold him for fifteen, it can’t have been a bad sale.’
It wasn’t a bad sale; it was a terrible one. Huntelaar aside, it has been a poor transfer window for expectant Milan tifosi. They face the prospect of another season with a slow, ageing midfield which is now, following the sale of Kaka, devoid of any real creativity. In Yoann Gourcuff the Rossoneri may have lost a ready-made Kaka replacement, the next Zinedine Zidane and, possibly, the most technically gifted young trequartista in Europe.