“There’s no problem. Whenever he needs me I’ll be there, to offer my experience in the dressing room. He knows that.”
That tongue-in-cheek comment from Ludovic Giuly is directed at France coach Didier Deschamps. Now 36, the former Barcelona player knows full well that his international days are long over and that he will not be helping Les Bleus in their bid to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Instead, he is putting all his experience to effective use in one last season in the limelight with Lorient.
“They knew I’d been frozen out at Monaco and they said they wanted me to come,” added Giuly, in reference to his move to Les Merlus. “I wanted to finish my career on a high and it all came together very quickly.”
It was over a year ago that Giuly, after three impressive seasons with Paris Saint-Germain, made his return to Monaco, the club with whom he appeared in the UEFA Champions League final in 2004, under Deschamps’ command. His intention in doing so was to play a part in the club’s ambitious quest to return to the top flight, though he promptly found himself sidelined. Sensing an opportunity, Lorient came in with an offer he could not refuse.
I wanted to finish my career on a high and it all came together very quickly.
The forward could just as easily have opted for one last big-money move to more exotic climes, but as he explained, that was not for him: “I’m too old for that. I want to pass on my experience to young French players, to a team that needs me.
“This is my last year and I want to be close to my family, not far away. I want to end my career in Ligue 1, right where I started 18 years ago. I want to finish what I started and go out on a high note.”
Not only did Lorient manage to hang on to their best players during the close season, they also brought in some reinforcements. Along with Giuly, the Brittany outfit drafted in the talented Alain Traore and Benjamin Corgnet, who endured relegation with Auxerre and Dijon respectively last season.
“We’re trying to enjoy ourselves as much as we can on the pitch, without overcomplicating things,” said Giuly of his new team-mates. “We’re happy to be together and happy to play. We’ve got some good players here and things are going well for us.”
A pleasing style
“Lorient has a good reputation and Christian Gourcuff has been doing a great job for years now,” continued the veteran. “We play proper football, an attractive game, and though you have to get used to the artificial pitch, you can play the ball on it. Training is fun, as I guessed it would be. The ball stays on the deck a lot and the philosophy is one I can relate to.
“It’s also a family club with a real identity of its own, where everyone’s values are respected. It feels great to be here.”
Coming from a player who has graced some of France and Europe’s biggest clubs, that is praise indeed. Giuly’s impressive CV includes early stints with Lyon and Monaco, and a later spell with Roma, before which came a successful stay with Barcelona.
“It was a bit of risk to begin with because no French player had ever made a go of things there, though I managed to break the trend and nail down a place in the side,” said Le Lutin Magique (The Magic Imp) of his time at the Camp Nou. “Thierry Henry and Eric Abidal came along after me, and it makes me happy to think that I was the first and that I won trophies with the club.”
While Lionel Messi’s Barça and Giuly’s Lorient are worlds apart and, while Les Merlus lack the prestige, the players and the resources of the Catalan giants, the two clubs do share the same footballing philosophy.
In Lorient's case that means espousing the famous jeu à la nantaise or “Nantes style game”, as advocated by coach Gourcuff. “There are similarities in terms of what the two clubs want to achieve,” explained the ex-Blaugrana man. “They both have the same desire to play the ball, though the preparations are different. Lorient play a much more direct game.”
It is a style that suits the Bretons down to the ground, as their position in the leading pack in Ligue 1 shows. Though last Saturday’s 6-1 defeat to Valenciennes was an unexpected setback, Lorient are not about to relinquish their principles. And in Captain Giuly, they have a canny campaigner who has what it takes to keep them on track.