It is no surprise to see Radamel Falcao out front as Ligue 1’s joint-top goalscorer with five goals. And while some perhaps did not expect his Monaco team-mate Emmanuel Riviere to be up there with him, very few people would have foreseen that Kevin Berigaud would be tied with them one and a half months into the league season.
After all, the Evian Thonon Gaillard front-man claimed just four goals in 35 matches last season and six the campaign before that, stats that in no way suggested the 25-year-old would be one to watch this year. Yet, the Evian man’s haul of five goals in six matches, allied to his tireless efforts in leading his club’s front-line have made him the revelation of the season so far.
Born and bred in Thonon-les-Bains, the place Evian now calls home, Berigaud is the talk of the town, while there is every reason to believe that France coach Didier Deschamps is also sitting up and taking note of his exploits, especially in view of the problems Les Bleus have been having up front lately.
“Don’t start on that, please!” said the self-effacing Berigaud, whose penalty-box exploits have earned him the nickname Bérigoal. “They’re already making fun of me in the dressing room. I’m not even thinking about it and I’m a long way away from getting that far. It’s nice to be up there with the leading goalscorers, but it’s not the kind of thing I look at that much and in any case the likes of Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will soon catch up with me.”
Modest to a fault, the local hero is well aware he comes from an entirely different world to the superstars of French football. They only club he has played for aside from Evian is Servette Geneve, and for many years the game was nothing but a pastime for him.
A qualified mechanic, his future pointed to his father’s garage, while the club he played for, Croix de Savoie (as Evian were formerly known), were languishing in the Championnat de France amateur (CFA), the national fourth tier, and playing their home games across the border in Switzerland. Yet before long both Berigaud and l'ETG were on the move, in more ways than one.
In the space of six short years Evian won the CFA, the Championnat National – France’s third flight – the Ligue 2 title and finished runners-up in the Coupe de France, installing themselves in the national elite in the process.
Speaking to French sports daily L'Équipe about his equally meteoric rise, Berigaud said: “There’s no reason for me to get carried away because I haven’t done anything out of this world. I get great support from the club and the people close to me and if people are speaking too much about me, then I just try and keep out of the media spotlight as much as I can. The only thing I’m focusing on is working even harder.”
“He’s a real pro and he’s matured,” said Evian coach, Pascal Dupraz, who has switched him to the centre of the attack this season, having used him on the wing last term. “He’s showing how sharp and skilful he is now. This is his season.
“I’m not surprised by how he’s started the season,” continued Dupraz, a former striker who played in Ligue 1 in the 1980s. “I knew he was a good finisher. The only difference now is that he’s leading the attack. I hope he’ll keep the good times rolling at our club for as long as possible. He’s our attacking spearhead right now, but there will come a time when he’ll have to leave to fulfil his potential. He can go higher than the mountains.”
For the time being, Berigaud is doing just fine with Evian, lighting up Ligue 1 with his cool finishing. And as he confirmed, he has more pressing things on his mind than a departure to pastures new.
“My five goals have not changed my objectives,” said Evian’s rough diamond. “If I get to ten, that will be great. And obviously, the more effective I am, the better it will be for my team and I.”