After having shown early promise in Lorient’s youth team, Yoann Gourcuff entered Rennes’ academy in 2001, at the same time as his dad Christian was appointed coach of the club. It was there that Gourcuff junior signed his first contract and got a taste of top-level football. Making his Ligue 1 debut in February 2004, he went on to make nine appearances in his first season, 21 the following year and 36 the season after. During this time he gradually began to find his ideal role and make a name for himself in French football.
Despite an offer to extend his contract in Brittany and approaches from Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon and Arsenal, he joined AC Milan in the summer of 2006, on the advice of his Dad, a great admirer of Arrigo Sacchi. He appeared to have adapted extremely well to his new surroundings, scoring in his first full appearance in the UEFA Champions League against AEK Athens, but thereafter was unable to establish himself as a first-team regular due to the form of stars such as Kaka, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso, Gourcuff made do at first with his bit-part role, but that would diminish even further the following year.
Aware that his situation was unlikely to improve with the arrival of Ronaldinho, he left for Bordeaux on a loan deal covering the entire 2008/09 season, replacing Johan Micoud, who had just retired at the age of 34. Gourcuff’s vision, eye for goal and understanding with Marouane Chamakh soon bore fruit, as Laurent Blanc’s Girondins dethroned seven-time French champions, Lyon. Gourcuff had an exceptional season, putting on master classes of passing and displays of skill, not least of which was the truly marvellous goal he scored against PSG.
Named player of the year and signed on a permanent contract by Bordeaux, France coach Raymond Domenech then offered the attacking midfielder a chance to show if he could replicate his domestic form on the international scene, capping him for the first time in a friendly match in the summer of 2009. Since then, Gourcuff has continued to impress, asserting himself as Les Bleus’ main playmaker, a post that had never been properly filled following the retirement of Zinedine Zidane.