IMScouting’s player to watch: Andre-Pierre Gignac

IMScouting’s latest player to watch is Toulouse’s Andre-Pierre Gignac, the current top goal scorer in Ligue 1.

When looking at the top goal scorers in France as Ligue 1 goes into the winter break one name stands out and it isn’t Karim Benzema, Fernando Cavenaghi or Michel Bastos.

With 12 goals to his name so far in the top French league, Andre-Pierre Gignac leads the way and is making a real name for himself. His goal tally has come in just 19 games and this is undoubtedly already Gignac’s best season ever.

Prior to this campaign, Gignac had claimed 21 goals throughout the whole of his professional career including spells at Lorient, Pau FC and now Toulouse. So, incredibly, in just half a season he has scored over half of his career goals tally. Such is his current form, that he bagged four goals in two games against Saint Etienne and Nice in the final games in France of 2008.

Gignac joined Toulouse from FC Lorient for the start of the 2007/208 season after he had impressed during the previous campaign, claiming nine goals in 37 appearances. Even at this early stage of his career, Raymond Domenech had already pinpointed Gignac as a player to keep an eye on.

But, he struggled during his first season at Toulouse and failed to show his undoubted quality. A number of commentators in the French media claimed he had made a bad career move as he struggled for goals and playing time.

Ex-Toulouse coach Elie Baup played with just one forward, Johan Elmander (now at Premier League side Bolton) who was the star of the team. Gignac was tried out on the left wing but he was unimpressive and then was mainly used as a substitute who would replace Elmander.

But, this season it has been a completely different story as Gignac has positioned himself as one of the most prolific scorers in Europe, in one of the most competitive leagues. The 23-year-old is strong, tall (6.1ft) and is a great finisher in the box. Scouts in France have noted his great aerial ability and he has also scored two goals from free-kicks so far this campaign.

Such has been his rise to prominence, that even Gignac is surprised that he is the top goal scorer going into the winter break: “This is a dream for any player in Ligue 1. But I do not think about it a lot because I have a lot to improve.”

As a result of his impressive form, Gignac has been linked with a call-up to the French national team and will likely be fighting it out with the likes of Benzema, Bafetimbi Gomis and Guillaume Hoarau in the coming years, once the likes of Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka retire from international football.

In terms of club football, Gignac has spoken of his desire to play for Marseille, where he spent much of his childhood. But, this target striker may have to skip another move in France if a big club in France, Germany, Italy or Spain comes calling.

How Gignac fares in the second half of the season will be crucial for his club, Toulouse are seven points behind Lyon and well in the mix for a Champions League spot, the next six months will be key in the career of this hitman.

His contract at Toulouse expires in 2010/2011 and with an estimated market value of 7.5 million euros alongside an estimated salary of 120K euros per month, there will be any number of clubs queuing up for his signature at the end of this season if he continues his current form.

Video evidence of Andre-Pierre Gignac can be seen here.