Yoann Gourcuff should be held up as an example to all young up and coming players on the perils of being seduced by the glamour and money which the top European clubs are able to provide.
Gourcuff’s ascent as an attacking midfielder began as a youngster at Rennes where as an 18-year-old his trickery, pace, vision and eye for goal came to the fore. Within two seasons he had guided a previously struggling team to seventh place in Ligue 1 and a lucrative UEFA cup place.
As with many young French stars he quickly became dubbed as the new Zidane and was christened by the French press as “petit Zizou.”Â His pace and technical ability meant that by the end of his second season at Rennes Arsenal, Ajax, Valencia and AC Milan were all vying for his signature.
AC Milan’s rich history and star players proved too much of a temptation for the young midfielder and he signed a five year contract with the Rossoneri. His careerÂ at the San SiroÂ began well, scoring a goal on his debut in a Champions League match against AEK Athens.
However, with a squad which included players such as Pirlo, Kaka and Seedorf he quickly became a bit part player and spent two seasons warming the bench in which he made a paltry 36 league appearances. With a player who was increasingly unhappy at not seeing first team football, the club quickly realised that it would be of greater benefit to the player and themselves if he went out on loan.
A loan agreement for the 2008-2009 season was agreed with Bordeaux and it is here that a formerly disquieted player has found his true form. In the first seven games of this season he has scored two goals, contributed four assists and has been the club’s most impressive players to date.
His form has not gone unnoticed and has been rewarded with a call up to the national team. Just days after a humiliating French defeat to Austria in World Cup qualification, he made his full debut against Serbia where his performance stole the limelight and his reputation was further enhanced when he set up Anelka’s winner.
In France’s next qualification game he led the fight back against Romania equalising with a thirty yard thunderbolt in a game which France eventually drew 2-2 after being two-down. Many commentators credit him with keeping Raymond Domenech in his job.
The Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has noticed the improvement in the young Frenchman’s form and said, “if he carries on like that, he’ll be coming back to Milan,” the Bordeaux president has stated his claim to the player and declared “we have an option to buy him and it’s very clear: if we sign the cheque, he’s our player.”
Gourcuff’s buy out clause is set at 15 million Euros (not bad for a player who has spent two years on the bench and was bought for 3.3 million Euros) and with his explosion onto the international scene, the are a number of admirers who are willing to meet his buy out clause.
Gourcuff’s head should not be turned by Ancelotti’s claims, in Milan he would find himself benched again, it will be near impossible for him to displace the famous Brazilian troika of Pato, Kaka and Ronaldinho. Instead, if the Frenchman decides that his future does lie outside the French League he should concentrate on finding a top flight club where he can gain the first team football that his talent deserves.
His experience at AC Milan should sound as a warning to other talented youngsters such as Karim Benzema, Lulinha, Hatem Ben Arfa and Miguel Veloso whose desire to play for one of Europe’s great teams may only lead to their true potential not being fully realised.
(Gourcuff also scored a terrific goal last weekend against Toulouse, it can be seen here.)