‘Summer’s Most Wanted’ – Yoann Gourcuff

Players are so often described as “the next…” and it happens so often I barely listen to it anymore. Anyone who has done well for Boca Juniors or River Plate can be “the next Maradona” and anyone who is Brazilian and has an exotic-sounding name is labelled the “next Pele”. But this player is a future world-class talent and helped Bordeaux win the Ligue 1 title last year and end Lyon’s constant monopoly over the French league. This player is Yoann Gourcuff, labelled the “next Zidane”.

Gourcuff joined Bordeaux on loan from AC Milan in 2008, after an indifferent spell at the San Siro, where a combination of injuries, the presence of Kaka in the same position and Carlo Ancelotti not rating him, ruining his time at Milan. Last season, Gourcuff was instrumental in Bordeaux winning a league and cup double, was named Ligue 1 Player of the Year and earned a permanent €15 million move to the French champions, signing a four year deal at the club.

This season, Gourcuff has continued his fine form for Bordeaux, helping them to reach the quarter finals of the Champions League and reach the top of Ligue 1 again. The playmaker did suffer a dip in form between November and December by going scoreless and earning no assists, and at times Gourcuff has only shown intermittent flashes of brilliance instead of displaying it regularly.

So are the comparisons with Zinedine Zidane justified? Gourcuff plays in the same position as the French legend, playing just behind the striker or as an attacking midfielder. Gourcuff has excellent playmaking skills, can make that killer pass and produce that little moment of brilliance to win games. Extremely skillful, with great awareness on the ball and with bags of technical ability, the France international can score as well as create, as I’m sure anyone who saw his wonder goal against PSG last season can testify to.

If we look at the stats for Gourcuff, last season for Bordeaux he played in 48 games, scoring 16 goals and creating 12 assists. This season, the playmaker has played in 28 games for Les Girondins, scoring 8 goals and providing 8 assists, the most recent being the cross for Marouane Chamakh to head home in Tuesday’s loss to Lyon in the Champions League.

So where can we expect Gourcuff to be playing next season? Obviously Bordeaux want to keep him at the club, as he is only in the first year of a four year deal. Bordeaux don’t even have to sell him and don’t want to, but Lyon didn’t want to sell Karim Benzema but sold him to Real Madrid last summer. Marseille and Lyon didn’t want to sell Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, but they were eventually sold. Also, Zidane joined Juventus in 1996 aged 24, so if Gourcuff, currently 23, wants to follow in Zizou’s footsteps then he may want to test himself in a bigger league, like England or Spain now, and while Bordeaux can get the maximum amount of money for him.

Obviously Gourcuff isn’t going to come cheap. I’ve seen rumours of a £17 million quoted, but £25-30 million seems to be more of a realistic price. With a price tag like that, only the elite clubs will be able to acquire Gourcuff, with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona or Real Madrid likely destinations. He’s basically a cheaper alternative to Franck Ribery. Chelsea should be ruled out because of the Ancelotti factor, as the Italian won’t want to spend big money on a player he doesn’t rate. Man City could afford the mercurial Frenchman and so could Arsenal, who could opt for Gourcuff if Cesc Fabregas decides to leave the club in the summer.

I think United would be the best destination for Gourcuff, as his ability to link midfield with attack would be a valuable asset for the team. Gourcuff could provide the spark that United lost when they sold Ronaldo to Real Madrid last summer and contribute goals from midfield. United still have the Ronaldo money burning a hole in their pocket and at 23, Gourcuff still has the potential to get even better.

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