A seagull following French football's sardine trawler
Curiously, football managers are often defined more by the quirks they display on the touchline than the titles they win on the pitch.
Jean Tigana is one such example whose penchant for lollipops and toothpicks while sat in the Fulham dug out between 2000 and 2003 is perhaps remembered more readily than him getting the club promoted to the Premier League, winning the Intertoto Cup and of course his decision to sign Steve Marlet from Lyon for £11.5m. The less said about that the better.
Fulham is a club that has a more acute sense of nostalgia than many of its peers after spending 33 years outside the top flight, an exile that Tigana helped to end in 2001. So there are reasons aplenty, despite the acrimonious circumstances surrounding his dismissal seven years ago, for fans of the Cottagers to look out for Tigana, because they know that behind the lollipop there is a formidable football brain.
On Tuesday he was unveiled as Bordeaux’s new manager, replacing Laurent Blanc who agreed to succeed Raymond Domenech after the World Cup. It’s his first job for three years. “It was my heart’s choice,” Tigana said. “I would not have come back to coaching in France if it was any team but Bordeaux.”
"Who loves ya, baby?"
The 54-year-old is already a legend at the Stade Chaban-Delmas having made 251 appearances for Bordeaux as a player, winning three league titles and two French Cups between 1981 an 1989 in a period of dominance remembered to this day as the best in the club’s history. He was a member of the famous Carré Magique or Magic Square, the midfield quartet composed of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez, which inspired France to glory at Euro 84.
But yesterday’s man is tomorrow’s fool and Tigana is under no illusion as to the task that awaits him. Bordeaux were top of Ligue 1 for 30 of 38 rounds last season, but they collapsed in the spring when rumours of Blanc and then Marouane Chamakh leaving gathered pace.
Le Girondins finished sixth, outside of the European places and without the €20m windfall that comes from playing in the Champions League. The cycle was over; the coffers hardly empty but far from being full enough to compete with Marseille and Lyon. After all, it’s only right we remember that Blanc built his defence with just €3.8million.
So it’s unsurprising then that Tigana was at pains to remind France’s journalists that he was a member of the Magic Square and not the Magic Circle. “Unless M6 [Bordeaux’s owners] give me €100 million, I will have to be clever in the recruitment. I am not a magician. There are things that I can’t control, like the buy-out clauses,” Tigana grimaced, no doubt alluding to one for €8m, which would allow Marseille to wrest Bordeaux’s captain Alou Diarra away from the Chaban-Delmas.
And therein lies the rub mon petit Girondin. Tigana’s first job at Bordeaux after finding Chamakh’s replacement will be to convince the club’s stars like Diarra and most notably Yoann Gourcuff that staying put is worthwhile.
"...and for my next trick..."
He can use his hero status for leverage, but also point to the fact that he replaced Arsène Wenger at Monaco and won Ligue 1, even reaching a Champions League semi-final in 1998 only to be knocked out by Juventus.
Perhaps a more pertinent question, though, is one Tigana has to ask himself: Do I really want the job? Despite the comments made by Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud that Tigana was “the first path explored”, it’s no secret that his No 1 choice to replace Blanc was Auxerre manager and Ligue 1 Coach of the Year Jean Fernandez, so much so in fact that L’Équipe claimed Le Girondins made a final approach for him on Monday after earlier rebuttals.
Tigana apparently took some convincing. He hasn’t coached since 2007 when Turkish club Besiktas fired him and admits he has also had some recent health problems. Tigana spent the last year in Mali, his native country, doing charity work and is said to have had reservations about returning to the daily rigors of running a football team.
When pressed on reports that he hadn’t watched Bordeaux at all last season, he said: “I am going to form an opinion with a fresh perspective.” However, it won’t be long before Bordeaux fans know whether to change their opinion of him from the one they formed in the `80s.
More from The French Connection
Excellent piece, like you say, it's a sensible appointment rather than a sensational one. If he can find the right motivation and enthusiasm, which is what this team needs, then they can still compete with Marseille and Lyon.
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