The player we thought we had, and would have liked to have, was Andre-Pierre Gignac. Gignac is a bit of an enigma: he scored 24 goals in Ligue 1 a couple of seasons back, which is hugely impressive in one of the most defensive leagues in Europe. The problem is he’s never been near to that figure before or since (although his goals-to-games ratio has always been quite good). OptaJoe recently pointed out that of his 51 goals in Ligue 1, only 1 has been a header. Which is a curiosity above all else, but perhaps instructive of something.
(Graphic from l’equipe)
Anyway, Marseille had bought Gignac for €18m and he scored eight times for them last season. My colleague, Vincent (a PSG fan) expected Gignac to rebound, and Marseille to show more patience given their investment. but no, it emerged that not only was Gignac available, he was being seriously linked with Fulham.
L’Equipe, the French sport newspaper, covered the story all day.
First, they revealed that Gignac was not at training. At that point he was linked to Fulham, Blackburn and Everton, but with interest from elsewhere in France, Italy and Greece.
At midday Marseille assistant coach Guy Stephan then confirmed that Gignac was in talks with an English club. The story then noted that Marseille hoped to bring in Amauri from Juventus as a replacement. L’equipe then noted that Gignac was “in London to find a club”.
Then that he had returned and would be staying at l’OM. “No arrivals,” it noted gravely, “were recorded on the last day of the transfer window.”
So what happened? Again, sourcing l’Equipe, Gignac was supposedly keen to stay at Marseille, but by Monday afternoon this had changed (a defeat by Lille may have contributed to this), although it’s not clear how much pushing was done by Marseille (he hadn’t played well, and was rumoured to have been in trouble over weight gains, so quite a lot it seems).
Marseille wanted a world class striker but couldn’t afford one. Moving Gignac would have helped to clear space on the payroll (as demanded by the president – Gignac earns €300,000 per month), but they couldn’t make a deal work. They wanted Juventus’ Amauri, but that didn’t happen, then the Gignac deal seemed to rely on Sunderland’s Gyan arriving, but that didn’t happen either. It’s not clear in all this how Fulham’s talks with Gignac actually went, but Marseille’s inability to find a replacement seems to have been crucial.
As journalist Alexandre Queyroy tweeted: “l’OM has got it all wrong with Gignac, not only remains, but it also knows that the club no longer believes in him.”
It seems likely then that Gignac will be moved on in January. If talks didn’t break down perhaps Fulham will have another look, as for all Bryan Ruiz’s undoubted skill and goalscoring ability, he’s not the out and out centre-forward a lot of us had hoped for (which is not to say he’s not a great signing – he is). Gignac might still be the man.