By Robin Bairner | France Expert
Laurent Blanc’s pre-selected France squad was largely free of surprise, but that’s not to say it was not without controversy, as the coach’s decision to name Olympique Lyonnais playmaker Yoann Gourcuff was greeted with disappointed acceptance in the country.
Gourcuff’s career so far has been one of unfulfilled potential. Having started out at Stade Rennais, he showed his immense talents to such an extent that he was lured to AC Milan, where he did little more than hint at his true abilities. A move back to France with Blanc at Girondins de Bordeaux reinvigorated his career, but since an €18 million move to Lyon two summers ago, he has once again looked a pale shadow of the player who so astounded as he led the Stade Chaban-Delmas club to Ligue 1 glory.
Over the last season, the 25-year-old has once more endured more lows than highs. Injury problems have restricted his ability to play regularly for OL and even when he has been fit, he’s been challenged for a starting berth by up-and-coming talent Clement Grenier.
| GOURCUFF'S LIGUE 1 RECORD 2011-12
Flashes of the old Gourcuff brilliance have been infrequently visible in the 13 league appearances he mustered, most notably during the Derby du Rhone encounter against Saint-Etienne, when he scored the goal that secured OL a 2-0 victory in stoppage time. Perhaps his most notable contribution of recent times, though, came in the Coupe de France final, when he produced a man of the match performance against Quevilly as Remi Garde’s side booked themselves a spot in Europe next season.
Nevertheless, the consensus is that Gourcuff does not justify even a call to the pre-selected France team.
Against Iceland on Sunday, it’s likely he’ll be granted an opportunity to prove his form to Blanc, who remains an immense fan of a player often misunderstood because of his tendency to pursue more intellectual affairs than the average footballer.
Having brought the very best out of the player for 18 months at Bordeaux, Blanc knows precisely what qualities the playmaker can bring to his squad. At his peak, Gourcuff was untouchable in the French domestic game, and if he can recapture his best form there is nothing stopping him becoming Les Bleus’ outstanding talent.
Yet all this is a long way off. Gourcuff presently looks a player starved of confidence, who is labouring to do the mundane things he once made look so simple as he threatened to become a bona fide world star.
Blanc’s move to call the Breton comes out of desperation. France will be without a clutch of players during the Euros because of injury troubles – Loic Remy, Eric Abidal, Bacary Sagna, Abou Diaby and Younes Kaboul – and in-form playmakers are thin on the ground.
Perhaps now more than ever, Les Bleus are ruing Younes Belhanda’s decision to declare for Morocco, but now is not the time to lament such mistakes of old.
With the focus firmly on Ukraine and Poland, Blanc has made a bold call to pick a player who has so toiled of late.
If Gourcuff has it in him to overcome his inner demons – or if they can be exorcised by the coach – then he has the potential to be outstanding, yet the likelihood remains that he’ll flop, having been picked by virtue of what he did in the distant past, rather than what he is liable to produce in the near future.
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