LYON - Ask any football fan to name a French player who has won seven Ligue 1 titles, more than 40 caps for France and recently became the former world and European champions' captain and the chances are they will not come up with the answer: Sidney Govou.
Few players in France have more experience or a more impressive record than the 30-year-old Olympique Lyon winger but he enjoys nothing like the status of Thierry Henry or Karim Benzema.
Not that Govou minds. "I never really get worked up by anything," the modest, cheerful and always relaxed player told Reuters in an interview.
Admittedly, he wore the captain's armband only after Henry went off in the second half in a 3-1 win over Austria in a World Cup qualifier last week but, still, it is an achievement.
"When Thierry Henry left the pitch, I was standing in his way, that's all," Govou said. "Nothing was planned."
Govou has a reputation for always being late. Born in Puy-en-Velay, not far from Lyon, he was already 17 when he joined Olympique Lyon's academy and 21 when he made his professional debut.
It was only at the last minute that he made France's Euro 2004 and 2006 World Cup squads, being called up both times after another player retired injured.
Every summer, his name is mentioned at other clubs but he has remained faithful to Lyon, his only club, and is the only player in the current squad to have taken part in all the club's seven title-winning campaigns.
Even his international record is not bad with 41 caps and 10 goals. By comparison, Nicolas Anelka, widely regarded as more glamorous and more dangerous in front of goal, has scored just three more goals for France, and those from 61 appearances.
With France and Lyon, coaches have come and gone but Govou has stayed.
"Knowing so many different coaches with different temperaments and different methods helped me learn a few things," he said.
Coaches have often thought of him initially as a substitute, having other players in mind for his position, but in the end he has always ended up as first choice.
"Being still here (at Lyon) makes me very proud," he said. "All those coaches were different, all those players were supposed to be better than me but in the end I always played.
"I never asked myself too many questions. I always felt that if I stayed I had to give it my best, and the best guy would win."
Such resilience was rewarded by Claude Puel, the Lyon coach, who surprised many by making Govou his captain this season.
"He (Govou) gets on well with everybody, always finds the right words," Puel told Reuters. "Everybody likes him because he is very thoughtful, very good at stepping back to analyse things."
Govou produced another inspirational performance on Tuesday in Lyon's stunning 2-1 Champions League win at Liverpool, setting up their second goal.
A self-confessed party animal, Govou is not perfect, however, and made headlines when he was arrested by Lyon police and found to be five times over the French drink-driving limit last December.
His humble apologies were accepted and life went on.
"I have more responsibilities now," Govou said proudly when asked about his new status as the Lyon captain.
"What I try to tell others is that it's the future that matters. To build your own future you have to be good, competitive and enthusiastic."comments