French football expert Andrew Gibney runs the rule over Marseille striker and long-term Premier League target Andre Pierre Gignac...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: December 5, 1985
- Place of birth: Martigues, France
- Height: 6ft 1in
- Position: Striker
- Current club: Olympique de Marseille; 162 games, 66 goals
- International: France; 19 caps, 5 goals
Born a mere 45 kilometres from the magnificent Stade Velodrome, Andre-Pierre would have to play for five different clubs from all over France before returning home to make his debut for Olympique de Marseille.
The burly striker has had his ups and downs for les Phoceens, but being from the south and adored by the home support can have its advantages. They have kept faith with him, and now as a 29-year-old, the man they call 'Big Mac' has scored the goals that currently see l'OM top Ligue 1.
Despite this being his fifth season at the club, however, the striker has never surpassed 16 goals for Marseille. He already has 12 going into the winter break, and he has never been in a better position to break the 20 mark with his local team.
To put a caveat on it all, it looks like this could be his last season for the club. His contract is up in the summer and there are a lot of factors set to decide where his future lies. With every goal he scores the chances of him packing up increase, but it also takes him one step closer to immortality at the newly-renovated Velodrome.
Why you need to know him
Last season Gignac finished with 16 goals as Marseille coughed and spluttered to a disappointing sixth-place finish. On a personal level it had been a good year for the forward, but no one would have expected what was to come next.
Legendary Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa joined the club and went about installing his usual regime. His philosophy is centred around a gruelling fitness plan and a style of play unmatched throughout Europe. Almost instantly it had an impact on Gignac. Too often he has been mocked about his weight, but it was clear to see that whenever he missed games, he got a little heavier. Far from ideal for your main goalscoring hope.
Under Bielsa, Gignac looked meaner, healthier and the only thing he was hungry for was goals. Marseille opened the season with a draw at Bastia and home defeat to Montpellier. Then it all seemed to click, Bielsa’s side won eight straight games and Gignac made his best-ever start to a season – 10 goals in 10 games.
At the end of last season it looked like he would play out his days in France, or perhaps take a move to a mid-level team in England or Italy. However, now under Bielsa’s guidance, Gignac has won back his place in the France team and Inter Milan, Tottenham and Liverpool have all been named as potential suitors.
When it comes down to it, Gignac is a pure predator. Put the ball in and around the penalty box and the powerful striker will sniff out a way to find the back of the net.
His game is much more than just being a fox in the box, though. When he gets up a head of steam he has the pace to beat any defender, but the upper-body strength to blow away opponents.
On the odd occasion he will drift out wide, cut back inside his man and fire an unstoppable thunderbolt from 25 yards.
But Gignac’s best work is done inside the box. He will hold the ball up with his back to goal, and it’s near impossible to get it back off him when he does. He can finish with both feet and has the power to beat most defenders in the air.
Throughout his career, Gignac’s biggest problem has been consistency. In his second season for Toulouse he scored 24 goals, his highest return in a single campaign. The next year he failed to build on that success, scoring only eight times.
He plays purely on confidence. When he is up, he can be one of the deadliest finishers in the world, but when he has some self-doubt, things don’t go his way. Even this season, with his best start, he has missed some vital and seemingly easy chances.
Gignac’s other problem is his creativity. For someone who is so strong with his back to goal, he regularly fails to create opportunities for his team-mates. When he is scoring it’s not a problem, but when the goals dry up he doesn’t provide the assists that would alleviate the pressure from his broad shoulders.
In order for Bielsa’s system to work at Marseille, he needed players to buy into it quickly, especially the more experienced ones – and it seems Gignac’s presence has been as influential off the pitch as his goal are on it.
“He is a player who shares his energy and desire. People who have enthusiasm for a project help to spread the message to other players. And André-Pierre Gignac does that naturally,” said Bielsa after a Gignac double against Rennes in week six.
If he does move, his new coach needs to understand that if you treat Gignac right, you are getting more than just a goalscorer.
Did you know?
Back in 2007, Gignac had finished his third season at Lorient after scoring nine goals in 37 games and was courted by a number of Ligue 1 clubs. Although he would eventually move to Toulouse for €4.5 million, he actually originally signed a pre-contract agreement to move to Lille.
Toulouse then came in and offered him double the salary that the northern club were offering. He went against the agreement to sign for Lille and moved south to Toulouse.
Within three years Lille were champions of France, something that Gignac has still to manage during his career.
What happens next?
The next six months will be absolutely crucial for Gignac, and the striker has some big decisions to make. In recent weeks he has been linked with moves to both the Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham) and Serie A (Inter and AC Milan), not to mention Russia (Dynamo Moscow).
If Marseille were not in contention to win the Ligue 1 title this season, the chances of Gignac staying beyond January would be slim. However, there is no chance he is going to give up the opportunity to not only lift his first league crown for his local club, but the prospect of pipping Paris Saint-Germain to that crown.
- Shooting 8
- Heading 8
- Passing 6
- Tackling 4
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 7
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 7
Marseille would loathe seeing Gignac leave on a free transfer this summer, but they can’t really afford to keep him on an increased deal beyond the end of the season – when the aforementioned clutch of clubs will most likely pounce.
All the talk surrounding his future has definitely had an impact on his form: following the run of 10 goals in 10 games, he has only scored twice in the last nine, and once in the last five.
At 29, this would be his last chance at a bumper pay day, and the chance to test his skills outside of France. The temptation may be too good to resist. Expect the striker to play out the rest of the season and help Marseille back into the Champions League before making his big move abroad.