Alain Giresse, still number one!
A legend among legends
In the long, rich, epic history of our club, "Gigi" is still the undisputed number ONE. A monument, a symbol, a legend.
With his talent, his many trophies and the sheer length of his career, Alain Giresse earned universal respect and admiration, forever marking the history of the Girondins de Bordeaux in the process. The club will forever remain close to his heart. Alain Giresse embodies a rare type of loyalty, strong enough to outshine the two seasons he spent with Olympique de Marseille (1986-1988) at the tail end of his career.
This pint-sized player (1.63 metres) would ultimately prove to be a giant of the game. In the hearts of Bordeaux supporters, in the collective memory of French football fans and in the history of our sport, with the statistics to back it up. Giresse played 587 matches in Ligue 1, giving him the all-time record for outfield appearances in the French first division. 520 of those games were played in the sacred navy blue and white of the Girondins, and cups included he made 592 appearances for his local club…
And let's not forget his 179 goals! As captain of a Bordeaux side which would dominate French football in the mid-1980s, led by Aimé Jacquet and the ambitious Claude Bez, this world-class midfield maestro was at the heart of a legendary team. His career at the club was a long succession of highlights, from his professional debut in 1970 through to his final appearance for Bordeaux in 1986.
Class and talent
A product of the club's academy who would go on to play twenty-six seasons of professional football, Alain Giresse is the definitive Bordeaux legend! Blessed with an incredible touch, a rare intelligence for the game, a proud team spirit, a natural goalscoring instinct and a rare virtuosity, Giresse was the linchpin of a group which would gradually conquer (almost) all of the summits that European and international football have to offer. And earn himself a global reputation in the process!* Team-mates, opponents, coaches, journalists, fans and TV viewers were unanimous in their praise of his immense talent. In today's football parlance, he would rank as one of the "Top, top players" alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and co. Giresse was a true master of the game.
"Giresse, the things I saw him do in training every morning, were extraordinary… He was the (Andrés) Iniesta of his time!" The compliment and the comparison are accurate and well-deserved. They come from Bernard Lacombe, his former team-mate and a prolific goalscorer (136 goals for Bordeaux) for the Girondins and France (38 caps, 12 goals). Together, they set Parc Lescure on fire. Because Gigi's talent was about more than just victory, it was about talent in its purest form, the beauty of the game, those lofty heights of footballing elegance reached by only the very best.
Take the 30th April 1986 for example, the Coupe de France final between Bordeaux and Olympique de Marseille played at the Parc des Princes, Paris. After a stalemate in regular time, with the Girondins producing an almighty performance to fight back from a goal down (a penalty scored by Uwe Reinders in the 25th minute, Tigana eventually got the equaliser), Giresse - on his last official appearance for Bordeaux - scored the winner deep into extra time (116th minute/2-1).
He controlled the ball majestically with his left foot, before producing an incredible lob which buried itself in the top right corner and made a fool of Joseph-Antoine Bell, one of France's finest goalkeepers! Giresse thus gave the Girondins their second ever Coupe de France trophy, 45 years after the first…
That magical goal sums up the genius and spirit of Gigi, not to mention his divine right foot. Even more incredibly, he had been struggling with injury in the days leading up to the final!
But of course there was much more to Giresse than that Coupe de France triumph. The list of trophies and medals he racked up over the course of his long career is truly impressive. First and foremost, he led the Girondins to back-to-back league titles. In 1983-1984 and 1984-1985, Bordeaux were champions.
Fifty-four years after the league title won by Swiatek, Libar, Kargu, Persillon, De Harder, Gallice, Meynieu and co., this was a historic moment for the Girondins! And it was not all plain sailing: in the first of those league-winning seasons, Bordeaux finished level on points with Monaco, securing the title on goal difference! Giresse's goal tally had much to do with this success: 16 scored in 34 matches. Not bad for a midfielder! Only Bernard Lacombe scored more that season (18).
Next season he scored 11 in 36 matches, making him the club's third most prolific goalscorer behind Lacombe (21) and Dieter Müller (13). Humble and hard-working, Giresse was never one to blow his own trumpet. On the contrary: "We followed up on that 1984 title win with this amazing spirit," Gigi himself recalls. "We only once dropped points at home, and we were the reigning champions. Back then we didn't go onto the pitch wondering if we'd win, we just wondered by how many. We had an immense confidence, a great serenity. We only lost four games all season, we were unstoppable."
That same year, Aimé Jacquet's team made it as far as the semi-finals of the European Cup (the forerunner to the Champions League). They eventually went out to Michel Platini's Juventus, the best team in Europe filled with players who had won the World Cup with Italy in 1982 (3-0 in Turin, a heroic but insufficient 2-0 victory in Bordeaux). This was nonetheless the high point of an epic period, a magical moment in the club's history. There could be no further doubt about Giresse's exceptional talent, nor the quality of the team he led.
Europe, the next level
Giresse's first European adventure came in the 1981-1982 season, in the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League). That year, the Girondins crashed out in the second round to H.S.V. Hamburg. They went one better in 1982-1983, before being knocked out by Romanian side Universitatea Craiova. But Bordeaux learned from these experiences and grew as a team, overcoming what looked like impossible odds on several occasions.
First against Carl Zeiss Jena (after losing 3-1 in West Germany, the Girondins won 5-0 back at Lescure), then against Hajduk Split (a 4-1 defeat in Yugoslavia followed by a 4-0 win at home). Alain Giresse scored 6 goals in Europe that year, coming in just behind Erwin Vandenbergh (who scored 7 on the way to winning the cup with Anderlecht) as the second best goalscorer in the competition.
"I was thirty-one [in 1983], and I was starting to wonder if I'd ever win anything, he admitted in "Droit au But!" (Hachette), published in 1985. "I got loads of plaudits after the World Cup in 1982, but I wasn't satisfied. I wanted to win a cup or a league title. I wanted to see a trophy for the team with Giresse in it, rather than accolades for Giresse. That's just the way I am!" Those trophies would soon come...
But of couse, reducing Alain Giresse's immense career with Bordeaux to a matter of statistics would be to do him a disservice. He was a player of unique style and panache, also blessed with class, humility and a true gift for leadership. He never shrank from a challenge, no matter how big. Giresse was a towering figure for Bordeaux and for France, the two teams to which he gave himself heart and soul. And the teams which made him a legend.
Alain Giresse was appointed Technical Director of the Girondins in 1989, before going on to a career as a coach and international manager…
An incredible record with the Girondins
French Champions in 1984 and 1985