When Olivier Giroud scored his first goal for France last week by passing it beyond the goalkeeper, many people who hadn’t seen him play before were surprised. Not because they hadn’t heard of him, but because they read the reports linking him with big clubs in England that called him a ‘powerful striker who is good in the air.’
At 6ft 3in tall and weighing 14.5 stone, he is a big powerful man, but he also has a lovely touch, can shoot with both feet and passes the ball intelligently to his midfielders. Aged 25, he is approaching his peak as a footballer, but he has had to struggle to wear the blue of France.
After signing his first professional contract aged 19, he progressed from Grenoble’s youth team to the reserve team in 2005-06. Playing in the fifth division of French football, he scored 15 goals in 15 matches and found himself in the first team the following season. Despite Grenoble finishing fifth in Ligue 2, he struggled for goals and was loaned out to Istres in the French third division for the 2007-2008 season.
It was a success. He scored 14 goals in 33 matches during his loan period and returned to Grenoble, who had been promoted to Ligue 1, hoping that he would have a chance of making the first team. Yet it didn’t happen. The new manager said that he “did not have the level to play among the elite,” and Giroud was sold to Tours in Ligue 2.
It is possible that this treatment led to him working even harder on his game. With help from coaches at the club on his positioning, he scored 38 goals in his two seasons and was named Ligue 2 Player of the Year and Top Scorer in his second season. This form persuaded Montpellier to pay €2 million for him, and he hasn’t looked back.
What is impressive about Giroud is that he has constantly got better. Following his 14 goals in 43 games in 2010-11, he has been brilliant this season and has scored 20 goals in 28 matches and made seven for his teammates and is now known by the French media as ‘The Charm Striker’.
When he was being linked with a move to the Premier League in January, his price was said to be €20m. After his goal for France it has risen to €30m and who knows what will happen if he has a successful Euro 2012 in the summer. But wherever he goes and however much he costs, you can’t say the big man who plays with a smile on his face doesn’t deserve it. He’s definitely proved that he has ‘the level to play with the elite.’