Loved by most at Chelsea. Loathed by many in France. Olivier Giroud continues to divide opinion.
At Stamford Bridge his Blues team-mates, and manager Frank Lampard, are full of praise for the 34-year-old’s professionalism, dedication and workrate.
But in his home country, he is often still the scapegoat when things go wrong, his talents forever compared unflatteringly to the likes of Karim Benzema.
And herein lies the problem. Giroud wants to start for France at the Euros. But until recently he wasn’t getting a look-in at Chelsea.
Giroud has always had to prove people wrong. As a teen at Grenoble, his coach told him “You’re not good enough for Ligue 2, let alone Ligue 1.”
At 21, he was still knocking around the French lower leagues eyeing a career as a PE teacher. Now, only Thierry Henry has scored more goals for Les Bleus.
Giroud has long-since earned the trust of France coach Didier Deschamps, and played a starring role to help his country win the World Cup in 2018.
So does he need to leave to Chelsea to make sure he is playing enough football to start at the Euros?
Giroud currently has six goals in his last five games, and scored on his first Premier League start of the season against Leeds last weekend.
And while Inter Milan may well make another attempt to sign him next month, the feeling in France is that he doesn’t need to go.
Johan Honnet, a journalist with French broadcaster RMC, told Starsport: “In France we think Giroud has to play very often to be in Deschamps’s squad.
“And that’s what Deschamps has always said. But we don’t think that he has to leave Chelsea. He proved in the past he has been able to change his destiny. So in France we are very confident that Giroud will do exactly the same thing.”
Didier Deschamp's latest comments on Olivier Giroud provide Chelsea transfer hint
Matt Spiro, author of ‘Sacre Bleu. From Zidane to Mbappe – A football journey’, cautiously agrees..
He told Starsport: “Deschamps has always maintained that players must be playing regularly for their clubs in order to play for France.
“It is difficult for him to make an exception for Giroud, so it’s vital Giroud plays at least some football. If that is only in the Europa League and cups, so be it.
“That wouldn’t be a problem for Deschamps, but Giroud needs to be starting matches on a reasonably regular basis to remain France’s first-choice striker.
“He is not getting younger and the competition is only getting more intense.”
Giroud is also in the final year of his contract, with his agent sounding pessimistic about a renewal at Chelsea. He has to think about his future.
The next few weeks will decide it. If he plays more minutes, you can bet he’ll stay. If he’s benched again, all bets are off.
Asked about Giroud’s recent revival this week, Deschamps said: “I’m hoping it can last. If Lampard decides to play him three days a week, that’s not ideal either.
“The happy medium is good, that he takes advantage of this ideal period for him."
So Deschamps wants him playing more often – but not too much, just in case he runs the risk of burn-out. Whatever happens, it’s unlikely Giroud will ever completely win over those in France who just don’t like his style of play.
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Honnet said: “It’s absolutely true that Giroud is under appreciated. Even if he has already scored more goals than Benzema or even Michel Platini…
“French people still think he's not very efficient and not so consistent. That is a big mistake. Giroud has proven that he can score goals in important games.
“And even if he doesn’t score his way of playing is really helpful for the team and for Antoine Griezmann in particular. Griezmann enjoys to be free on the pitch. So to play with Giroud who is a real number nine really helps him.
“Giroud knows how to use his body to protect the ball. The attention of the defenders is focused on him. So Griezmann can play between the lines.”
For Spiro, it all goes back to the rivalry between Giroud and the more talented and dynamic Real Madrid striker Benzema.
He said: “Giroud is largely respected but he will always be seen as the man who took Benzema’s place, and a lot of people want Benzema in the team.
“That is unfair because Benzema’s exclusion is not down to Giroud but off-field matters. Nowadays more and more people recognise Giroud’s value.
“However, Deschamps has a vast array of attacking talent at his disposal, and when the team is not playing attractive, free-flowing, free-scoring football, Giroud is often singled out by experts and fans as the player who should be dropped.
“He can appear ungainly compared to other French attackers, and is certainly not as quick, and this makes him an easy target for critics. Deschamps, however, has always shown faith in him.”
While Giroud is playing and scoring goals for Chelsea, it looks like France will keep that faith.
So the challenge for the former Arsenal man is to keep on doing just that over the next few weeks. Write him off at your peril.
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