It’s a very long road from playing in youth setup at Grenoble, currently a second-tier club in France, to becoming the best goalscorer that great football country has ever had, and that as a reigning champion of Italy. Olivier Giroud has had his doubters throughout what has been a long and very illustrious career, not least at the clubs he played for, but he is the player who has made that journey.
Always the second choice, never really the star at club or international level, the powerful striker has made his days on the football pitch count and he’ll certainly have tales to tell once he hangs up his boots. That day is probably not too far away at this point, but even if it were to happen this month at the end of France’s involvement at the ongoing World Cup, he probably won’t have any reason to regret anything.
Giroud spent some time playing for the likes of FC Istres and Tours FC, before making his way to Montpellier in 2010. Two years of fine performances there earned him a €12 million move to Arsenal, and that, of course, is where he became well-known to the wider public, the club where he played more games than anywhere else in his career. It was a total of 253, in which he scored 105 goals and contributed 41 assists, and those numbers went along with three FA Cups and as many Community Shields while the Gunners were still commanded by the iconic Arsene Wenger.
A regular France international by that time, of course, Giroud was included in Didier Deschmaps’ squad for the World Cup in Russia, and the greatest achievement of his career followed in the form of the world’s greatest trophy being taken from Moscow to Paris. He started in all seven matches in that tournament, and though he didn’t score and ‘only’ made two assists, he was certainly a big part of that success.
But that summer, his time at Arsenal came to an end. Chelsea offered around €17 million for his services, and with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang preferred upfront and Wenger leaving to be replaced by Unai Emery, Giroud made his way to Stamford Bridge.
He didn’t exactly get a regular starting spot there either, but he did manage to win both the Europa League in 2019 and the Champions League two years later, and his trophy haul obviously became extremely impressive. Last summer, however, Chelsea paid around €115m to bring back Romelu Lukaku, and Giroud’s services became surplus to requirements once more.
It was AC Milan who moved to take advantage of the situation, and the first season in Italy went with a bang for Giroud as he fired the Rossoneri to their first Scudetto since 2010/11. And if he thought the year couldn’t get any better, it sure did in Qatar when he grabbed his 52nd international goal, overtaking the legendary Thierry Henry at the top France’s all-time goalscorers’ list.
At the age of 36, Giroud is still delivering at the biggest stage, and it’s worth remembering that neither Lacezette, nor Aubameyang, nor Lukaku, the three players whose presence ousted him from the two clubs he played for in the Premier League. Practically discarded by both as not needed, he ended up going on to bigger and better things after both transfers.
The thing is, Giroud probably wouldn’t be starting for France at this World Cup had it not been for a rather unfortunate injury picked up by this year’s Ballon d’Or winner, Real Madrid star Karim Benzema. Aware of that, Giroud paid a tribute to every player kept out of the tournament by injury in a recent press conference.
Despite all his achievements, Giroud has never been appreciated as much as his quality and contribution deserved, and he still isn’t. Maybe it’s time for the football world to show some proper respect for this man, after all he’s done for practically every team he’s been a part of though his long career.