When we think of the dream football career, we often fantasise about a lengthy spell with our boyhood side, or perhaps a Galactico move to Spain and a period with weird, long hair. And in doing so, we’re doing it completely wrong.
With age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes the ability to swallow your pride and admit you were incorrect.
Having grown older and wiser, everything we know and love about football has shifted. While we grew up on wet-look gel spikey hair and dreams of playing for the biggest clubs on the planet, nuance has us realising that the perfect career – and the ultimate ambition – is to not be very good.
The dream is to be tremendously average. Perhaps just a bit above average.
Forget everything everyone’s ever told you about striving for basics, remove every pretentious LinkedIn post about being the best version of yourself from your mind and focus on being as average as possible, but crucially punching above your weight.
That right there is the formula to the perfect football career. And Andre Pierre-Gignac has cracked the code.
While we’re not here to call Gignac average – far from it – what we are here to do is to use his career path and crucially his decision-making as a beacon to fuel our footballer pipedreams, giving us a glimmer of hope that there’s still a chance we make it in a beautiful corner of the world where the quality is lesser.
The striker that Europe forgot, the handsome Frenchman had been scoring goals and smashing the statistics early on in his career. Finishing as Ligue 1’s top scorer in 2008-09 ought to have been the catalyst for stardom, but it simply wasn’t.
Gignac remained a big deal domestically, signing for Marseille in 2010. But was that really enough for a striker capable of firing in 24 league goals throughout a single season, with an entire career ahead of him? No.
Alas, he headed east towards Marseille. But in the warmth of the south coast, Gignac only felt the cold. A hat-trick in November 2010 was the highlight of a challenging first campaign, where he felt the heat from the press, supporters and even club president Jean-Pierre Papin.
While the likes of Johan Elmander and Loic Remy would be handed a shot in Europe’s big time, each securing moves to the Premier League, Gignac was left behind and forced to pick up the pieces in Ligue 1.
The world was on his back. And so the revenge tour began.
Life in Marseille started slow for the striker, but by 2012, the flame had been relit under him and a double-figures league goal haul fired Marseille to second in Ligue 1, behind only state-backed Paris Saint-Germain.
That was the beginning of a beautiful scoring resurgence, but one that cruelly went unnoticed as Europe – including his own country – looked elsewhere.
Despite his scoring form and a brief return to the French national team, Gignac was snubbed for the 2014 World Cup and the dream became the nightmare.
A proverbial final nail in the coffin, Europe would only be blessed with his big, sexy scoring prowess for one more year, bowing out with 24 goals to his name before sticking a middle finger up to us all.
Now free from his contract at Marseille, at the peak of his powers aged 29 and bolstered by a shed load of goals and dashing looks, Gignac snubbed offers from those who had overlooked him in the past, headed across the pond and settled in Mexico with Tigres.
It was an exceptionally unexpected transfer, but the beginning of a glorious journey that serves as a reminder that football doesn’t stop outside of Europe. It actually gets better, if done right.
In the eight years since making the switch, Gignac has carved out a legacy as Mexican footballing royalty. Taken in and adored by the Tigres faithful, he’s enjoyed a second career that trumps most ballers we can think of who were hyped up to the heavens.
The revenge tour has been exceptionally sweet, and his most recent strike – aged 37 – sums it all up. A thunderbastard free-kick capable of putting life on Mars, setting alight the stadium around him.
André Pierre Gignac still banging them in for fun in the Liga MX for Tigres at the age of 37. pic.twitter.com/5aCY59ZZNj
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 4, 2023
Have it. The embodiment of our attitude to European football shunning away a great, yet in doing so giving us the career arc we’d give an arm and a leg to live out.
“Leadership has always been in his DNA,” said Jurgen Damm to GOAL in 2021, having signed alongside the iconic centre forward in 2015: “He is someone who talks a lot in the dressing room. He supports young people and experienced players a lot.”
His words ring incredibly true. A leader among men, a menace in front of goal, a man not afraid to go maverick and – in leading the line at Tigres – the king of culture.
A five-time Mexican league champion and one-time CONCACAF Champions League winner, we could not be anymore jealous of Gignac and his 200 Tigres goals – and counting.
Fortune favours the brave, and nobody is braver in their search for legacy than Gignac has been.
By Mitch Wilks