Hands up who knew that Gael Clichy was still playing? Liars.
Clichy, who played for the actual Arsenal Invincibles, will be a familiar name to anybody below the age of 35 that grew up watching the Premier League.
With his unstarry, yet important, contribution to success at Arsenal and Manchester City, Clichy felt like a very modern full-back with his forward runs and ability to chip in with the odd assist.
But you’d be forgiven for thinking Clichy had retired long ago, putting his feet up and gorging himself on the wine beloved by citizens of his hometown of Toulouse.
In this instance, you’d be wrong; the 37-year-old full-back is still turning out for Servette and is helping the Swiss side enjoy their best season in decades.
Sitting in second place, miles behind leaders Young Boys but nestled in a Champions League qualifying spot, there’s an outside chance of Clichy returning to Arsenal or City in the group stages of next season’s competition.
And, should that event come to pass, we’re eagerly anticipating the Frenchman spotting Aaron Ramsdale or Ederson off their line and lofting a delicate shot over their heads and into the goal.
Clichy must have similar visions, judging by his moment of ridiculousness in the Rhone derby against FC Sion.
After charging through one Sion player with the force of a runaway locomotive, winning both the ball and his opponent’s dignity, Clichy found himself with sufficient acres of space to allow a naughty thought to cross his mind.
While most defenders would shake off the thought of a halfway-line shot as an aberration, the three-time Premier League champion decided to loft a shot that arced irresistibly goalwards.
Like all these things, the despairing dive of a red-faced goalkeeper added to the aesthetic pleasure of seeing Clichy’s shot bulge the goal netting.
Like discovering your mate of 10 years is a qualified pianist during a bog-standard trip to the pub, we never knew he had this in him.
Not sure what year or, indeed, dimension we're in but Gael Clichy scored from the halfway line todaypic.twitter.com/LrLEra2xZl
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) May 13, 2023
After the match, Servette boss Alain Geiger described Clichy’s goal as ‘a superb lob of anthology’, demonstrating the kind of languid poetry that suggested Geiger moonlights as a football columnist in his spare time.
But the former France international was rather more modest when talking about his success. “It’s nothing,” he said afterwards. “Beyond the goal, it’s the performance that we remember – and the three points. It was a great night and we can be happy with the way and the result.”
In fact, as Clichy later revealed, he got the motivation for his jaw-dropping strike from an unusual source.
“This morning, I received a message from a Servette fan on Instagram,” he said. “He told me that the opposing goalkeeper was often very advanced.
“I anticipated, I looked and I actually saw him away from his line. It’s all about intention, information gathering and execution.”
When asked where this moment of glory was the best goal of his career, Clichy laughed and said: “I don’t score many so it easily enters the top 5.
“It’s nice but it’s a bit like Ronny’s goal at the beginning of the season: it’s inspiration, success and it allows the team to win the three points – that’s the most important thing.”
At an age when most of his former colleagues have retired, Clichy is managing to produce the vibiest moments of his career. Good on him.
By Michael Lee