What does Tours FC mean to you?
Two good seasons playing good football in a very competitive team. Above all, a second season that launched me as top scorer.
(note : 2009/10 season – he was top scorer in Ligue 2 with 21 goals)
Do you regret not having won promotion to Ligue 1 with Tours?
No regrets. We did all that we could – and the fact that we didn’t go up gave me the second season when I exploded. From bad comes good...in fact, since Tours, I have only met good people, and good times...I have a lucky star (touches wood). But, there was a lot of work, it wasn’t put on a plate! It is well known that everything wasn’t rosy for me at Grenoble or at Istres.
Is it true you nearly went to Scotland?
Yes – Middlesbrough called me first, but then I went to Paris to meet the Chief Executive of Celtic. A legendary club with a great stadium and unbelievable support. It’s a religion there...
And then, Montpellier came in for you...
Yes. First René Girard called, then Loulou Nicollin, then Laurent Nicollin. I felt that they really wanted me and that made the difference. For my career, it was better to stay in France. Good decision, right? A career is made on the right decisions.
A word on Loulou Nicollin – he’s a one, isn’t he?
He’s like a protective father. But there’s stuff you don’t see; match days, all the time. When he comes to the training centre, he says important things. Anyway, he always has an interesting turn of phrase (laughs)
A personal question – has changing from being a local hero to a national star changed you?
Yes and no. No, because I always respond to fans who are nice, who stop me in the street for an autograph; I like to make them happy. Yes, because I can’t do everything, particularly for the press. I need to be selective, not take on too much. The main thing is the playing field. My agent takes care of the rest.
We’ll get back to the game in a minute; you have clearly improved your finishing, but you have also become a great header of the ball, notably on deflections. Do you agree?
For the finishing, everything comes from confidence. The more you score, the more confident you are. For the aerial game, I don’t agree with you – in fact it’s the game around me that has changed. We work in training on phases where I divert the ball for a partner. And today, I get great support and receive more balls than last season.
In the French national team, your height, the aerial game and deflections, it’s a plus...
It’s true that I am not a typical player for the French team. It’s that that no doubt attracted Laurent Blanc, that and the fact that I’m the top scorer, with Gameiro...
(note: Giroud has 14 Ligue 1 goals so far, Gameiro 9)
More on the national team – how did you feel about your first call-up?
At first, it was weird; I hadn’t set foot on Clairefontaine for ten years. I had been selected for the French U15 squad with Gourcuff and Cabayé. Then, I saw Cabayé. Anyway, the place is full of symbols, photos of famous players. Well, after that emotion, you immerse yourself in it, you are selected, you have to succeed, to prove yourself, go out on the field and do everything to win that place.
There was also Koscielny and Tourangeua with you two years ago (at Tours) – now you find yourself together for Les Bleus. Incredible?
Yes, particularly as at Tours, we shared a room for away trips!
Laurent Blanc seems to rate you...
I don’t know – OK, Laurent Blanc and Jean-Louis Gasset are from Montpellier, that makes it a bit easier...now, in tactical terms, I was disappointed to have missed a chance against the USA. But in the press conference, Laurent Blanc stressed that I had done well to make the chance, that pleased me. Then, he recalled me against Belgium...
Today, people are talking about you throughout Europe...
I’m going to stop you right there. I have said – repeatedly – that England would be great. But out of respect for Montpellier, my club, I want to stress: I am under contract to June 2014. We have an exciting end to this season to play: the league, to be top scorer...the Coupe de France! I am not taking on too much. We will get back to that at the end of the season.
And the Euros?
I can’t look so far ahead. I have to keep my rhythm, before that. First, there is the selection for the (friendly) match against Germany. I would love to go to the Euros; it’s every footballer’s dream – but it is five months away!
OK, but what do you think of the draw, with Ukraine, England and Sweden?
It’s an evenly poised group. Everyone says, rightly, that it’s winnable. But then, there is England...
Last question: you don’t bang on about it, but you do work with charitable organisations...
Yes, of course. With ELA*, with Karma, who work with the Clocheville hospital. Recently, I did an awareness raising tour with Montpellier Rugby player François Trinh-Duc about defibrillators. I want to use my media profile to help those who need it, it can help.
* l'Association Européenne contre les Leucodystrophies (ELA)