Jean Tigana, irreplaceable!

A legend among Girondins legends

In the football world, Jean Tigana is still a benchmark, more than a quarter of a century after hanging his boots. Why? Because this midfielder, despite what appeared to be an "average" physique – some would even say "diminutive" – was blessed with an exceptional talent. Tigana was able to cover miles and miles on the pitch, but there was more to his game than that…

A true footballing athlete, Tigana's elite capacities were already on show in the early days of his professional career, which started at second-division S.C. Toulon in 1975. It wasn't long before France's top clubs came calling for the young midfielder with the steely temperament, and the ability to score goals too. He finally made his top flight debut in 1978 with Olympique Lyonnais, under the watchful eye of coach Aimé Jacquet…

Jean Tigana (81-89) - 45 sel - 1981

A peerless performer

Over the course of his three seasons in Lyon, Tigana demonstrated an incredible reliability (he played in almost every league game), a taste for scoring goals – testament to his capacity to surge forward – and earned a reputation as a supremely dependable midfield stalwart. In 1981 "Jeannot" once again joined forces with Aimé Jacquet, who had taken over as manager at the Girondins de Bordeaux one year earlier. After a highly successful spell in the Rhône, it was time for Tigana to shine in the Gironde! Recently called up to the French national squad for the first time by Michel Hidalgo, Tigana was fast becoming one of the finest players in the league, and indeed the continent...

His coaches trusted him implicitly. He entertained, he enthused, he was unstoppable. This indefatigable, technically-gifted midfielder chose to put an end to his contract and set off for a new adventure in Bordeaux. The transfer fee was huge for those days: 210 million cents! But he was worth every penny, and Claude Bez put Tigana at the heart of his plans alongside Dragan Pantelić (goalkeeper) and Nordine Kourichi (another international), soon joined by Mario Relmy and Antoine Martinez, a creative young midfielder with a bright future ahead.


Tigana the tireless

Lively, elegant and ruthlessly efficient, Tigana was also endowed with a remarkable technical facility and the capacity to constantly win back the ball. Born in Bamako (Mali), his early years in France were spent in Marseille. But it was at Bordeaux's Parc Lescure that this talent truly reached its peak. His team spirit, his efficient short passes, his sudden bursts of pace and his rare athletic abilities combined to make up for any potential shortcomings in his game, and Tigana was a precious addition to a team already stuffed with international talent. Thouvenel, Rohr, Bracci, Trésor, Girard, Giresse, Lacombe, Gemmrich and Soler all helped him to grow as a player, taking his performance to the next level. And vice versa. Because without Jean Tigana, this Bordeaux team just wouldn't have been the same.

"At the start he used to win back loads of balls, but sometimes he was in a bit of a rush and he ended up losing some of them straight away," recalls Marius Trésor. "But he just kept working and working, and he became much more precise with his passes. He was absolutely tireless, what you'd call a 'box to box' midfielder these days. He could be absolutely immense in attack, but then he'd still be there when it was time to defend. He looked tiny, but on the pitch he just kept on giving..."


Championship, Euro, Tigana wins the lot!

The good results kept on coming and Bordeaux became more and more dominant. They carried on up the league, right the way to the top: the Girondins were crowned French champions in 1983-1984, and Tigana was owed much of the credit. This was a huge moment for Bordeaux, the last time they'd won the league was in the Swiatek era, back in 1950! Tigana's talent also shone brightly on the European stage, first in the UEFA Cup (C3), then in the European Cup (C1) in 1984-1985. That year, Tigana truly showed his colours as an exceptional footballing talent. From victory over Athletic Bilbao (a game he missed), to a semi-final against his friend Platini's Juventus, Tigana was one of the driving forces behind the Girondins' epic European adventure, falling at the penultimate hurdle.  During Euro 1984, which was held in France, Tigana surpassed himself again as he helped France to victory. Voted one of the players of the tournament, he exorcised the memories of the Bleus' defeat to West Germany in the World Cup semi-final two years previously (Spain 1982). Better still, at the end of the year he came within a whisker of winning the Ballon d’Or! In fact he was runner-up for European player of the year (just behind Michel Platini)…

Tigana was a central component of the imperious Bordeaux side of the mid-1980s, steamrolling terrified youngsters and seasoned veterans alike. From his position in the heart of midfield, Jean Tigana delivered priceless passes for Giresse, Lacombe, Zénier, (Dieter) Müller, Chalana and Reinders, as well as the next generation of attacking talent to pass through the Girondins' ranks: Allen, Bijotat, Cantona, Dugarry, Fargeon, Ferreri, Genghini, Scifo, Stopyra, Olsen, (Marc) Pascal, Touré, Vercruysse and (Zlatko) Vujović all benefited from Tigana's famous pass rate. He also continued to serve as an invaluable bridge between midfield and defence, dropping back to help  (Christian) Delachet, (Raymond) Domenech, Dropsy, Battiston, Lizarazu, (Alain) Roche, (Didier) Sénac, Specht, Tusseau and (Zoran) Vujović. Tigana was simply IRREPLACEABLE!


The stuff of legend

Three French championships (1984, 1985 and 1987), two French Cups (1986 and 1987) and two European Cup semi-finals in 1985 and 1987 (Lokomotive Leipzig in the Cup Winners' Cup): Tigana's time at Bordeaux yielded a serious haul of silverware. A remarkable string of achievements, and a love affair with the club which lasted for eight successful seasons; notwithstanding a few clashes with the Girondins' legendary, moustachioed president, who was always wary of the "whims" of his players...

Jean Tigana was an intelligent, dependable and formidable presence in the Bordeaux midfield, an athlete whose work rate and professionalism demanded respect, and a player whose successes with the club brought joy to the stadium and the whole city (as did his sing-song accent and infectious laugh). He made 324 appearances for the Girondins, and scored 14 goals. Despite numerous offers from the top European clubs, Tigana stayed with Bordeaux until 1989, when Bernard Tapie's Olympique de Marseille gave him a chance to end his career on another high note (1989-1991). He won two more titles with OM, as well as narrowly missing out on the European Cup (Marseille lost to Red Star Belgrade F.K. on penalties in the final, Tigana came on as a substitute). In 1991 Marseille also narrowly missed out on the Coupe de France, losing to Monaco in the final (1-0)! 

Despite major successes as a manager (Olympique Lyonnais, A.S. Monaco, Fulham F.C., Beşiktaş J.K., then Shanghai Shenhua after leaving Bordeaux), Tigana left a sense of unfinished business from his time as head coach of the Girondins, resigning before the end of the 2010-2011 season. As he put it, the circumstances did not allow him to fully honour his commitment to the club. All differences aside, Jean Tigana will forever remain a club legend.  

An incredible record with the Girondins

 Champions of France in 1984, 1985 and 1987
 Runners-up in 1983 and 1988
 Coupe de France winners in 1986 and 1987
 European Cup semi-finalists in 1985
 Cup Winners' Cup semi-finalists in 1987
 Third place in the Ballon d’Or vote (France Football) in 1984
 French footballer of the year (France Football) in 1984.


> Read more about Jean Tigana's illustrious international career <