Patrick Battiston, "the right choice"
A legendary Bordeaux defender
Patrick Battiston occupies a unique place in the history of football in France, and further afield.
First and foremost because throughout his long career as a player, coach and manager, he was an exemplary sportsman and a man of honour, and of course because of his enviable haul of trophies at both the club and international levels. And also because, quite by accident, he ended up on the front page of every newspaper, TV news report and radio bulletin in the world. And it all happened a long time ago, in an era when football was rough-and-tumble but respectable, a far cry from the level of play we are now accustomed to at the very top level. It was an era which left a deep impression on those who lived through it...
An intriguing prospect
Patrick Battiston had it all: artistry (in defence), poise, talent and class. Of course he would go on to carve out an impressive international career, but before all that he was a promising young lad picked up by the Girondins de Bordeaux in the early 1980s. Under the leadership of president Claude Bez and his dynamic leadership team, the Girondins were starting to become a force to be reckoned with in European football. Ambitious, crafty and ofen victorious. Not to mention stylish. At the very least the moustachioed boss seemed to have banished the memory of the lacklustre 1970s, when Bordeaux only once finished above 10th place (5th in 1970-1971) and very narrowly avoided relegation to the second divsion (finishing 16th in 1977-1978).
Things had changed, and the future looked bright for the boys in navy blue. With the Girondins regularly finishing in the top 3 or 4, the club had plenty to offer potential new recruits.
In 1982-1983, Bordeaux finished second behind a mighty F.C. Nantes team. Managed by Aimé Jacquet and captained by Alain Giresse, this was a Girondins team with attitude and appetite. Their run in the UEFA Cup (today's Europa League) ended in the round of 16, but their performances did not go unnoticed. Battiston could not help but be intrigued…
Already tapped up after France's heroic (yet heart-breaking) performance in the 1982 World Cup (a France squad which featured a large number of Bordeaux players – René Girard, Alain Giresse, Bernard Lacombe, Jean Amadou Tigana, Marius Trésor and Gérard Soler), Battiston decided to stay for one more year at the other club vying for top spot in the French league: A.S. Saint-Étienne. His close friend Michel Platini had headed off to Turin to join Juventus, but Patrick decided to honour his contract with the team he joined in 1980, after seven years as a young player with F.C. Metz. So it was not until the 1983-1984 season that the epic story of Battiston in Bordeaux finally began…
Precocious, reliable, multi-talented
Battiston already had a reputation as a remarkable, athletic footballer (standing 6'1" tall and weighing 77 kilos), who won his first senior cap for France in 1977, at the age of 19. By the time he arrived in Bordeaux he was an old hand at a young age, playing at full back. Left or right, he didn't mind! But he also had the natural intelligence and experience required to become a solid central defender. Flexibility had always been one of his biggest assets. Having won the league in 1981, came second in 1982 and reached the final of the Coupe de Francein both seasons over in St-Etienne, when he finally made the move to the south-west he wasn't entirely sure which position he would end up playing… "Bordeaux came looking for me, but they wanted me to play at left back. At Saint-Étienne I'd spent the season playing sweeper, but Bordeaux had Marius Trésor! It was tough because I couldn't see myself taking his place, nor that of Léonard Specht… Let's just say the position wasn't really for me... but Bordeaux insisted and I ended up agreeing." Battiston admits, a few decades down the line. From there, it all went very quickly… "I played one game on the left, then I switched to the right and pretty soon I ended up in the centre because, unfortunately, Marius was injured… That injury turned out to be pretty bad, so I kept my spot in the middle… I thought moving to Bordeaux was going to be difficult for me, but I'm still here today!" Because after 35 years in the south-west, "Baptiste" is still here, even if a few things have changed…
In Battiston's first title-winning season with the Girondins, the game which sealed the triumph was a 4-1 victory over Rennes in his new home, Bordeaux's Stade Municipal. So emphatic was the Girondins' performance that day that two of the defenders scored (Marius Trésor and Thierry Tusseau, adding to goals by Bernard Lacombe and Hassan Hanini), with the visitors' only goal coming from Yannick Stopyra, a talented centre forward who would go on to play for Bordeaux (1989-1990), and who would also join Patrick on the Girondins' back-room staff in 2012…
Already a fan favourite at Lescure, Battiston was a league winner in his very first season at the club, having played 36 matches out of 38. That legendary squad featuring Delachet, Ruffier, Thouvenel, Tusseau, Specht, Trésor, (Raymond) Domenech, Rohr, Girard, Martinez, Memering, Giresse, Tigana, Lacombe, Müller, Hanini, Zénier et al. also played in Europe that season, but fell at the first hurdle against F.C. Lokomotive Leipzig (C3). But next season was very different indeed: Bordeaux made it all the way to the semi-final of the European Cup (C1/now known as the Champions League). They lost that semi-final to Platini's Juventus, but Battiston scored an absolute screamer from thirty yards in the home leg! But in spite of that unforgettable team performance (2-0), the Girondins could not quite overcome the 3-0 deficit from the first leg. It wasn't all bad news that season, though, since the Girondins won the league for the second consecutive season! "For various reasons I decided to move to Saint-Étienne… for a new adventure. I made the right choice coming to Bordeaux, or Bordeaux made the right choice by taking me… Let's put it that way!" Battiston remembers, and we'd be hard pushed to disagree.
Giant among giants
255 appearances (including 24 in European competitions) and 14 goals (including 11 at home) in two spells at the club: very respectable statistics. Battiston played for Bordeaux from 1983 to 1987 and again from 1989 to 1991, with a successful spell at A.S. Monaco in between; in his first season in the principality he won the league again, just pipping Bordeaux, and in the second season Monaco finished 3rd and narrowly lost the Coupe de France final to Marseille (4-3). Adding to his already well-laden trophy cabinet, Battiston won the Coupe de France twice with the Girondins (1986 & 1987) – although he only played once in the 1986-1987 cup run – and reached another European semi-final (Cup Winner's Cup) in 1987, when the Girondins lost out to F.C. Lokomotive Leipzig, again…
Despite narrowly missing out on another league title in 1990 (the Girondins were pipped to the post by Monaco!), Battiston still has one of the most glittering records in French football, and is one of only three players (along with Bernard Gardon and Alain Roche) to have won the first division title with three different clubs (he won it 5 times overall)!
While there is no doubt that the formidable attacking stars of that classic Girondins squad played a major role in the club's success, Patrick Battiston was indisputably a major architect of one of the finest spells in the club's storied history. He was the lynchpin of the impenetrable defence on which Bordeaux's all-conquering style was founded. Over the course of six seasons here in Gironde, playing alongside Delachet, Tusseau, Trésor, Domenech, Specht, Thouvenel, Dropsy, Bell, Lizarazu, Sénac, Dogon, Ayache, Rohr, (Zoran) Vujović, Girard and Tigana, among others, he was the cornerstone of the "Bordeaux defensive style" – the benchmark at that time.
Always one of the first names on the team sheet, for Aimé Jacquet, Raymond Goethals, Gernot Rohr and Gérard Gili, his class, technical capacities, ability to read the game, laser-precise tackling, meticulous tactical mind and wealth of experience made him an indispensable asset and a model for his team-mates. Battiston was an inspiration to many young talents in his playing days, but also during his coaching career. Rarely injured and impeccably professional in his approach to the game (in a club career which ran from 1973 to 1991, racking up 678 matches and 45 goals in all competitions), he was the defensive general at the heart of a team that Bordeaux fans will never forget. Since hanging up his boots Patrick Battiston has continued to be a pillar of our club, serving as Director of the Academy, Marketing Director, Director of Youth Football, Reserve Team Coach and U17 Coach over the years. What a career! Throughout it all he has remained true to his character: open, approachable, competent, experienced and respected. A living legend of the club who has earned the lasting respect and admiration of his peers and players.
Patrick Battiston's trophy cabinet
With the Girondins de Bordeaux :
French Champions 1984, 1985 & 1987.
With France :
Euro 1984 Champions