René Girard, a "real" footballer!

Midfielder played a key role in Bordeaux's golden era

René Girard a midfielder renowned for his ruthless tackling and elegance on the ball, was a key pillar of Aimé Jacquet's legendary Bordeaux team of the mid-80s.

Old clichés die hard, and René Girard is not quite the man some old-timers would have you believe. He still has something of a reputation as a hard man, though that was merely one aspect of his game...

Girard joined the Girondins de Bordeaux in 1980 and left in 1988, going on to a successful career as a coach and international manager.


But when he arrived in Bordeaux at the age of 26, from his first professional club Nîmes Olympique, he already had something of a reputation to live up to. Girard was known as a hard man, imbued with some of the battling spirit long associated with Nîmes. But Aimé Jacquet, himself only recently arrived in Bordeaux, knew that in Girard he had discovered a player of rare talent. Temperamental, certainly, but also ruthlessly efficient. And of course, the "Vauvert devil" could do much, much more than just tackle and retrieve balls. His capacity to raise the level of play among his team-mates, and in particular his crucial support work for Alain Giresse, rapidly made him a fan favourite at the Stade Municipal. Superb with the ball at his feet and a proven leader, he also scored his fair share of goals. In eight seasons with the club he scored 25 goals in 303 appearances in all competitions. Not bad for a player often wrongly dismissed as a defensive hardman!


Navy blue is the colour, not red!

René Girard (80-88) - 7 sel - 1981

For his Girondins debut at Parc Lescure he was named in the starting line-up against the legendary A.S. Saint-Étienne side featuring Michel Platini, Patrick Battiston and Johnny Rep, on 24th July 1980 (1st game of the Division 1 season). A baptism of fire which ended in a clear victory (3-0) over the team who would go on to win the league that year.
His first yellow card in Bordeaux colours came a few days later, in the second game of the season against reigning champions Nantes (a 1-0 defeat). His first goal came on 12th September against A.S. Nancy Lorraine (2-0)… But what about his reputation as a bad boy? When did he get his first red card, for example? Well, that first sending off came on 4th October... 1986, when he received two yellow cards in a 2-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain - six full years after his arrival in Bordeaux, on his 224th appearance for the club! In fact, that was to be the only red card he would ever receive with Bordeaux. But still, the stubborn myth of Girard the hard man persists... He may have been demonstrative and hot-headed at times, but he was always totally concentrated on his football. Along the way he established himself as one of the best midfielders in France (throughout virtually the whole decade) and became a regular with the French national team, featuring in the 1982 World Cup in Spain with a number of his Bordeax team-mates.


Trophies, values, goals

Having trained as a tiler in his youth, Girard rapidly proved himself to be the mortar holding the Girondins together! Hard-working, demanding and passionate, but also loyal and faithful, this dedicated Number 6 occupied a key role in one of the greatest sides in French football history: French Champions in 1984, 1985 and 1987 (runners up in 1982 and 1988), winners of the Coupe de France in 1986 and 1987. The playmaker/attack dog also featured in the European Cup (C1) semi-final in 1985 (against Juventus Turin F.C.) and the European Cup Winners' Cup semis in 1987 (against F.C. Lokomotive Leipzig). Epic adventures which would live long in the memory of Bordeaux fans. René was promoted to captain the Girondins in 1986, when Alain Giresse departed for Marseille.


Girard himself would later finish his playing career back where it started, in Nîmes (1988-1991), but it was here in Bordeaux that he ascended to legendary status. And yet, that persistent misrepresentation of his playing style still niggles on occasion. In his own words, speaking to magazine So Foot recently:

"If people want to say that I played hard, that's fine. But I scored over 50 goals from midfield, and not just any goals: volleys, bicycle kicks..."

Girard's tough reputation was not entirely unfounded, and he certainly played upon it on occasion in the interest of intimidating opponents. But it all stemmed from a few isolated incidents, combined with his undeniable talent and the passion with which he represented the club and its values: a surgical precision in his tackling, the refusal to back down, solidarity (always providing "protection" for his playmaker partners), a combative spirit, a sense of honour and team-work, endurance, resilience… Not to mention his superior capacity to retrieve possession and clear danger, and his gift for passing, shooting and heading the ball. In the words of the great Aimé Jacquet, he was "indispensable" to the team. Just like Jean Amadou Tigana, his midfield partner from 1981 onwards…


A hard man and midfield artist rolled into one, over the course of his long career René Girard played 434 professional matches and scored 60 goals, and will forever remain an icon of the Girondins de Bordeaux. Chronically underestimated over the years, Girard was one of the finest defensive midfielders that this club, and indeed this country, have ever known.  Make no mistake about it, René Girard was a "real" footballer… 

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His record with France

Girard, nine months and one world cup!

The first time that René Girard was called up to the France senior squad was for a 1982 World Cup qualifier, against Ireland at Dublin's Lansdowne Road on Wendesday 14th December 1981. France lost that game 3-2, in front of a crowd of 55,000… François Bracci was the only other Bordeaux player on the field that evening
This was to be the first act in a relatively short international career, during which Girard earned a total of 7 caps: one in a friendly against Northern Ireland (a 4-0 victory in Paris) in March 1982, followed by 5 consecutive appearances at the 'Mundial' 1982. He approached each and every one with his trademark professionnalism. Playing in 5 of France's 7 matches in that World Cup (against England, Kuwait, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland) is obviously quite an achievement, and an indication of the esteem he was held in by France coach Michel Hidalgo. Competing with Jean-François Larios and Jean Tigana for a place in the team, René had to dig in and work hard.

"I thought it was marvellous!"

Alongside fellow Girondins Alain Giresse, Bernard Lacombe, Gérard Soler, Jean Tigana and Marius Trésor, Girard took the opportunity to observe and learn. As he told Girondins Mag in July 2012, on the thirtieth anniversary of the tournament: "The momentum I'd built up with the Girondins earned me a place in the France squad, and I thought it was marvellous. It was a great World Cup, even if, sometimes, it's hard to deal with being... not exactly excluded but... especially for a match like that semi-final (against West Germany, a 3-3 draw which ended with France losing 5-4 on penalties, ed.)… Up in the stands you feel miles away! Being on the bench puts you a bit closer to the action (…), but in those days you were only allowed sixteen players on the team sheet, the six others had to sit in the stands. It's a bit like being locked out (…). But it was still a very intense experience… » 
What Girard omits to mention is his goal against Poland in the 3rd place play-off on 11th July. Perhaps out of modesty, or perhaps he'd rather forget that game altogether (France lost 3-2)... "We came so close to doing something extraordinary," he mused a few years ago; and the same could also be said of his own personal career with the national side…

In spite of an increasingly stellar career with the Girondins, Girard was never again called up to the France squad. He found himself shut out by the so-called "magic four" formed by the addition of Luis Fernandez (60 caps, 6 goals) to the established trio of Platini-Tigana-Giresse (with Bernard Genghini also an occasional member).

*Patrick Battiston, then an A.S. Saint-Étienne player, would join the Girondins a few weeks later.

Collective and individual honours

With the Girondins de Bordeaux

  • Champion de France 1984, 1985 and 1987
  • D1 runners-up 1983 and 1988 
  • Coupe de France 1986 and 1987
  • Challenge des Champions en 1986
  • European Cup semi-finals 1985 and Cup Winners' Cup semi-final 1987

With France

  • Fourth place at World Cup 1982
  • 7 caps and one goal, 1981 - 1982.