Thursday, December 2

‘A sign from heaven’ – Olivier Giroud on rejecting Everton and his link with Mbappé | Olivier Giroud

IIt may have felt like fate was making fun of Olivier Giroud. The forward has not been selected by his country since France’s failure in the Eurocup, and on Sunday The Blues They beat Spain in the Nations League final without him thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé, and all at Milan’s San Siro stadium, Giroud’s home since leaving Chelsea in the summer. But when the forward shows up for an interview on Zoom the next day, he’s a man at peace.

The 35-year-old has recovered from the back problems he suffered after a Covid-19 fight last month and hopes to return to action in Serie A this weekend. He is happy with his new life in Italy, where Milan signed him for his forward play, but also for his ability to serve as a positive example for the team’s many young players.

Giroud gleefully talks about his years at Arsenal and Chelsea. Sheds light on his relationship with Benzema, Mbappé and The Blues. And he explains how his deep Christian faith has always guided him; For example, he says that a spiritually inclined family friend received “a sign from heaven” suggesting he should unplug his move from Arsenal to Everton in 2017, and it has helped him overcome criticism throughout his career. That faith is a main theme of his recently translated autobiography Always Believe.

But let’s start at the end. Or rather, ask yourself if this is the end. Does Giroud have a future with France? “I don’t think I will ever say that I will retire from international service,” he responds. “If the manager needs me, I’ll go. I never asked Frank Lampard to play when he was at Chelsea, for example. When I wasn’t playing I was frustrated, but I kept doing my best and trying to help the team reach the goal. When i was supposed to go [a transfer to Internazionale was lined up in January 2020]I said, ‘Look, you’re not playing games with me, I’m the third choice, so let me go.’ But he said he would give me a chance. He gave me that opportunity and I did my job on the field, I scored eight goals in 11 games and helped the team to qualify for the Champions League.

Olivier Giroud scores Milan's goal against Cagliari.
Olivier Giroud scores Milan’s goal against Cagliari. Photograph: Insidefoto / LightRocket / Getty Images

“Now the same thing happens with the national team. It is simply that if the manager needs me, he will call me; if not, it won’t. I am 100% focused on Milan and being decisive and effective for my club. Let’s see what happens. “Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he adds:” Also, apparently N’Golo Kanté and I can have medals for the League of Nations. [despite not playing in the final stages] because we were very involved in the playoffs. So that’s a nice addition to my honor roll isn’t it? “

That honor roll already included a French title with Montpellier, three FA Cups with Arsenal and another with Chelsea, with whom he also won the Europa League and the Champions League. And of course he was world champion with his country in 2018. “So we can’t win the World Cup with Giroud at the helm?” France’s assistant coach Guy Stéphan told him after the referee missed full time in the final.

Giroud’s persistence in the face of skepticism is one of the reasons why he remains highly admired by fans of his former clubs, and also among the qualities that led Milan to hire him as an empowering influence on their young squad. “I left so many friends at Arsenal and Chelsea and when I meet people on the street and they say ‘thank you for what you achieved, we miss you’, it makes you feel like you’ve earned the respect of the people.”

Giroud scores with a kick to the Chelsea head against Atlético Madrid in Bucharest en route to Champions League glory last season.
Giroud scores with a kick to the Chelsea head against Atlético Madrid in Bucharest en route to Champions League glory last season. Photograph: Stefan Constantin / MB Media / Getty Images

Were any of those people among those who previously made fun of him or asked to be dumped? “If they were, they didn’t say it face to face,” he says. “When people criticize you, most of the time it is behind a computer or a social media account. I don’t look at much of what is said about me. I know when I have played well and when I am not doing well. When you read things, you need to know what to get out of the message: the most important thing is to grasp the positive things you can do, not pay too much attention to the negative ones. “

Sometimes criticism is impossible to ignore. Like the time in May 2016 when he was booed by France fans when he left the field despite scoring in a friendly win over Cameroon. Nothing Giroud was able to do that day, or on other occasions, could satisfy fans who did not like him because he occupied a place that they felt belonged to Benzema, who Didier Deschamps did not summon for five years for disciplinary reasons. “All my career in the national team I was opposed to him, playing against each other,” says Giroud. “You had the pro-Benzema and the pro-Giroud. I always said that I had no problem with him and that I loved playing with him, but it was a media thing to say that we were always fighting each other. It was never true. “

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He says he took the same attitude last year when Benzema responded to an invitation to compare the two forwards by saying it was a Formula One car and Giroud a simple kart. “That made me laugh,” says Giroud. “Obviously, when you’re chatting on a live social network and they ask you who is better, Benzema or Giroud, and you know it’s your fan, I had to say something like that. I thought it was pretty funny. Afterward, people on social media sent me so many pictures of him in a Formula One car and me in a go-kart with the World Cup, saying it was a bit of jealousy or whatever. But I didn’t say any of that. I took it all with a smile. “

Winning the World Cup with France in 2018 in Moscow.
Winning the World Cup with France in 2018 in Moscow. Photograph: Adrian Dennis / AFP / Getty Images

He also rules out talking about a dispute with Mbappé, insisting that the PSG forward’s displeasure with a comment made by Giroud during warm-ups for Euro 2020, apparently suggesting that Mbappé did not pass him enough, had nothing to do with the failure. of the team. perform during the tournament. “That was such a small thing,” he says. “He was a bit upset for a couple of days even though I explained that I wasn’t pointing my finger at him. He hadn’t wanted to be harsh on anyone. I had just answered a question in which a journalist said to me after the game: ‘Oh, you were very discreet but you scored two goals’. It’s always like they’re trying to piss me off. I just replied, ‘Yeah, maybe we could have met in a different way.’ That is all. The media tried to make it bigger and say it ruined the atmosphere between the team. But we go! We had a conversation between adults and it was not a problem. “

So what happened to France on the Euros? “Ah, what happened?” Giroud says wistfully. “We really wanted to win, especially after losing the final of Euro 2016 at home to Portugal, which was very painful. We had the strongest team on paper. We just lacked maybe a little calm against Switzerland [in the quarter-finals]. I really don’t know, but when you’re leading 3-1 with 10 minutes to go, it can’t happen that you concede two goals and lose on penalties. But that’s the beauty of football, everyone can beat the best team in the world. Nothing is written in advance. “

Giroud and Karim Benzema playing together in a World Cup match against Ecuador in 2014.
Giroud and Karim Benzema playing together in a World Cup match against Ecuador in 2014. Photograph: Franck Fife / AFP / Getty Images

Or is that it? When asked to expose the influence of his faith on his career, Giroud is not ashamed to speak up. “I believe in the story of Jesus in the Bible and that it is to bring us more humility,” he says. Suffering is a basic part of life. Build your personality as a human being. That’s where my mental strength comes from. I have always had to face difficulties, like everyone else in life. Nothing is easy in life, you have to grab it and get out of your comfort zone. My faith helped me every day, especially when I had to make important decisions. For example, in my book you can understand why I didn’t go to Everton and why I stayed at Chelsea instead of joining Inter. One thing I will tell you is that God has a plan for every person on Earth. We make our way and the Lord marks the step ”.

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In her book she details how she decided not to go to Everton or Inter after one of her mother’s friends, named Nicole, contacted her on both occasions to tell her about the prophetic dreams she had had, warning her that the maneuvers would not give her the forward the advantage. satisfaction I was looking for. Each time subsequent events suggested that the advice had been good. Giroud values ​​Nicole’s visions.

So, have you given him any other advice recently? “Well this is a first,” he says. “She said, ‘You’ll have to trust God regarding your future,’ and there was a kind of prediction that she wouldn’t make the national team this time. So many things that turned out to be true, I think they are signs from God in heaven. “

Always Believe by Olivier Giroud, available now from Pitch Publishing, priced £ 19.99.

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