Nearly six years ago, Andre-Pierre Gignac unexpectedly left Europe and established a legendary status in Mexico. Today, he and his teammates at Tigres will play the FIFA Club World Cup final against Bayern Munich.
* Bayern – Tigres: 1am, Friday, February 12.
Before Tigres, in the history of the FIFA Club World Cup, the tournament for the championship of the continents, no team from the CONCACAF region had reached the final. The success of the Mexican team is imprinted with the mark of a striker that was once considered out of date: Andre-Pierre Gignac.
In 2015, at the age of 29, Gignac moved from Marseille to Tigres. At the most beautiful age of the player’s life, the fact that Gignac gave up one of Europe’s top five championships to join a poorly known club in foreign football was a big surprise. Instead of picking up a football team in a peaceful European city, he chose Monterrey – a city so dangerous that American defense officers were banned from traveling by car.
Gignac is not really a poor striker. In 2010, he was a member of the French team to attend the World Cup. After the tournament in South Africa, his career went wild. Marseille immediately recruited a French player and after 155 games for the port city team, Gignac scored 59 goals. In the last season alone, Gignac scored 21 goals, created twice in Ligue 1 and ranked above famous strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Edinson Cavani in the race of top scorer.
Many teams then covered the red carpet to invite Gignac, including Inter. But the striker, born in 1985, shocked everyone when he decided to play for Tigres.
Liga MX is a competitive tournament with many international players (mainly from America – Latin) but very few players from Europe. The French, who are at the peak of their career like Gignac, are almost nonexistent. The European Foreigners are largely Spanish players because they and Mexicans share the same language.
The Mexicans also do not have much concept of Gignac. Jose Francisco Torres, the mainstay of Tigres at the time, admitted he had to go to Youtube to learn more about his new teammate. The combination of the two brings many doubts.
However, Torres must admit his surprise at Gignac’s level: “The first time I saw him playing on Youtube, I knew this was a killer striker. He is indeed a boxer killer. “
Indeed. After nearly six years, Mexicans must see Gignac with a different eye.
That shocking transfer also became the most important turning point in Tigres history, if comparable, as well as when Man Utd recruited Eric Cantona. The presence of Gignac completely changed the history of Tigres. Sheet Goal even claimed that Gignac had a place in Mexico’s sporting culture, and called him the country’s football legend.
With owner Gignac, Tigres won the Liga MX four times, and most recently the CONCACAF Champions League – a form of Champions League for North and Central America teams. Gignac also became the club’s greatest striker of all time with 145 goals, and is aiming for the top 10 bombers in Liga MX history even though he has been here for five years.
Before Gignac came to Mexico, Tigres was just a mid-range club. With Gignac, they have grown to become big men not only in Mexico but also in North America. In the last five seasons at CONCACAF Champions League, Tigres reached the final four times but lost three. Only the latest season of 2020, Tigres won the Cup, thanks to the brilliance of the 35-year-old striker.
He was the top scorer that season. More importantly, Gignac scored the decisive goal, bringing the title to Tigres in the 84th minute against Los Angeles FC. Gignac’s final goal released the pressure on players and fans alike, of a team that had won everything but the Cup.
“In the end …” said Gignac, breathing after the game. “… we won that damn Cup.”
It is not too much to think that Gignac’s goal has brought Tigres to a new level, a position of the continental champions. With the French striker, he officially established a legendary position with the Mexican team, although in the subconscious of the Tigres fans, it has been acknowledged for a long time.
After the CONCACAF championship, Gignac shined again when Tigres attended the FIFA Club World Cup. The Mexican team defeated Ulsan Hyundai and Palmeiras respectively to reach the final against Bayern. They scored three goals in the tournament, and all three belonged to Gignac.
Now they have a chance to make history for not only Mexican football but also the CONCACAF region. The club world championship is only one match away from Gignac and Tigres. But in front of them is a really big mountain: Bayern – the most appreciated team in the world right now, where the best FIFA player last year was Robert Lewandowski.
But football cannot be attractive without surprises. Few people think Tigres will beat Bayern in the evening of February 11. But the number of people who think Gignac will play football in Mexico and then become a legend in this country is probably even less.
Gignac’s career is not just pink
Gignac reaped many career glory but also had moments that haunted this player, especially the missed opportunity to bring the Euro 2016 Silver Cup to France. 90 + 2 minutes when France was drawing with Portugal 0-0 in the final, Gignac overpowered, dribbling to eliminate midfielder Pepe. Gignac’s narrow angle shot beat goalkeeper Rui Patrico, but the ball hit the column.
If Gignac scores, France will surely be the champion when the extra time has run out. Until extra time, France lost after Eder’s only goal on the Portuguese side. Missing this opportunity is still Gignac’s haunt. He once shared a few years later: “The first week after that game was terrible. It will be bleak for the rest of my career. I thought about the joy of my teammates, of the people because it was already. 90 + 2 minutes. It was difficult, but the footballers all understand this feeling “.