Bordeaux broke a French top-flight record when it won the league title in 2008-09, winning its last 11 games to jump four places and overturn a six-point deficit. At the time, it was as though a perfect storm had descended over
It helped that Lyon was coming to the end of its cycle of success and that Marseille was not yet ready to step in, but in truth, the success came down to two men who united at the perfect time:
Two seasons later, both men have left the club -- Blanc is France coach and Gourcuff moved to Lyon for a French-record $35.5 million -- and now Bordeaux is adjusting to a new reality. For only the fourth time in club history, it lost the first two matches of the season, and was dangerously close to the relegation zone until last week's 2-0 win over Gourcuff and Lyon lifted it into mid-table.
"If we had lost that game, it would have been a catastrophe," new coach
Tigana was part of France's "
Tigana won the subsequent court case for wrongful dismissal but insisted the trial cost him a chance of becoming France coach after Euro 2004.
"Without a doubt, that weighed on peoples' minds when it came to the moment of choosing the France coach," Tigana told the sports daily
He later claimed the French federation was racist because he did not get the job. (It went to
Tigana won the Turkish Cup in a two-season spell at Besiktas, but he had been out of work for three years when Bordeaux, where he had spent eight years as a player, appointed him to replace Blanc this summer. It was quickly apparent that the club was on a downward spiral. Bordeaux was in first place after Week 30 last season, but won only two of its final 10 league matches and finished sixth, out of the European qualification places. It also lost
The new signings, strikers
Tigana has emphasized the inheritance left by Blanc, claiming that his players' confidence was at rock bottom when he joined, and that the club's form, especially away from home (where Bordeaux failed to win a league game last season after Jan. 20), was relegation material. The team is also getting accustomed to a new way of playing. While Blanc encouraged attacking football at all times, Tigana is more cautious and prefers to adjust his tactics according to the opponents.
At the moment, inconsistency is Bordeaux's biggest problem. It has done well against Paris Saint-Germain (winning 2-1) and Marseille (1-1) but slumped against less-fancied sides, like the opening-day loss to Montpellier. The win over Lyon came after a toothless 2-1 defeat to Nice, after which Triaud told reporters: "We looked like an amateur team and that simply cannot continue."
Not that Tigana's job is under threat at this early stage of the season. He is in for the long haul, according to club owner
"The players have had their contracts renewed and now have to regroup around the coach," he told
The problem is, Bordeaux's squad is so different from the one that won the title two years ago that a top-three finish is a tough ask this season. As the club comes to terms with its new status, it may not be too long before we look back at the Blanc-Gourcuff era as the exception at Bordeaux, rather than the rule.