Ludovic Giuly: The “Magic Elf” continues to cast his spell
Nick Roberts looks at the career of Ludovic Giuly – one which has gone full circle – never forget where you come from.
In 2013, Ludovic Giuly finally returned to the club that he had left 19 years before – it may not echo the historic arches of the two virages behind the goals at the Gerland nor the colossal Nou Camp where he represented Europe’s elite, but no other place could be as aptly described as home for the attacking midfielder.
At the ripe age of 39, the former French international continues to don the yellow strip of his first club, Mont d’Or Azergues, or Chasselay as they are often called, who are currently playing in the CFA. In fact, his undoubtedly prominent career has now culminated in him turning out in his very own eponymous stadium for the fourth tier club – the Stade Ludovic Giuly in the small town of Chasselay on the northern periphery of Lyon.
Indeed, that distinguished career was kick-started in the capitale des Gaules, where he was dubbed the “magic elf” due to his small stature, and sprightly, skillful approach to the game. A move to Monaco then materialised. He starred in the principality – jinking his way down the right side continuously to great effect, and was a key component as the les Rouges et Blancs reached the Champions League Final in 2004.
That summer, the attacking midfielder made his first foray abroad – Barcelona was the destination. It was during his time with the Catalan club that he secured that elusive title in Europe’s premier competition; however he was eventually usurped by Lionel Messi on the right side of Barça’s attack.
A less successful period followed at Roma, before the Frenchman returned to his homeland. He would represent PSG, and a successful partnership flourished between tartgetman Guillaume Hoarau and himself – the latter recently reiterated the great degree to which he enjoyed that double act. A return to Monaco came to pass for a season, before a final opportunity in professional football was offered to him at Lorient for a sole campaign.
I have not yet mentioned Giuly’s time representing les Bleus; it is an awkward piece in his career jigsaw which does not seamlessly slot in alongside the glowing status he earned at club level. Despite being a hugely gifted midfielder, he was limited to a mere 18 caps. Injuries and rumours of Raymond Domenech taking very badly to a Giuly text sent to the coach’s girlfriend left an unfortunate blemish on that section of his time in the professional game that could not be washed away.
Giuly never had the chance to showcase his abilities at a major international tournament, but nevertheless, there was always one corner of the Rhône department that would closely observe every move he made from afar. He returned to Chasselay two summers ago – boots in tow – ready to play for his boyhood club once again.
The club had since merged with another, but the raw fabric remained the same, as did some of the personnel, including Giuly’s father, Dominique. When Ludovic started out, Giuly Sr. was a fellow team-mate, but he had moved upstairs to become vice-president. He outlined the sheer volume of his son’s donations as they prepared to face Monaco in a showpiece cup tie in 2014: “very few players do it. All the same, he has given around €1,500,000.”
Yet the monetary aid given by Giuly is not what is impressive here. The significant gulf that exists between those grand stages that he so often lit up and the rural, largely unpopulated Chemin des Alouettes where Chasselay’s home is situated highlights his deep connection to the CFA side, which goes beyond money. He vowed to the now late club president Gérard Leroy that he would eventually turn out once again for the amateur team. The man who now holds that position, Jocelyn Fontanel declared that “he never cut ties with the club and always came at least two times a year. It isn’t surprising that he kept his word.”
Last summer, Giuly became a player-coach as he eventually eases into deserved retirement and starts to pick up a few more knocks, yet that hunger evidently still remains deeply embedded within him, as he juggles that role with punditry responsibilities. “Every year, pre-season becomes that bit tougher, but for now, my legs are still going, and it’s for that reason that I will continue,” he said. The opportunity for one last big day in the sun no doubt still exists for Giuly, however he is an enigma: a top-class performer who only wishes to see his boyhood team promoted to the third tier of the French football pyramid.
For more of Nick’s work, follow him on twitter – @nick7_roberts