When Celtic nearly signed Olivier Giroud, stuff of dreams, legendary stadium, phone call, Kilmarnock contempt

On Sunday afternoon Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time top scorer with a goal in his country’s 3-1 win over Poland in the last-16 of the 2022 World Cup. It was his 52nd strike in 117 caps.

Twenty two more goals than Jean-Pierre Papin and Just Fontaine. Twenty one more than Zinedine Zidane. Eleven more than Michel Platini. Importantly, one more than Thierry Henry. If France were to make it past England then – more than likely – Spain to reach the final on December 18, the 36-year-old would be just three caps behind Henry, who currently occupies third-place on France's list of most capped internationals.

It is a feat which is all the more remarkable and impressive considering Giroud didn’t earn his first cap until he was 25 having never previously represented his nation at any youth level. In fact, he was still kicking about the second and third tiers of France’s football pyramid when he was 23. It was at that moment in his career a sliding doors moment occurred, one involving both Celtic and a French club president who held a contemptible view of Kilmarnock.

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The striker had struck double figures for three seasons running, the latest saw him score 21 goals in 38 Ligue 2 appearances for Tours. Such form had attracted interest from the French top-flight and the UK midway through the season. Monaco, Montpellier and Middlesbrough were keen and so were Celtic who presented Giroud with not only a highly attractive financial offer but the prospect of playing at Celtic Park and providing a route to the Premier League.

‘Stuff of dreams’

“My agents were working flat out to get me the best contract at the best club," he wrote in his autobiography.“My preference is Celtic and their legendary stadium, with its 60,000 capacity, is the stuff of dreams. I could already see myself there. Strategically, this club would be a great springboard to realise my ambition to eventually play in the Premier League.”

However, Montpellier chairman at the time Louis Nicollin, a combustible figure, had other ideas when Giroud was advised to speak with him. It was at that moment a possible move to Celtic, managed by Tony Mowbray at the time, started to unravel.

“Flattered that this legend of French football wants to speak to me, I agree,” Giroud wrote. “Listening to him, I realise how much this club wants me. Straight off, he says ‘What are you going to do in Scotland in KILCHMARCHNOCK!’ Mentioning the town of Kilmarnock is a slightly round-about way of bad-mouthing the whole Scottish championship. The chairman is desperate to persuade me not to sign for Celtic, who at this point are top of my list. He said, ‘Come to us, you’ll be alright — you’ll be happy’.”

Olivier Giroud became France's all-time top scorere with a goal against Poland. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Olivier Giroud became France's all-time top scorere with a goal against Poland. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Olivier Giroud became France's all-time top scorere with a goal against Poland. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Despite being offered more money at Celtic, he was assured of being Montpellier's No.1 striker, while his agents asked if he would like to leave his mark on Ligue 1.

Giroud would go on to help Montpellier win Ligue 1 before moving to Arsenal for around £10million. Chelsea and AC Milan would follow as well as a glut of trophies, including the Champions League, Serie A and World Cup.

In January 2010, Celtic instead signed Robbie Keane, Diomansy Kamara and Morten Rasmussen.



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