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Leaving France for Mexico: André-Pierre Gignac’s surprising move

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is fair to say that Olympique de Marseille are a club in trouble, with something of an exodus from the Stade Vélodrome this summer leaving the south coast outfit in confusion.

Opinionated coach Marcelo Bielsa captured the headlines when he decided to call time on his project in France after only one game of the new season, handing in his resignation following a 1-0 home defeat to Caen on the Ligue 1 opening day.

The outspoken trainer’s departure follows a host of star players, with the likes of Dimitri Payet, Giannelli Imbula, Florian Thauvin and André Ayew all choosing to move overseas.

However, the deal that has raised the most eyebrows of those leaving Marseille in recent times has been André-Pierre Gignac’s decision to join Mexican side Tigres UANL.

By no means a player in the twilight of his career at 29 and surely good enough to feature in England or another top European league, the Central American destination was seen as something of a surprise.

Gignac had his most lethal season in five years at Marseille last term, finishing as Ligue 1’s second highest goalscorer with 21 strikes – only Lyon hotshot Alexandre Lacazette netted more.

Capped 21 times by his country, the versatile forward’s decision to leave the immediate gaze of national selector Didier Deschamps is somewhat strange given that Euro 2016 is less than a year away.

After five years at the Vélodrome and two Coupe de la Ligue successes, the time was right for the striker to leave the French club after plenty of speculation over his future during his time with Les Phocéens.

The quality in the Mexican Liga MX is not at the same standard as he would have experienced in Europe, but the move will certainly give free spirit Gignac an adventure and the opportunity to experience a different culture.

The France international has wasted little time in making an impact in Mexico, scoring four goals in his first three domestic games for the Monterrey-based outfit.

This included a hat-trick against Jaguares de Chiapas – only Gignac’s second treble in his career.

Upon signing for Tigres, the former Toulouse attacker admitted that he wanted to contribute in the ambition of making his new club the first Mexican team to win the Copa Libertadores.

André-Pierre GignacThe signs were positive that the 29-year-old could be a decisive factor, scoring in the semi-finals against Brazilians Internacional to fire Tigres into a highly anticipated competition final against River Plate.

Gignac played in both legs of the clash with the Argentines, but both he and Tigres drew a blank, falling at the last hurdle after a 3-0 defeat in the away leg gave the Buenos Aires outfit glory.

The Frenchman certainly will get the chance to be a real superstar in Mexico and moves to be a big fish in a small pond – something he clearly will thrive on.

He has become one of a number of high-profile players to step out for a Mexican club, both in recent times and over the years.

In days past the likes of Bernd Schuster, Mauro Camoranesi, Eusébio, Emilio Butragueño and Pep Guardiola have graced the Mexican top flight.

More recently, the likes of Ronaldinho, Raúl Tamudo and Juan Arango have all played in the Central American nation.

What makes Gignac slightly different is the fact that he is in his prime, a current international and that he will have spurned lucrative opportunities in Europe.

Whether the Frenchman’s decision proves to be a masterstroke or mistake remains to be seen, with Gignac’s hopes of representing his country on home soil next summer up in the air.

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