Last season, 29-year-old Frenchman André-Pierre Gignac netted 21 Ligue 1 goals for Olympique de Marseille, only bettered by Lyonnais wonder-kid Alexandre Lacazette, who scored 27.
However as his contract expired in late May, Gignac made the unusual career choice of moving to the Americas and signing for Mexico powerhouse Tigres UAN. Despite having numerous offers from European clubs of decent standing, Gignac moved to a club with a much less reputable league.
The question is, did Gignac move to Tigres for money? Or rather did he move due to the fact that Liga MX is, despite what most Europeans think, a very decent league?
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Originally born in Martigues in the south of France, Gignac made the move north at a very young age to attempt to make it as a footballer. This led André-Pierre to signing for the youth team of Brittany based FC Lorient in 2002 at the age of 17.
Gignac would go on to make his first team debut for then Ligue 2 side Lorient two years later in 2004. In his first game against Châteauroux Gignac scored the winning goal within seconds of coming on as a substitute. A definite sign of things to come.
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Following a growing reputation in French football and 11 goals in 51 appearances for Lorient, Gignac made the move upwards to then Champions League side Toulouse FC in the summer of 2007. However this signing was not without difficulties, having initially agreed to sign for Lille, until Toulouse FC offered twice the amount of money per week than originally offered.
Despite initially struggling with lack of form due to Swede Johan Elmander often being preferred instead of him and fluctuating weight issues; in the 08/09 Gignac found his quality which had persuaded Toulouse to sign him in the first place.
After three years and 34 goals for Toulouse Gignac continued his rise through French football, this time signing for globally renowned Olympique de Marseille for a sum of £11.3 million. During his time at Gignac his form again, heavily fluctuated, often having successful seasons such as the 13/14 one, scoring 22 goals in 44 appearances, yet having truly poor seasons like the 11/12 one, scoring just two goals in 27 appearances.
And after his most successful season at Marseille, scoring 23 goals in 38 appearances, Gignac let his contract run out so that he could join Tigres UANL.
That brings us to the present day.
Why Tigres UANL?
This move to Mexico is what truly begs the question, why Tigres? Why not a European club, after all it had been rumoured that sides like Galatasaray had been interested in him.
I mean don’t get me wrong, Tigres are a good solid side, having won Liga MX three times. And not only that but they boast a phenomenal fan base. Tigres’ fans are world renowned for their passion and desire. Think of Borussia Dortmund’s fan base and stadium atmosphere but in Monterrey, Mexico.
Benefits for Gignac?
It is at this point that the move westwards starts to make sense for Gignac. Tigres not only have a great fan base and stadium, but are also very rich. Tigres are owned by the third biggest cement company in the world, CEMEX.
A company worth roughly $34.9 billion. Tigres are not simply owned by an incredibly rich company, CEMEX pours money and investment into the club; it is not the simple case of Tigres being owned by a company but not seeing the financial benefits, quite the opposite and the signing of Gignac proves this.
So we have established that Gignac will be earning a decent wage, and one can imagine that the economic gains will probably go further in Monterrey than it would in Marseille.
But as much as money speaks, it makes complete sense for a player so dependent on fan support and confidence to sign for a team that is renowned for its passionate fans. The Tigres supporters will get behind Gignac and he will reward them with goals, he is a quality striker; this can already be seen by netting five goals in his first seven appearances for the Monterrey side.
A negative move for Gignac?
It can be argued that this was a negative for André-Pierre, as this significantly lessens his chances of breaking into the French international side and adding to his 21 appearances and five goals.
But it would have been very difficult for Gignac to break back into it anyway, especially with the breakthrough of Alexandre Lacazette, combined with the form of Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann.
There can be little doubt that Gignac will have in part moved due to the financial offer from Tigres; especially having demonstrated a tendency to prefer money, seen with the Lille/Toulouse debacle.
However, for such a confidence/fan based player, it makes complete sense to go to Mexico; at Tigres he can thrive and experience a new culture of both life and football. I say fair play André-Pierre and I wish more players moved out of their comfort zones.