Yoann Gourcuff, a man once dubbed as ‘Le Successeur’ to the great Zinedine Zidane, finds himself back in an all too familiar position. It is a position a million miles away from the heights his career was supposed to scale after bursting onto the scene as a precociously-gifted teenager at Rennes.
As reported by Ouest France, the 29-year-old – who remains without a club following his summer departure at the end of his contract at Lyon – is facing up to another three months on the treatment table with a fractured sesamoid bone in his big toe.
That Gourcuff is still a free agent at this stage may have come as a surprise to many onlookers, including the experts at betfair and those offering prices on the ‘next club’ of some of Europe’s most sought-after performers. But that picture has now become considerably clearer – and will not come as a great shock to those who have followed the enigmatic playmaker’s career at close quarters.
Be it bad luck, mismanagement or brittle bones, there is no getting away from the fact that a man once tipped to grace the very top of the game finds himself in a serious sporting limbo – with there no obvious answer to the questions regarding in which direction he will go from here.
The initial timescale put on his current period of rehabilitation will take him through to the end of the calendar year – once he has shaken off the knock and then returned himself to something close to full fitness.
Taking that into account, the likelihood of him being snapped up any time soon is remote, to say the least.
Only the very desperate would take a punt on a player who was set to be unavailable for almost half of the season – and those sides are probably not of the standard that a player of Gourcuff’s stature, even with his injury record taken into account, should be concerning himself with.
It may be difficult, but he needs to make peace with the fact that for the first time since seeing his obvious potential noted as a child, he is to find himself without an employer, and thus out of work.
This could be used as a positive, a motivational tool that ensures he returns sharper and hungrier than he has been for some time now.
He will, however, still be relying on an ounce of good will to be shown once the new year rolls around and he is back on the lookout for a new club and an income somewhere close to that with which he has grown accustomed – having once been the highest paid player in Ligue 1.
There has been plenty of talk of interest from Arsenal in the not too distant past, with Arsene Wenger clearly a fan of his fellow countryman and a coach with a penchant for loading his ranks with ball-playing, creative talent.
You get the feeling, though, that – even with no fee involved – there would have to be a serious injury crisis at Emirates Stadium for Wenger to offer an olive branch in Gourcuff’s direction.
Another Premier League side, in the shape of Watford, have also been credited with holding an interest, and subsequently seen such talk played down. But they may well be in the market for an injection of international quality in 2016.
They would probably join the chase, though, were they to find themselves in serious trouble towards the wrong end of the English top flight, and whether such a switch would make sense for either side of the deal is debatable. Watford would need someone they could count on to hit the ground running, and Gourcuff is hardly cut out for the blood and thunder of a relegation scrap.
His representative, Didier Poulmaire, claimed just a matter of weeks ago – to Le Parisien – that there are ‘at least a dozen clubs’ to have considered lodging an approach for his client, so he really shouldn’t find it difficult to get a contract when the right moment presents itself.
Gourcuff is, however, going to have to sweet talk a few potential suitors if his ongoing physical struggles are to be overlooked and he is to once again be handed the kind of stage his ability deserves, but one on which he has flattered to deceive all too frequently.