Why ex-Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny's return to France hasn't worked out

Such weird and wonderful events happen in the transfer window. In France, certain players are being ordered to leave before they have even found a club for which to sign.

Last week the Bordeaux president and owner Gerard Lopez phoned the agent of club captain Laurent Koscielny and told him his client was no longer wanted. The 36-year-old former Arsenal skipper has not, it is understood, provided the standards of performances on the pitch or leadership off it the club expected of him. Bordeaux want him out before the end of the month.

Koscielny played 51 times for France. He is Bordeaux’s highest-profile player. The story caused a stir.

Two days on, the former Gunners defender had his say. ‘They gave me no reason for their decision,’ he told French sports daily L’Equipe. ‘They just said it was their new strategy.

‘It’s a slap in the face. But I’m a fighter and I’ll continue to fight. In training, I’m still giving my all.’

In such impasses, PR machines whir into action. To intimations that have somehow made their way into the press that he enjoys a tipple with friends and family on his days off, Koscielny drily replied: ‘Of course I like wine. I live in a wine region.’

Bordeaux are 19th in Ligue 1. Only St Etienne sit below them in the standings. Koscielny has admitted he could have played better this season.

If form was the only metric that mattered, however, the entire squad would be up for sale. So what’s the real reason behind Bordeaux banishing him?

Money, of course. Koscielny signed for Bordeaux from Arsenal in 2019, when the club was under different ownership. Then Covid-induced income losses and the collapse of a TV deal hit French football.

When the owners for whom Koscielny signed pulled out last summer, the club nearly went under. New owner Lopez is scrabbling to make savings. Projected 2021-22 losses are estimated at between £33million and £54m.

Revenue raising is the priority. Koscielny’s contract belongs in a different era. Five other Bordeaux players have been told to find new employers. One of them, Nigeria winger Samuel Kalu, agreed this week to join Watford for £3.5m. For the balance sheet, it’s a start.

The on-pitch impact is another matter. Last weekend — without Koscielny — Bordeaux lost 6-0 at Rennes. It was the club’s heaviest league defeat since 1986.

Bordeaux are one of France’s great clubs. In the 1980s, under future World Cup-winning manager Aime Jacquet, sides containing midfield greats Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana won three league titles.

A young Zinedine Zidane thrilled fans when Bordeaux reached the 1995 Uefa Cup final. Under Laurent Blanc, ‘les Girondins’, as they’re known — a reference to the Gironde region in which Bordeaux is based — were crowned champions in 2009.

Such glories are a long way off. Relegation is a likelier prospect now.

Wherever he watched last weekend’s match — if, indeed, he watched it at all — Koscielny might have concluded a fresh start elsewhere would be welcome.

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