AC Milan striker Olivier Giroud claims he would have signed for Celtic in 2010 if it hadn’t been for ex-Montpellier president Louis Nicollin.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea star says he had four offers on the table when he was still playing for Tours FC; one of which was Celtic. He could imagine himself playing at Parkhead but a conversation with Nicollin swayed his thinking on whether or not to join the Hoops:
“I felt invincible that season. I scored 23 goals in 40 games and was the top goalscorer. I won the Ligue 2 Player of the Year trophy and my salary increased to €15,000 per month. The phone started ringing and several clubs were interested in me. Montpellier and Monaco, but also Celtic and Middlesbrough. My agents were working flat out to get me the best contract at the best club. 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. But in the meantime, my agents Alain and Guillaume come up with the idea of approaching Louis Nicollin, the now much-missed chairman of Montpellier.
“They advised me to take his call and told me, ‘You are free to decide which club you want to play for, but you should listen to what he has to say’. Flattered that this legend of French football wants to speak to me, I agree. 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 all right – you’ll be happy’. He explains his club’s strategic plan in great detail. His star striker has left and Nicollin assures me I will be No 1. I’m becoming more and more tempted by his offer. I ended the call asking if I can think about it for a little while, but I already know my future lies with this club.”
It is very much a case of ‘what might have been’ when it comes to Giroud. The striker has gone on to win 110 caps for France, scoring a record 46 goals, as well as winning a World Cup in the process.
His physicality and individual skill mean he would almost certainly have been a success in Scotland. It must be pointed out that he only spent a couple of years at Montpellier anyway before Arsenal came calling, so you can imagine a similar scenario would have happened if he had joined Celtic.