Briand: 'Cavani the player I most admire'
EA Guingamp welcome OGC Nice to the Stade de Roudourou with six points to make up on the European chase; but with Jimmy Briand drawing inspiration from Edinson Cavani, anything is possible…
Briand may turn 33 in August, but the powerful forward had been aging like a fine wine in Brittany, with a team-high six goals and two assists in Ligue 1 Conforama this term to help his side into a comfortable 11th place, with no relegation drama in sight.
A Coupe de France winner with Olympique Lyonnais in 2012, Briand also has five France caps to his name, but the forward's favourite game remains his first: a top-flight debut with Stade Rennais FC in 2002, against the mighty Paris Saint-Germain.
"My first game in Ligue 1 [is my fondest memory]," Briand told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "I was just 17, and as a Parisian, coming on at the Parc des Princes in front of my family to face Ronaldinho and all the big names at PSG, it really was the best moment!"
"I have played against lots of great players," he continued. "But I would say the best of them all is probably someone I met in that very game, Ronaldinho. He was so impressive, especially on my debut."
Briand's greatest successes came in his time with Lyon, whom he helped qualify for the UEFA Champions League twice in his four seasons at the club, but it is Rennes who have pride of place in his affections.
"All the lads I was at the Rennes academy with, we all turned pro together," Briand reflected. "Whether it was Yoann Gourcuff, Arnold Mvuemba, Jacques Faty, Moussa Sow or Jires Kembo; we grew up together and all had the same dream. It was great to sign professional terms alongside them."
"The coach I clicked with most and I improved the most under, was Frédéric Antonetti," explained Briand. "I like his vision of football, and he's the coach who convinced me that I could play on the right. In my mind, I was purely a central striker."
Briand's spell out wide - each of his appearances for Les Bleus between 2008 and 2014 saw him line up beside another, more central striker - is long since over, and his 12-goal haul in Ligue 1 Conforama last term helped vindicate Antoine Kombouaré's decision to restore him to his original position. For Briand, though, there is one exemplar in the role.
Watch: Briand and his happy habit of overhead kick goals!
"As a forward, the player that I admire most is Edinson Cavani," he beamed. "He gets criticism but he's an amazing striker who scores brilliant goals and gets back to help his team. That's how I like to play too, so hats off to Cavani!"
Briand has scored 82 senior professional goals at club level - all but three of them scored in Ligue 1 Conforama, with the outliers plundered in a single season with Hannover in Germany's Bundesliga, but his favourite goal came in that golden era at OL.
"It was against Nancy at the old Stade de Gerland," he said. "It was the fourth goal of the game, a scissor kick from 12 yards. A dream goal! An important game for me was a derby between Saint-Etienne and Lyon. I scored in the final seconds and I'm loved in Lyon to this day for that!"
A cult hero at both Rennes and Lyon, if Briand keeps scoring the way he has been of late, he could earn the same status with Guingamp in double-quick time. A tilt at Europe is still possible for the Bretons. Nice have been warned.