Govou: 'I didn't hesitate'
After a single season in Greece, Sidney Govou is back in France, but the former Lyon star hasn't chosen one of France's biggest clubs as his new home, preferring to start from the ground up with promoted Evian. Exclusive interview.
Sidney Govou raised eyebrows in France when he signed for the small club from the shores of Lake Geneva in the summer. At 32, the former France international has a long and impressive resumé - after graduating from the Lyon youth academy, he spent ten seasons in Ligue 1, scoring 77 goals and winning seven consecutive titles with Lyon.
Not to mention one Coupe de la Ligue, a Coupe de France, a Trophée des Champions, 49 caps and two World Cup campaigns with Les Bleus. The only dark spots on this otherwise glowing career were two subdued final seasons with OL and a year in Greece with Panathinaikos where the attacking midfielder struggled to impose himself in the squad.
And now Govou has signed onto an unexpected project, that of being part of a small club on the up-and-up, and he has done so without second thoughts, without worrying about appearances and without the slightest feeling of taking a backward step.
'I didn't hesitate'
"I simply don't see it that way," said Govou. "I didn't especially need to get my career back on track. I could have gone to a club overseas, I could have waited a bit longer to see what came up. But that's how I work. The first contact I had with the club was good, everything was very clear with the directors. I have to say that I didn't hesitate very long at all before signing on."
So convinced by Evian's sporting project was Govou that he agreed to a salary that is just a quarter of what he once recouped with Lyon, a deal sweetened by the club's commitment to helping him to move into other areas of football once his playing career comes to an end.
"I met a lot of lucid and dedicated people, who work hard and who know exactly what they're doing," said Govou of his first steps at his new club. "Even if, from the outside, everyone has the impression that it's a small club, in terms of how it functions, everything is very clear and well organised."
Naturally the club was very interested in bringing someone of Govou's experience and credentials into the squad as they took on their first-ever season in Ligue 1.
"When you see players like Sidney or Jérôme [Leroy] arriving at the club, you necessarily want to learn from their experience," said Govou's teammate, midfielder Cédric Barbosa. "In any case, I hope the young players take the opportunity to benefit from having them around, that they'll go to Sidney or Jérôme and ask for advice. They will surely make progress if they do."
Evian coach Bernard Casoni too is well pleased with the impact that senior figures Govou and Leroy have had on the squad since their arrival, the promoted club undefeated after two rounds and having tasted its first Ligue 1 victory, 1-0 at home to Nice in Week 2.
"Players like Jérôme and Sidney have no problem settling quickly into a new squad," he observed. "They are great players, but very humble people and I'm certain that they will bring a lot to the squad."
So, in theory, Govou is set to quickly become a key player at the promoted club, and with more game time than he saw last season - just 15 matches (one goal) for Panathinaikos - he should quickly rediscover his rhythm. But while he is hungry to get back amongst the goals, he refuses to make any predictions as to his personal performance this season.
'Perform well, help the team'
"Since the beginning of my career, I've never been into saying, 'I'll do this or do that this season', and I'm not going to start now," said the level-headed Govou. "What I'm interested in is performing well and helping the team to beat the drop, because that's our primary objective this season. If I can set up a lot of goals, then so much the better, but if I set up fewer goals and help us to avoid conceding, then better still."
>> PLAYER PROFILE: Sidney Govou
>> CLUB PROFILE: Evian-Thonon-Gaillard