Gaëtan Laborde living the dream with Bordeaux
While most can only dream of representing their childhood club at the highest level, local lad Gaëtan Laborde is excelling at Girondins de Bordeaux.
The 22-year-old striker has enjoyed a break-through campaign at Les Girondins, with 11 goals and four assists making him their most productive attacking player.
"Of course it's a source of pride for me and my whole family," Laborde told the Ligue 1 show on beIN SPORTS. "As a youngster from the region, my aim was to become a professional, and if possible with Bordeaux. It's the biggest club in the region, a big club in France and even Europe, so of course I'm extremely proud."
A native of the rugby-mad region of Aquitaine, the 1m80-tall forward's frame might have lent itself to scrumming, but trips to Bordeaux with his father to watch Les Girondins ensured Laborde developed an early passion for the beautiful game.
"Those will remain great memories," said Laborde. "And to now be on the pitch myself, well sometimes you don't really realise, I was once the boy in the stands blown away by the extraordinary experience. It brings you back down to earth to see kids feeling how I felt ten to 15 years ago."
Laborde was recruited to Bordeaux's youth academy in 2008 at the age of 14. That was a special season for the club, who would go on to win the Ligue 1 and Coupe de la Ligue double under Laurent Blanc.
"When I joined, Bordeaux had a brilliant generation that won the league title. They had a terrific Champions League run the next year too, when they were knocked out by Lyon in the quarter finals. We were all big fans of those players and they made us even hungrier to succeed."
Laborde went on to play above his age group year upon year, earning call ups to the French international youth teams. But at 19, he left the comfort of home for a loan spell with Red Star FC in the third tier of French football.
"Bordeaux is a real family club, a very well organised club," continued the striker. "You know everyone where you are and it was the first time for me that I'd joined a senior side, a first team set-up. It helped me grow and gain maturity and for me that was a very good year, and I think that without it, I wouldn't be where I am now."
Laborde excelled at Red Star, scoring 14 goals in 26 appearances, before experiencing a second, less successful loan spell with Stade Brestois 29 in Ligue 2. In 2016, the Bordeaux boy returned home, ready to make his mark, but chances were few and far between under the then coach Willy Sagnol.
"Even in the difficult moments, you think to yourself that you're doing the job you've always dreamed of, and I think for a footballer it's very important not to lose sight of that, or you can completely lose touch. I wanted to give it a shot at Bordeaux for the first six months. I said to myself that having been away for two years it could well have been my time. I felt good. I had the feeling that I'd become a better player, and that I'd progressed both technically and tactically, and it's true that leaving again allowed me to exploit that, and to prove to myself that I was right."
It was second-tier Clermont Foot 63 who reaped the benefits of a powered up Laborde, with the bustling left-footer netting eight times in 18 appearances and continuing to grow both as a player and a man.
"I viewed every single loan spell as a learning curve. That's what's important: to progress, to overcome obstacles, and now I'm using all experience on the pitch."
Already a father of two, Laborde is mature beyond his years, and he admits his family provide him with an important balance.
"It allowed me to feel settled, to put certain things in context. But also to speed up the process of understanding and decrypting the adult world. I think it's always been important for me to have such responsibility."
"When I returned I could feel a new cycle at Bordeaux was beginning, with a new coach, a number of senior players leaving and a younger group taking over. The coach [Jocelyn Gourvennec] was honest with me, he told me that if I could replicate the form I'd shown in Ligue 2 then I'd have a part to play this season, he stuck to his word and I'm very grateful to him for it."
Laborde was handed a first league start on the opening day of the season against AS Saint-Étienne. With less than 15 minutes gone the blossoming young forward opened his side's account for the term, putting in a man of the match display to help FCGB to a 3-2 win.
"It was an amazing day, my whole family was there, the stadium was full and it was against Saint-Etienne, who are a big side, so of course for me it was completely unforgettable. You think to yourself: 'I can be a big part of this side, I can win games for my team' and of course that gives you great confidence."
That day set the tone for a season in which Laborde has become Bordeaux's top scorer. His performances have been such that he has been lauded by club legends and fans alike as the striker that the club has long been waiting for.
"I hope I have what it takes! I give everything on the pitch to be able to anyway. I think every player needs ambition, and mine needs to be channelled towards that."
In his attempts to make his mark in Bordeaux's history, Laborde has already warned his Olympique de Marseille-supporting brothers that he could well be at the Matmut Atlantique for some time yet.
"They're very proud of me," concluded Laborde. "They follow my progress and I think they celebrate a Bordeaux goal more than they do an OM one these days!"
Bordeaux host Marseille on the penultimate day of the season. If Laborde can keep up his goalscoring form his brothers might find they have little choice when that fixture rolls around.
>> PLAYER PROFILE: Gaëtan Laborde
>> CLUB PROFILE: Girondins de Bordeaux
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