Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose can not find their way through. With the game over 90 minutes into the match, Bayern Munich are still 1-0 down against Bordeaux and look forward to another defeat in as many weeks against the 1st division champions, this time at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern’s latest effort goes badly and the ball is driven back up the field. Anywhere will suffice for Laurent Blanc’s men. Hans-Jörg Butt hurries out to meet him, but Marouane Chamakh fixes the ball first. Bordeaux’s top scorer turned to the goalkeeper with a nimble touch before putting in an empty net to double his men’s lead after the opening of the first half for Yoann Gourcuff. Bordeaux are now well at the top of the Champions League group and have avenged their defeat to Bayern in the 1996 UEFA Cup Final.
Things were going well for Bordeaux at the end of 2009. They had topped their group in the Champions League and added a victory against Juventus with a double victory over Bayern. The team, which featured Gourcuff, Chamakh and Argentine striker Fernando Cavenaghi among many others, was well on its way to retaining the French title. What followed in the next five months was a crippling crash. They fell to sixth place in the league – completely lost to Europe – and lost to Marseille in the Coupe de la Ligue final, which led to the flight of their stars and managers this summer.
As sour as the spring was, it pales in comparison to the downturn that Bordeaux has been in the decade since. Bordeaux is currently on the verge of bankruptcy. Earlier this month, DNCG – the financial regulator of French football – ruled that the club did not have the means to look ahead to the next season. Accordingly, they downgraded Bordeaux to the third division of French football, awaiting an appeal next week.
To reach this point, Bordeaux has put together a whole host of disastrous seasons, each worse than the last, with ownership, managerial change and universal incompetence at all levels. In the early years of their landslide, there were short hours of rest. An admirable performance in the upper middle of the board under coach Francis Gillots kept the ship afloat during the transfer window. The peak was undoubtedly reached in 2013 when they won the Coupe de France final against Evian – which, in the classic case of the nomination decisions, was stopped a few years later.
This year marked the beginning of Bordeaux’s role as Ligue 1 comedian. The club decided to take advantage of the animal’s popularity at its next home game and dress it up on the pitch before losing 3-0 to Nantes. Another dubious highlight was when midfielder André Poko was fined and then pushed out of the club after taking a selfie while smoking shisha while wearing the arch-rivals’ shirt in Marseille.
The procedure took a very sharp turn for the worse in the period 2017-18, the roller coaster campaign. Disastrous results this autumn led to the dismissal of football manager Jocelyn Gourvennec at the turn of the year. Jérémy Toulalan, the club’s captain, terminated his contract due to protests. Bordeaux faced an unstable situation and decided to ignite chaos by hiring Gus Poyet. Uruguay’s passionate government seemed to be working, despite the threads it had at its disposal. He led the club back into Europe after a spectacular second half of the season.
Behind the scenes, however, there was a change in ownership. The long-term owners of M6 wanted to put the club’s management, which had not been run profitably for several years, in safe hands. Negotiations with the US investment fund GACP were confirmed, but the sale took place in November 2018, 14 months after the first contact.
The standstill affected the club’s transfer contracts as no deals took place until well into August, following the £ 36.5m sale of Brazilian winger Malcom. The striker was reportedly formally announced as a Roma player and was flying to Italy when Barcelona’s 11-hour offer was accepted, much to the displeasure of Giallorossi. More players left. Home-grown striker Gaёtan Laborde was sold to Montpellier despite Poyet telling the board specifically not to let him go, prompting a press conference after the Europa League qualifier, in which Poyet called the club a “shame” and claimed they had notcojones“To tell him the truth.
After Poyet resigned the next morning, the club recruited Thierry Henry to the board, before finally deciding to bring back Ricardo, who had previously been in power in the mid-1920s. When it was revealed that the Brazilian did not have the required coaching qualifications, physiotherapist Eric Bedouet took up (again) a temporary position that lasted until Paulo Sousa arrived in 2019.
Sousa was in charge of 12th place in the 2019-20 season, which was cut due to the pandemic, before Jean-Louis Gasset – Blanc’s former assistant – took over the reins. Meanwhile, GACP and President Joe daGrosa were pushed out as their partners and majority shareholders of King Street bought out their minority stake. Upon his arrival in 2018, the confident DaGrosa had set the goal of returning to the Champions League within three years. His plan has not worked out.
In the 2020-21 season, French football was hit by the financial impact of the pandemic, the early end of the previous season and the collapse of their broadcasting contract. Bordeaux’s precarious position was added towards the end of the campaign when the owners, after preventing a collapse, indicated that they would no longer invest in the company.
The atmosphere, which was already cramped following fan protests against the club’s president Frédéric Longuépée, took a toll. The ensuing turmoil caused the club to be temporarily relegated to Ligue 2 while a number of takeover bids were made. The winner was Gérard Lopez, a Spanish-Luxembourgish businessman who had just left Lille without much to worry about. Lopez, a donor to the Tory party and a member of Vladimir Putin’s party, is facing charges of forgery in Luxembourg, which he denies.
This period has, in an impressive way, managed to surpass all the others for pure chaos. Swiss manager Vladimir Petković was brought in for what turned out to be six months, but the group was improved with eight horrors. On the field, Bordeaux finished last in Ligue 1 and scored 91 goals in the game, the only highlight being the 10-0 Coupe de France victory over a team from the foreign island of Mayotte.
The club sued its shirt sponsor, an online betting company, for making jokes at their expense on social media. The gap between the Lopez-backed ultras and Benoît Costil exploded in a loss for nine-man Montpellier, as the goalkeeper spoke to the leaders of the supporters’ group, who later accused the player of racism. The club’s decision to drop experienced players such as Costil and Laurent Koscielny did nothing to improve, unfortunately. It has been especially difficult to get rid of Koscielny given that the contract draws him to the club from Arsenal. Instead of selling him or terminating his contract, the club has given him the role of ambassador to fulfill his five-year contract.
Negotiations are underway between Lopez and creditors on the company’s debts. The € 10 million that Lopez’s company, Jogo Bonito, brought to the table, the sale of a share in Ligue 1 broadcasting rights and parachute payments should go a long way to reducing the issue – but DNCG wants the deficit to be rectified immediately. Bordeaux has a week to raise 40 million euros, or at least provide a credible roadmap on how they can raise that amount. Lopez is desperate to avoid the third division, saying: “With its infrastructure and costs, this club cannot survive in National 1. There are basically two possible outcomes: either the club stays in Ligue 2 or it ceases to exist.
French football is no stranger to fallen giants, but to see Bordeaux – the six-time French champions who were once home to Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Zinedine Zidane – disappear into irrelevance would be the biggest shock to date. As more and more clubs are sold in the midst of a financial recovery in Ligue 1, Bordeaux’s case shows how fragile the structure of French football can be despite this emerging gold rush, as well as the damage that sales to the wrong bidder can cause.
Bayern Munich has also won its 10th Bundesliga in a row.