Like my son Evan, I kicked a ball as soon as I started walking. There’s also a rather mythical photo of me that my mother cherishes: I’m just over two years old, bottle in hand and left-handed spanking. Becoming a striker then came very quickly. As a kid, I loved drawing faces on my friends. That annoyed me. I also lived 100 meters from a stadium and there was a concrete wall that you usually play tennis against. I chained the strikes above. It’s always been my thing: scoring goals, working on the gesture, working on my shot technique.
Ever wanted to switch roles?
It happened to me to go to the goal. I liked diving. Even today I sometimes go there at the end of a training session, also with the French team, but in my mind it was always more about scoring than preventing a goal.
“I tried to imitate Shevchenko. At some point I even wanted to race like him. He had his own look with his hips… The problem is that we don’t have the same morphology at all, so it made no sense! »
Was it the same with your brother Romain?
My brother was in the youth selection between his 14 and his 16-17 years. He had forty selections with the French team. He was once in the same generation as Titi Henry, David Trezeguet, Nico Anelka. He was my hero, the village star. Every time we passed people on the street with my mother, we were told that this was the pride of the area. Destined for a great career, he even gave me my first French team outfits, which I had apparently rolled up fifteen times. That there is this little race for the goal record in the French team with Thierry Henry is also a nice wink (with his 49 goals he is two lengths away from record holder Ed). My brother and Titi had lost touch and one day when I was playing at Arsenal they found each other as if they had never left. Romain was already visiting Titi in New York back then, joined AS Monaco’s medical staff as a nutritionist when Titi was a coach there… In the end, thanks to me, they got back together.
Henry, did you see him as the ultimate role model for a striker?
It was definitely one of my first references, although my number one role model has always been Andrei Shevchenko. There was also Roberto Baggio at the 1994 World Cup: these are my first memories of the World Cup, there was no France, I have Italian roots and Baggio had a style, an elegance, something strong.
How is young striker Olivier Giroud doing all of a sudden? Does he copy?
Yes, I tried to imitate Shevchenko. At some point I even wanted to race like him. He had his own look with his hips… The problem is that we don’t have the same morphology at all, so it didn’t make sense. (Laughs.)
What were you looking for as a striker?
The adrenaline of the target. I understood straight away that I want to do that with my life and score, it’s also the first goal in football that wins a game. It’s also the hardest part, but I was immediately drawn to it. When I was little, we were two big players on my team: Jérôme and me. He was a defender, I was an attacker. In general, the higher the level, the more likely you are to go down a level. I never backed down.
Why do you think?
I think I had something innate: a good shot, a good position, the ability to keep a cool head in certain situations… I worked a lot, be careful, but I think I still have that strength. I don’t need to know where the target is when I’m in the box. I know exactly where he is, even if it’s fast. Also, if you look at it, a lot of my goals in the box were scored with one touch.
Does that explain your recent goal against La Spezia?
With this campaign, I’m pretty close to the goal. It is important to remain as concentrated as possible, to keep your eyes on the ball until the last moment and, above all, because such repetitions end up in the stands eight out of ten times, to use the right contact area in order to be able to aim the ball perfectly. With a view to La Spezia, I humbly accept it so well that the ball has no effect. If I succeed in this gesture, it’s also because I’ve managed to develop a sense of purpose, an attraction… In football, when we talk about technique, we often talk about a hook, a fake body, a step-over, a roulette, but getting in front of the goal is also technique and you have to work hard every day.
Have you ever done visualization work?
I was offered to do it, but no, I never did.
How do you live the fact of being in a time when your profile is said to be on the brink of extinction?
I hope that others will come after me target men because it’s a profile that helps the team a lot, which is useful, but I know that today we tend to prefer guys who go fast, who go deep, who are more explosive… Counter-example, there’s Haaland. We have a bit of the same physique, left foot, quality in the air, but he has that extra explosiveness. For a player of his size, that’s impressive.
Are there things you would take away from your attacking teammates in France?
Chez Antoine (Griezmann), his passing quality, the fact that he has one hand instead of one foot. I think I would take Kylian’s explosiveness (mbappe), absolutely, even if he can do many other things. karim (Benzema) also knows everything, but maybe I would take its technical ease in small spaces.
And you ?
I think Kylian could take my leadership game. Karim could maybe take my volley degree in front of goal, a gesture I work on a lot and sometimes disgust in training. (Laughs.) Griezi, I think he might take some of my power.
Being a striker is also the most thankless position. You can spend 90 minutes not touching a ball, winning a World Cup without scoring a goal, often it’s you who takes the whistle…
In fact, you are still in the spotlight. If you hit that’s very good, but if you don’t hit you’ll be the first to be pointed out. It’s like the guards, you’re exposed. After that I always liked it. I’ve never sought fame, but I’ve always been willing to take criticism. I wouldn’t change my position for anything in the world. It’s hard to explain how it feels to score a goal against La Spezia in the last minute. When that happens you forget yourself, and you forget yourself so much that you blush. (Laughs.) You cannot feel such emotions while doing something else. Also, we recently spoke to Zlatan about it, that’s what we’ll miss the most when it all stops. That’s why we persevere as long as our body allows us.
“When you score a goal in the last minute you forget yourself, and you forget yourself so much that you take a red. We recently spoke to Zlatan about it, that’s what we’ll miss the most when it all stops. »
Did you have a big relationship with Ibrahimović?
We often talk about everything and nothing. After the game against La Spezia I told him that I don’t think he’s seen it before: the guy who scores and then blushes! We do a lot of tinkering together. We’re still five years apart and he knows I was a fan of his as a teenager. By the time I was 17, he had already become Zlatan.
Do you think we don’t always understand the intricacies of your position? For example, we tell ourselves that in 2018, after the World Cup, you would have liked to have had a palette to explain to everyone what you did to help the French team.
Yes, although I will not repeat the course. Come on: I’ll come in against Australia and do the double with Paul (pogba). Against Peru, if Kyks doesn’t push them, I might score. I give him an assist against Argentina. Behind it, it’s a job to undermine the defence, I help open up spaces and in the end there’s nothing better than being world champions, even if it’s certain that there are always those little flaws becomes. I tell myself that I have to score with a little more speed against Belgium. After that it went on. Now I’ve read people saying I never scored in the final but I scored against Switzerland in 2014, scored three goals and even provided two assists at Euro 2016. .. I even have a bronze shoe at home because I was the third-best scorer in the competition. In the end there is also this goal record, which is not an obsession, but stays warm in the back of my mind.
If you only need to pursue one goal, what is it?
You’re going to answer me anyway. (Laughs.) It’s the Scorpio versus Crystal Palace (in January 2017, editor’s note), obviously because it’s a crazy thing. At half time I see the slow motion and the boys say to me: “Do you realize what you’ve done? » I think I’ve seen it 50 times and I’ve tried it many times in training, but everything has to fit together, everything has to be perfect. It’s necessary that it’s a right-hander that puts you in the middle, that the ground is a little wet so that the ball can melt on your heel… I was touched by mercy. I wanted to do this gesture, acrobatic stuff, that’s my thing, but it was crazy like that. It is also necessary to have hip flexibility, balance, to have maximum success. Once again everything is perfect.
“It’s true that I eat kiwis every morning, but dancing, no, that’s not a strength at all. »
Have you always had this flexibility?
Always, and I stretch so hard not to lose her. In Italy they recently reiterated that I did contemporary dance at STAPS. In an article they wrote: “Giroud’s secrets are eating kiwis and dancing. » I eat kiwis every morning, but dancing, no, that’s not a strength at all. (Laughs.)
How is your relationship with the goalkeepers today?
Quite a strong relationship, even if here, now, they’re crazy anticipating certain situations because they know me inside out. Hugo (Lloris) is smart because he’s generally not the one who does the work in front of goal with us. We only do that with our goalkeepers the day before games and often with Steve, Mike or Alphonse, but when Hugo is there he sometimes regrets being around. (Laughs.)
Interview by Maxime Brigand and Mathieu Rollinger, at Clairefontaine