PROFILE | Gaëtan Laborde: The new Olivier Giroud

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While Olivier Giroud continues his one-man international campaign to save the unheralded big man up front who can hold the ball up, play clever lay-offs and score goals, another striker continues to do a similarly impressive job in Ligue 1. Despite a slightly disrupted year featuring a change of club, Gaëtan Laborde is maintaining a high level of performance which, like his compatriot, is gaining him a reputation as a model of reliability.

Like Giroud, a relatively late bloomer who was 22 by the time he became a regular at Bordeaux, Laborde showed enough promise over a couple of seasons at the Matmut to attract Montpellier. In three years at the Mosson, the left-footed Laborde developed into a multi-purpose striker who could be relied on for goals while acting as a foil for the more centrally-placed Andy Delort, allowing Laborde to drift to the flanks, freeing space for Delort or creating for himself room to cut inside.

In summer 2021, upwardly-mobile Rennes saw Laborde as a pivot around whom the likes of Martin Terrier, Benjamin Bourigeaud, Jérémy Doku and Kalmadeen Sulemana could orbit and, playing centrally for the first time, Laborde excelled. In his most productive season, he scored 15 goals and provided eight assists in Ligue 1, also notching five goals in the Europa Conference. Although the 2022 half of last season was a little quieter, adding only six league goals.

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However, as Rennes brought in Arnaud Kalimuendo and made a play for Amine Gouiri while Terrier and Bourigeaud both received pay raises, Laborde saw his game time may be reduced. Despite starting the season with two goals in four matches, when Nice came calling with the promise of more football, and higher wages, Laborde couldn’t refuse.

It has taken a while for Nice’s revamped team to settle. Still, Laborde has more than played his part in Nice finally pushing their way into the top half of the table. While Delort, with whom he has been reunited, has struggled for form and fitness, Laborde has been a reliable servant, starting either alone up front, in a two or at the centre of a three. His three goals in seven starts – including winners against Lorient and Brest – have played a big role in steadying the ship.

Laborde may not be as bling as Delort, or as renowned as Nicolas Pépé, but he is proving again that he is a very safe bet, wherever and for whomever he plays.

Jeremy Smith | GFFN