Ligue 1: Bordeaux count on Gourcuff effect
Unlike Olympique Marseille or Olympique Lyon, Ligue 1 champions Girondins Bordeaux stayed very quiet on the transfer market but their efforts to make Yoann Gourcuff's stay permanent could prove a bargain.
The France playmaker, instrumental in helping his team capture their first league crown in 10 years in May, scored twice when Bordeaux started the defence of their title with a 4-1 win over Racing Lens last weekend.
The 23-year-old Gourcuff, whose elegance and skills have prompted comparisons with the great Zinedine Zidane, knows all eyes will be on him again when Bordeaux visit Sochaux on Saturday (1700 GMT).
"He will have a great season with Bordeaux and France," Girondins coach Laurent Blanc, not a man to waste time on praise, said of Gourcuff.
"He's very generous and ready to suffer for the team," Blanc told reporters. "That will pay off."
Marseille, who purchased notably midfielder Lucho Gonzalez and defender Gabriel Heinze, both Argentina internationals, from Porto and Real Madrid respectively, were regarded by many as favourites when the season kicked off last weekend.
Their 2-0 win at Grenoble suggested they would be dangerous but maybe not as much as Bordeaux, especially if Gourcuff can repeat his dazzling opening performance.
Lyon, who spent over 70 million euros ($100 million) on reinforcements in a bid to recapture the title they lost to Bordeaux last season, managed only a 2-2 draw at Le Mans in their first game and might struggle to reinstate their supremacy.
Bordeaux, by contrast, concentrated on keeping their best players, exercising their option to buy Gourcuff, who was on loan from AC Milan, for a reported 15 millions euros.
Gourcuff, named best Ligue 1 player by his peers last season, already looks exceptional and could still improve.
"He's got the engine of a Rolls Royce," Bordeaux fitness coach Eric Bedouet was quoted as saying by French sports daily L'Equipe.
Marseille will face their first real test on Sunday (1900) when they welcome northerners Lille, who finished fifth last season.
Lyon, who needed a last-minute free kick by new signing Lisandro Lopez to escape defeat at Le Mans, have a seemingly easier task at home to Valenciennes on Saturday (1700).
The opening weekend suggested, however, that the title favourites should be Bordeaux, who set a Ligue 1 record against Lens with their 12th consecutive victory, counting their impressive run in the second part of last season.
"What we have to do is keep the same spirit we had last season," Bordeaux's Brazilian midfielder Wendel told reporters. "We're in the lead already and we want to stay there as long a we can."