The iconic French sports newspaper L'Equipe, which boasts some of the best sports writing I've yet come across in a daily journal), devotes about a page, sometimes two, to the rumblings of Ligue 2 football, Ligue 1's little brother, during the season.
During my academic year abroad in Paris in 2009-10, I began sifting through print copies of L'Equipe at every possible opportunity. While I didn't linger too long on the Ligue 2 news, there were some trends that caught my eye.
Evian Thonon-Gaillard, then in France's third division (which earned them even less press) were making an inexorable rise up the standings. They earned promotion that season to Ligue 2, and then in the following season, they finally reached the promised land of Ligue 1 in 2011-12, where they finished an impressive ninth.
Considering that the club, as it is now known, was formed in 2003 as the result of a merger, their ascension is nothing if not extraordinary.
The other morsel of news that kept knocking on the door, wishing to be known, was a certain Olivier Giroud, who was then a young striker with Tours.
While the team's campaign was nothing special—they finished an underwhelming 11th—Giroud's name kept popping up in the scoring box for the game recaps.
By the time the season had wrapped, Giroud had 21 league goals to his name (24 if you count all competitions), and he'd begun attracting the attention of some of Ligue 1's mid-level clubs.
Montpellier, who had defied the odds (and their sparse budget) in 2009-10 by making numerous runs at the winner's podium—they occupied the top spot as late in the season as April—before eventually finishing in fifth, eventually won the race to sign Giroud.
While the deal was made official in January 2010, Montpellier loaned Giroud back to Tours for the remainder of the season. Giroud didn't make his official debut for his new club, then, until July 29 in a Europa League qualifying match against Hungarian side Győri ETO.
Giroud scored in that match, setting the tone for what has been two seasons filled with goals in southern France (he has 39 in 86 appearances, all competitions).
The man from Chambery, a town nestled in the shadow of the Alps in southeastern France, is what some might call a late bloomer (he's 25 years of age).
Inhabitants of that region are known as Savoyardes, a name derived from a particular tarte filled with ham, cheese and any number of rich ingredients. It seems an apt description for Giroud's career path.
It hasn't always shown exponential growth, but there's every reason to believe it will be filled with good things, like that tarte, in the years to come.
Montpellier got their man for just €2 million back in 2010. He's reported to be headed to Arsenal for a fee in the realm of €12 million. Even if that is a bargain given Giroud's untold quality, it's still quite a tidy bit of business.