Why Christian Gourcuff of FC Lorient Is Ligue 1's Most Underrated Manager

Nicholas McGeeContributor IMarch 6, 2013

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A number of Ligue 1 managers have received praise in recent years for achieving success with limited budgets; however, one top-flight boss his slipped under the radar despite establishing one of France's smaller teams as one of the better footballing sides in the league.

Indeed, Rudi Garcia and Claude Puel have been the subject of much acclaim for turning Lille and Nice into exciting and vibrant attacking sides with youth at their core, but one manager who continues to go unrecognized is Lorient's Christian Gourcuff.

Fifty-seven-year-old Gourcuff re-joined the Brittany club for his third spell as boss in 2003. At the time, Les Merlus were struggling to achieve promotion from Ligue 2 just a year after securing the greatest triumph in their history, a 1-0 win over Bastia in the 2002 Coupe De France Final.

It took Lorient just three more years to engineer a return to Ligue 1, and the shrewd and intelligent Gourcuff has since set about working his magic in guiding Lorient to a string of excellent league finishes.

The Bretons were impressive in their first season back in the top division, as then-young guns Jeremy Morel, Christophe Jallet, Mickael Ciani and 21-year-old Andre-Pierre Gignac helped them to secure a mid-table place.

Gourcuff's youth-driven coaching philosophy continued to bear fruit, with the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Morgan Amalfitano and Kevin Gameiro inspiring Lorient to a seventh-place finish in the 2009/10 season, a campaign that is undoubtedly the highlight of his time in charge.

Gameiro can be perhaps considered Gourcuff's star pupil. The striker netted a stunning 43 goals in two seasons for the club, but financial constraints forced him and Amalfitano to follow Koscielny—the defender who moved to Arsenal in 2010through the exit door before the start of last season.