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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 12:02 GMT
Uncertain welcome awaits Ginola
David Ginola
A sight Spurs fans will miss, Ginola in full flight
According to Wednesday's backpages, one of this country's most popular French exports, Spurs winger David Ginola, is set to return home.

Marseille are reportedly interested in signing him to replace Arsenal-bound Robert Pires.

But while this news is sure to be greeted with a degree of sadness in England - particularly among regular visitors to White Hart Lane and his legion of female admirers across the country - in France word of Ginola's imminent arrival will provoke mixed reactions.

For some French football fans it will be Ginola's overdue return from exile, while for others it will be a return to the scene of a crime.

Despite the unprecedented success the French national team have enjoyed since 1998, there are still many that cannot forgive the 33-year-old showman for his part in France's failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.


  Ginola Factfile
Born: Gassin, 25 Jan 1967
Joins local club Toulon in 1985
After spells at Racing Paris and Brest, joins Paris Saint Germain in 1992
Wins 1 French championship, 2 Cups and 1 League Cup
Signs for Newcastle in 1995
Wins 1996 Hairstyle of the Year award
Joins Spurs in 1997, wins Leage Cup in 1999
16 French caps
Having led Paris St Germain to the French championship in 1994, Ginola was duly voted French Footballer of the Year and French Players' Player of the Year.

But if this season was the pinnacle of his achievements at club level in France, it was also the nadir of his international career.

With France carefully playing out a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria at the Parc des Princes, safe in the knowledge that a single point would be enough to take Les Bleus to the US, Ginola, a late substitute, attempted a typically ambitious pass to Eric Cantona.

The ball was intercepted, Emil Kostadinov scored, Bulgaria, not France, qualified and everyone blamed Ginola.

Scapegoat

Branded the "assassin of French football" by the press and barracked by fans across the country, it was no surprise when Ginola followed the other half of that ill-fated attempted pass, Cantona, across the Channel.


David Ginola
Ginola's Waterloo against Bulgaria
Signing for Kevin Keegan's attack-minded Newcastle side in July 1995, Ginola immediately set about winning the hearts of the Geordie faithful and repaying the 2.5m transfer fee.

Having narrowly missed out on Premiership glory in 1996, Keegan walked out not long into the following season and was replaced by Kenny Dalglish.

Despite the apparent similarities in their playing styles - an eye for goal coupled with creativity - Ginola, the charmer from Gassin, near St Tropez, never saw eye-to-eye with the taciturn Glaswegian Dalglish.

So it came as no surprise when Spurs manager Gerry Francis gave the club a perfect leaving present by signing Ginola for the bargain fee of 2m in July 1997.

After a slow start in north London, Ginola played an instrumental role in saving Spurs from the ignominy of relegation.

Lillywhite legend

The following season Ginola was everywhere. On the field he repeated his 1994 trick by scooping both the sports writers and players' Player of the Year awards, as well as inspiring Spurs to a League Cup triumph.


David Ginola
Ginola was dropped for last season's finale
And off the field he delighted the nation with his BBC TV performances during the 1998 World Cup, starred in the now legendary L'Oreal shampoo adverts and showed up at every media event in town.

Perhaps the best indication of his popularity in this country came when he was appointed to take up the work Diana, the Princess of Wales, had started with the Red Cross Anti-landmines campaign.

But despite his high media profile and continuing success on the pitch, Ginola appears to have run into his bete noir again, the implacable opposition of a defence-minded Scot - in this case current Spurs manager George Graham.

So with Marseille desperate to sign a flair player to replace the departed Robert Pires, the draw of his native southern France might be too strong to keep Ginola in exile, regardless of the painful memories that night in Paris in November 1993 might hold.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 |  Tottenham Hotspur
Marseille confirm Ginola interest
16 Jul 00 |  Tottenham Hotspur
Graham's plea for patience
11 Jul 00 |  Aston Villa
Villa's Ginola tonic
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