Olivier Giroud was forced to field questions about his past and his future.
As he reported for international duty with France, the issue of his supposed rivalry with Karim Benzema was dredged up again from five years ago.
Then there were questions about his next move after falling behind Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham in the striker pecking order at Chelsea. Surely, at 34, it was time to give up the fight and move to the MLS or something.
Olivier Giroud is poised to make his 100th appearance for France in the coming internationals
The Chelsea striker played an instrumental role when his country won the World Cup in 2018
But Giroud looks destined to a season warming the bench at Chelsea after falling down the pecking order behind new signing Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham
Meanwhile, in the present, Giroud is poised to make his 100th appearance for France in the next week, a monumental achievement for any footballer.
And, as those topics of interrogation suggest, he remains one of the most chronically under-appreciated players anywhere. Plus ça change.
It’s fair to say that Giroud is admired far more in his home country than in England, where he has come to be seen as something of a relic or a throwback. The last of the centre forwards in a game of acceleration.
Consequently, his game time at Chelsea has become increasingly squeezed.
Frank Lampard has handed him just 17 minutes of Premier League action so far this season, the rest of the time has been spent warming the bench and his prospects aren’t likely to improve anytime soon given the team’s attacking strength.
But Giroud is remarkably stoical about the situation. ‘I’ve written a book called ‘Always Believe It’ so I’m not going to go anywhere without a fight,’ he said this week.
‘I am convinced that I have a role to play at Chelsea. We will see in January.’
Giroud remains determined to fight for his place in the Chelsea team this season
Giroud scored a series of crucial goal to ensure Chelsea finished in the top four last season
He couldn’t have made a stronger case to Lampard during the final stages of last season. Having spent most of the campaign on the sidelines, Giroud regained favour just before the Covid-19 pause.
In Chelsea’s final 12 matches of the season – either side of that three-month suspension – he scored eight goals and played an instrumental role in ensuring Chelsea qualified for the Champions League.
To those who watch him regularly, his return of a goal every 83 minutes in Premier League action last season came as little surprise. Giroud found the net with one in every five shots fired.
While he’s never been the most exciting player to watch – you won’t see Giroud glide past three defenders like his France colleague Kylian Mbappe – he is the model centre forward.
He bullies defenders, holds the ball up well, wins the aerial duels and, more often than not, will get you a goal at some point.
Giroud barely featured in the first half of Lampard’s first season but then lit up the second
Giroud’s stats in the Premier League over the past five full seasons for Arsenal then Chelsea
For France, he struggled at Euro 2016 but then played an influential role at the 2018 World Cup
After all, you don’t play 100 games for your country by being utterly useless and doubly so if that country is a powerhouse such as France.
Giroud’s contribution to their 2018 World Cup triumph in Russia is often overlooked. In 456 minutes on the field across six starts, he scored three times and contributed two assists.
That France team certainly wasn’t short of flair players but what price can be put on Giroud’s physical play leading the attack?
Since making his national team debut at the late age of 25, Giroud has plundered 40 goals in his 99 appearances.
He is primed to overtaken French legend Michel Platini’s haul of 41 goals for Les Bleus and that would take him into second in the country’s all-time list behind only the 51 of Thierry Henry.
Yet there remains a school of thought that Giroud has only played so often for France because of Benzema’s exile from the team after his alleged involvement in attempts to blackmail team-mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape in 2015.
Olivier Giroud (R) says he has never had a dispute with fellow France striker Karim Benzema (L)
Benzema has not played for France since 2015 and has been critical of Giroud’s involvement
The episode ended Benzema’s international career and there has been some bad blood between the pair. When asked on social media to rate himself against Giroud, Benzema famously replied: ‘You don’t confuse F1 with go-karting, and I know I’m F1.’
Yet it seems harsh on Giroud that it’s still being dragged up now and especially on the occasion of his anticipated 100th cap in the upcoming games against Ukraine, Portugal and Croatia.
Again, Giroud dealt with it diplomatically: ‘At the time, when I was unfairly criticised because of Karim’s absence, it hurt me.
‘I continued to prove that I deserved my place and that this supposed rivalry with Karim was created from scratch by some people.
‘I had nothing to do with it, we just play the same position.’
Exactly, there was always going to be someone who benefited from Benzema’s exile.
Giroud’s position in France’s appearances and goalscoring charts is fully merited and he should be celebrated more in England as well.
Who knows, Lampard and Chelsea could come to depend on this ageing but wily striker once more as this season progresses.