Forever stylish both on and off the field, David Ginola spent close to a decade wowing Premier League crowds and is now charming the nation with his suave performance on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
The ITV show is a TV staple ahead of Christmas and almost two decades after retiring from football, has introduced the Frenchman to a new audience.
Amongst the most mercurial talents to ever grace the English top flight, Ginola retains his ‘je ne sais quoi’, ensuring his new followers remain just as enthralled by his presence as defenders used to.
Mixed Fortunes at Home
As with his compatriot Eric Cantona, Ginola was never fully appreciated back home in France. After spells with Toulon, RC Paris and Brest, it was back in the capital at Paris Saint-Germain where he really found his form.
Winning a Ligue 1 title, a Coupe de la Ligue and a pair of Coupe de France’s, he wowed the Parc de Princes and seemed to thrive under Artur Jorge and Luis Fernandez.
However, he failed to have a similar impact on the international scene and was vilified by the public for one error in particular. With France seemingly having one foot on the plane for World Cup 1994, a misplaced cross towards Cantona in the final qualifier against Bulgaria led to Emil Kostadinov netting the winner in a 2-1 victory, ending Les Blues’ hopes.
Then coach Gerard Houllier described him as the “assassin of the team” and as someone who had sent an “Exocet missile” through his country’s footballing scene.
Houllier’s successor Aime Jacquet continued to select Ginola, but mainly as a substitute and with him ill at ease in the setup, he made his 17th and final international appearance in 1995.
That was the same year he crossed the Channel to join Newcastle and link up with the likes of Keith Gillespie, Peter Beardsley and Les Ferdinand. Dubbed ‘The Entertainers’ due to their swashbuckling style, Kevin Keegan’s side famously opened up a 12-point lead over Manchester United, only to falter in the run-in.
Keegan’s determination to attack ensured he could never resist the urge to pick his best players and Ginola’s laissez-faire attitude towards defending arguably didn’t help their chances.
Even so, his performance still attracted then Barcelona boss Bobby Robson to try and sign ‘El Magnifco’ but Newcastle ignored those advances and signed Alan Shearer in a bid to boost their hopes of overcoming the Red Devils in 1996-97.
David Becomes a Spurs’ Superstar
However, despite a 5-0 win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in October, the Magpies again fell short. With Kenny Dalglish now at the helm, both Ginola and Ferdinand joined another club known for failing to live up to expectations, Tottenham Hotspur.
It was at White Hart Lane that Ginola hit his peak. Known as a mercurial and beautifully balanced two-footed winger capable of turning games on a whim, it was in London where the Gassin-born wideman added consistency to his game.
His performances were rewarded with both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year in 1998-99, while he also won his sole English domestic trophy.
Recognise the season and its significance? It was, of course, Manchester United’s treble-winning campaign and it was Spurs who stopped them making it a clean sweep, Ginola scoring the final goal in a 3-1 League Cup quarter-final win over the soon-to-be European champions.
A 1-0 win over Leicester at Wembley followed but it was another goal that his 1998-99 is best remembered for. Tottenham also reached the FA Cup semi-finals that season, losing to a Shearer-inspired Newcastle but in the previous round, Ginola was at his brilliant best.
Away at Barnsley, he received the ball on the left from Mauricio Taricco before slaloming past four defenders and cooly passing under goalkeeper David Watson to receive a rousing reception from the Oakwell crowd.
As is his fashion, though, his time at Tottenham ended in frustration as they sold him seemingly without his knowledge to Aston Villa in July 2000. The Frenchman was shocked and surprised by the move and failed to settle, falling out with manager John Gregory, who made jibes about his weight, before retiring from the game in 2002 after David Moyes deemed him surplus to requirements shortly after joining Everton.
Acting and coaching were considered, and he did find himself on the silver screen, although his performances were accompanied by some mixed reviews, as was his proposed bid to run for the FIFA presidency in 2015.
Having fronted advertising campaigns in the UK for the likes of Braun shavers, Carte Noire coffee, Renault Cars and most famously, L’Oreal shampoo, he remained marketable and it was arguably this charm that earned him a leading role in France’s successful bid to host the 2018 Ryder Cup.
TV Star Both Sides of Channel
Ginola remained a popular pundit in the UK and France and supplemented his reputation with other appearances. He finished third behind singer Matt Pokora in France’s inaugural series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2011 and returned to UK screens earlier this month as part of the line-up for I’m a Celeb.
Now 54, he remains as mysterious as ever and isn’t afraid to live up to his reputation as lifelong enfant terrible. According to the now-departed Richard Madeley, Ginola has reportedly been “admonished” by the show’s producers for breaking camp rules.
However, as well as his cool nature, he has also earned praise for the kindness and encouragement he has shown his campmates. Currently 3/1 in the market, the man who often failed to reach the top step during his playing career, may soon be crowned King of the Celebrity castle.
*All odds correct at time of writing