Olivier Giroud is 34 years and 63 days old, but the France and Chelsea striker is ageing like a fine wine.
His four-goal haul in Thursday morning’s Champions League demolition of Sevilla broke any number of incredible records and proved once again just how supremely talented the clinical forward is.
And, on just his second start of the season, Giroud sent a huge message about his future at Stamford Bridge.
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Giroud was instrumental in Chelsea’s late push to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League last campaign, bagging eight goals in their final 12 matches.
But this season he has found himself in virtual exile under Frank Lampard, making just five substitute appearances in the league for a grand total of 47 minutes – having fallen behind youngster Tammy Abraham and big-money signing Timo Werner in the manager’s eyes.
With seven months and three days until the postponed Euro 2020 tournament begins, Giroud has been warned by France manager Didier Deschamps that he must play more minutes in order to secure his spot for the reigning World Cup champions.
That has led to widespread rumours of a January departure from the Blues – just as there were ahead of the mid-season transfer window this time last campaign, where Spurs were battling Serie A sides for his signature.
He opted to stay – a decision which clearly paid off – and went on to sign a one-year contract extension that runs out at the end of the present season.
Giroud recently admitted
his lack of minutes is ‘concerning’ and said he had a decision to make over his future.
Giroud told Telefoot: “’Worried’ is a big word, but it is concerning. It’s true that I felt I still had a role to play in this [Chelsea] team, especially after ending last season very well.
“At the start of the campaign, I thought I could still help the team, but my playing time has gone down significantly, so that will need to change or I’ll have to make a decision.
“I’m clear-headed about it. I know what the situation is and we [Deschamps] have spoken about it. I will have to make a decision in January and I hope to make the right one as I have always done.”
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has been vocal in his praise for the striker, saying he views him as an important part of his plans going forward.
Before Thursday morning’s victory over Sevilla, Lampard said: “He’ll always want to play more but he’s a huge member of the squad for me. I know he will be important for us going forward, so I want Oli to be here and to stay.
“I have a very good relationship with Oli and if ever he felt that it was going to go a different way then I would happily have that conversation with him. I’m open both ways if that ever changes but at the moment he is very important for us.”
Chelsea sit third in the Premier League just two points behind Tottenham and Liverpool, with Giroud contributing no goals or assists to the Blues’ tally of 22 strikes so far. The Frenchman, given his sparse minutes, is hardly to blame for that.
But he delivered the perfect reminder of his ability – and exactly why Chelsea should keep him – against Sevilla.
His four goals comprised a ‘perfect’ hat-trick – scoring with both feet and from a header – as well as a slick penalty.
“I didn’t know until two years ago that you called it a perfect hat-trick, when I scored (a treble) against (Dynamo) Kiev in (the) Europa League, I said ‘What do you mean?’ It was good, I had good assists though,” Giroud told BT Sport.
“I will try to carry on like that — to finish the good job of the team and it’s always nice to be in the club history and we play football to mark our history, so I’m pleased to help the team to win and to score the four goals.”
Lampard, the last Chelsea player to score four goals in a game (against Aston Villa in 2010), was suitably impressed.
“Amazing solo performance from Olivier. Delighted with him, delighted with the team. This is a difficult place to come,” Lampard told BT Sport.
Just how amazing that performance was is difficult to state. Besides being the first Chelsea player to score four in any competition in a decade, he is the first Chelsea player to score a hat-trick in the competition since Didier Drogba against Levski Sofia in 2006.
He is the oldest player to score a hat-trick in the European Cup (now the Champions League) in 55 years, with Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas marginally older when he scored three for Real Madrid against Feyenoord in 1965.
Perhaps even more impressive is Giroud’s overall record in European competitions since moving to Chelsea.
Since that January 2018 arrival from the Gunners, Giroud has netted an incredible 17 times across all European tournaments.
11 of those came in 14 Europa League games in the 2018/19 season, as Chelsea beat his former Arsenal side in the final.
He made it 12 with a goal in the Super Cup – a defeat to Liverpool – last season. This year, he’s picked up five Champions League goals in three games, despite two of those being bench appearances totalling 48 minutes.
In the time since his arrival at Stamford Bridge, no other Chelsea player has hit double digits in European competition. Callum Hudson-Odoi sits second with six goals, and two former Blues – Pedro and Willian – bagged five apiece before leaving.
For a player who has contributed 86 goals and 28 assists from 243 appearances in England’s top flight, not to mention his stellar record for the French national team (44 goals in 105 games across 10 years), Giroud probably does not receive the respect he deserves.
He demanded that respect this morning, with a performance that silences any whispers his abilities might be fading as his years advance.
When asked if he now expects to start against Leeds in this weekend’s Premier League clash, he said: “Let me enjoy the night and that great win and after that we will rest and we will see what the gaffer’s plan is.”
Lampard’s plan surely must now include more league minutes from Giroud in coming weeks.
After this performance, Lampard would be mad to let him leave in January. Rivals would be equally mad not to try and prise him from Stamford Bridge.