A Gunner under fire

Published : Jan 10, 2009 00:00 IST

A childhood decision to leave his family and pursue his football career created this forthright personality and has made William Gallas the man he is today, writes David Ford.

William Gallas is known as a man not afraid to speak his mind and is famous for picking up arguments with team-mates and managers. A childhood decision to leave his family and pursue his football career created this forthright personality and has made Gallas the man he is today.

Born in Asnieres-du-Seine, France, on August 17, 1977, Gallas grew up in Parisien suburb Villeneuve-la-Garenne. He played football with brother, Thierry, and their friends who gave him the nickname ‘Tigana’ (after the French midfielder Jean).

Aged 13, Gallas’ talent was spotted by renowned club INF Clairefontaine — the same academy that produced Thierry Henry — but this would result in the most difficult and important decision of his life.

Gallas’ family was due to move back to his parents’ birthplace in Guadeloupe and if he was to achieve his dream, Gallas would have to stay behind in Paris while his parents moved away. Gallas and his father decided he should stay and pursue his football career in France with Clairefontaine under the care of his uncle and aunt.

Choosing to pursue his career as a 13-year-old while his parents and brother returned to Guadeloupe ranks as one of the most difficult decisions of Gallas’ career. While the other young trainees returned home to their parents at the weekend, Gallas lived with his uncle and aunt away from his closest family.

Graduating from Clairefontaine in 1995, Gallas signed for Caen, aged 17. At that point the club was in the French Ligue 1 and in such an environment Gallas began to flourish. “I felt good, I could do what I wanted, I could breathe,” he remarked.

The following year he made 16 first-team appearances, helping Caen win the French second division ahead of Marseilles. Caen was relegated the next season but he had done enough to be chased by several Ligue 1 clubs.

He eventually opted to sign for Marseilles. An administrative mix-up meant Gallas received his contract late and effectively spent the first-half of the season as an amateur until he formally signed in January 1998. To add injury to insult, he fractured his toe and made only three appearances in his first season at the club.

Looking back, Gallas reflects: “Sometimes I just wanted to give it all up.” But he persevered and went on to become an integral part of the Marseilles team that reached the UEFA Cup Final.

In the 2000-2001 season Javier Clemente took over as Marseilles manager and wanted to play Gallas at left-back, but Gallas reportedly refused (an argument that resurfaced later in his career).

Soon, Gallas was on the move, joining Chelsea in 2001. He had been recommended to then manager Claudio Ranieri by Marcel Desailly, with whom Gallas played alongside throughout that season.

The Roman Abramovich revolution had begun at Chelsea and the club finished fourth in the Barclays English Premier League and qualified for the UEFA Champions League.

Gallas’ form earned him a debut for the France national team in October that year against Slovenia. He became a regular and in 2003 won his only honour with the national team, the Confederations Cup.

Gallas then entered the most successful period of his career. He was central to the Chelsea team — all under Jose Mourinho — that secured the EPL, English League Cup and English Community Shield in 2005 and went on to retain the EPL title in 2006.

At national level, he was part of the French team that made it to the World Cup in 2006. Despite this success, Gallas’ outspoken nature resurfaced during the 2005-2006 season when his relationship with Mourinho soured.

Again infuriated at having to play at left-back, Gallas did not travel with the squad on a pre-season tour of America and was even accused by Chelsea of threatening to score an own goal if he was not granted a transfer.

In 2006 he moved to Arsenal as part of a swap deal that saw Ashley Cole move in the opposite direction. Gallas was slotted into the centre of defence at Arsenal and was handed the captaincy following Thierry Henry’s departure in 2007.

However, he was removed from this position following a series of events culminating in a media outburst against his team-mates. He has since been assured of his future by Arsene Wenger and has publicly stated his desire to stay and continue playing for the Gunners.

Gallas is engaged to Nadege, who he met in Paris during his teens. They intend to marry some time during 2009.

Gallas drives a stylish Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR worth around GBP300,000.

FactfileName: William GallasPosition: DefenderClub: ArsenalD.O.B: 17/8/1977France caps: 69France goals: 2Debut: v Slovenia, October 2002Moment to remember

It was Gallas’ 28th birthday on August 17, 2005 and he celebrated it in the best possible style by scoring his first international goal for France against Ivory Coast.

Moment to forget

A draw against Birmingham City ended Arsenal’s title hopes in the 2007-2008 season and Gallas’ reaction was seen as the beginning of the end of his captaincy. After the final whistle he kicked advertising hoardings and sat in the centre circle refusing to leave the pitch with his team-mates.

© PA Sport, 2009, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.

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