The 1987/88 campaign was a defining one for Laurent Blanc. Having scored 18 goals to help guide Montpellier-La Paillade SC to the top flight the previous season, a serious injury threatened to halt the young playmaker's prodigious rise. However, people from the Cevennes mountain region of southern France from where Blanc hails are renowned for their toughness and the player proved no different, fighting back to fitness and then scoring six goals as Montpellier finished an impressive third.
There was more success to come when he made his France debut in the second leg of their UEFA European Under-21 Championship final against Greece. Les Bleus were huge favourites but doubts were cast when the underdogs held out for a goalless first-leg draw in Athens. Blanc came in, and proved inspirational as Marc Bourrier's team eased to a 3-0 victory in Besançon.
"For every professional, the first trophy is unforgettable and I'm no different," Blanc later reflected. "We were a tight-knit group and that proved the key to our success." Success is something Blanc knows a lot about after going on to collect a host of playing honours. He won the French Cup in 1990, before a switch to defence brought league titles in France and England. He played 97 times for France, including their UEFA EURO 2000™ final triumph over Italy and was a key member of Les Bleus' 1998 FIFA World Cup winning squad before starting his coaching career with FC Girondins de Bordeaux in 2007.
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