Steve Savidan moved clear of Ligue 1's premier strikers with an exceptional four-goal haul in Valenciennes FC's 5-2 weekend win at FC Nantes Atlantique – not bad for a man who a few years ago was earning his living as a refuse collector.
The 28-year-old Savidan wasted little time in finding his feet in the French top flight as his goal earned the promoted side a point against AJ Auxerre on the opening day of the season, but Saturday's performance suggests he has now moved into a new stratosphere. When the Angers-born forward slotted past Fabien Barthez with two minutes remaining at La Beaujoire, it was the fourth time he had sent the former France No1 into the back of the net to retrieve the ball.
"I have seen only three centre-forwards better than him: Josip Skoblar, Salif Keita and Jean-Pierre Papin," said former Valenciennes coach Daniel Leclercq, whose old side are now five points clear of the relegation zone. The forward has even acquired the nickname Savigol, a nod to David Trezeguet, after moving on to 13 goals for the season, four more than closest rivals Aruna Dindane and Pauleta. It is becoming familiar ground for the pacy Savidan, who was crowned best striker in the second and third tiers over the past two seasons as Valenciennes made their dizzying ascent to the pinnacle of French football.
'Best to come'
For Savidan, the rise has been equally prodigious. Forced to work as a barman and dustman while at hometown club SCO Angers in 1998/99, his career took him to LB Châteauroux and AC Ajaccio before catching the eye at Angoulême CFC in 2003/04. "I was struck by his determination at Angoulême," said Leclercq, who was replaced by Antoine Kombouré as Valenciennes coach in 2005. "I did everything I could to get his signature. Then I convinced him that the best was yet to come."
It proved a fair assessment. Saturday saw Savidan become the first player in almost two years to score four goals in one Ligue 1 game and the striker was left in awe. "It's exceptional," he exclaimed. "When Daniel Leclercq signed me in 2004 it was my last chance in professional football. Now I want to profit and keep my feet on the ground." What better way than to ask the keeper you have just beaten four times for his shirt? "It was for a kid. I thank Barthez for giving it me." Continue like he is, and people could soon be scrambling for memories of Savidan.
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