The world's top clubs will have a while longer to wait before getting their hands on Bafétimbi Gomis after the striker agreed new terms at AS Saint-Etienne.
The world's top clubs will have a while longer to wait before they can get their hands on Bafétimbi Gomis after the striker agreed new terms at AS Saint-Etienne.
The 21-year-old striker was one of the unheralded stars of French football last season, ending the campaign as St-Etienne's top scorer with ten goals in 30 Ligue 1 games. Both UEFA Cup holders Sevilla FC and German champions VfB Stuttgart were looking to prise the man Marca called "the new Drogba" away from Les Verts, and for a while it seemed they might be successful.
Gomis' signed a new contract with Les Verts earlier this week, extending his existing deal by a year to June 2011. New St-Etienne coach Laurent Roussey was then relieved to field him during Wednesday night's 3-3 friendly draw against local minnows FC Andrézieux-Bouthéon. Prior to that, the unsettled academy graduate had been refusing to play in any friendly fixtures.
St-Etienne had finished eleventh in the Ligue 1 table last season under Roussey's predecessor Ivan Hašek, once more missing out on European football. Since competing in the UEFA Cup in 1982/83 the one-time giants of French football have had only one European campaign - a UEFA Intertoto Cup sally in 2005 - so it was inevitable big offers would unsettle the young Gomis.
'The right place'
However, it seems that Roussey - who helped St-Etienne win their last French title in 1981 - helped persuade Gomis to stick with the club. "I spoke with Laurent and realised that, at 21, you need the right place to develop and not money," said Gomis. "Laurent has huge plans. He is starting his coaching career while I am starting my playing career. We both have lots to prove."
Roussey was pleased his young charge had returned to the fold. "Bafé took the right decision," he said. "He knows the side and is in the ideal situation to improve his football." While St-Etienne have seen star defensive players Zoumana Camara, Hérita Ilunga and captain Julien Sablé move on this summer, a pairing of Gomis and new arrival David Gigliotti up front could yet be a lethal one.
St-Etienne sporting director Philippe Lyonnet was convinced that Gomis's better instincts had prevailed after his decision to commit: "It was a sporting choice and the choice of his heart." Should the club end their decades in the doldrums by qualifying for one of the top European club competitions this season, the youngster could yet inspire a new golden age for Les Verts.