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How French striker André-Pierre Gignac conquered the Liga MX

February 6, 2017
Vendors outside Tigres' stadium say shirts with his name are by far the most popular

Vendors outside Tigres’ stadium say shirts with Gignac’s name on are by far the most popular

Ever since the first European Championship in 1960, no final has ever been decided by a goalscorer based at a club in another continent. Elite players capable of making the difference at this level simply do not leave Europe during their prime years. Except André-Pierre Gignac, that is.

Having already won one Liga MX title with Tigres UANL, the forward from Martigues was inches away from making history. The Euro 2016 final was tied at 0-0 in the final minute of regulation when Gignac turned his marker inside out and slid the ball past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patrício, only to see it strike the inside of the post and bounce agonizingly away.

Gignac had been on the pitch for just 12 minutes, but had his shot crept in he would have been remembered as France’s unexpected hero. Instead, Portugal won the game in extra time.

“It would have caught the world’s attention if it had gone in,” reflected Samuel Reyes, the leader of Tigres’ hardcore fan group Libres y Lokos. Nonetheless, he added, Gignac’s presence is “a great way to showcase our club around the world.”

Gignac has won two Liga MX titles since joining Tigres in 2015.

Gignac has won two Liga MX titles since joining Tigres in the summer of 2015.

Undeterred by that missed opportunity, Gignac returned to the dry, desert heat of Monterrey, Mexico’s third biggest city, where he consolidated his status as a Tigres legend by winning his second league title on Christmas Day. Gignac may be the most unlikely superstar in the long history of Mexican league soccer.

Surrounded by dramatic peaks, this sprawling, smoggy metropolis was hardly Gignac’s only option when his contract at Marseille expired in the summer of 2015. Plenty of clubs were interested in the bulky forward of gypsy heritage who had scored 21 goals in Ligue 1 that season, two more than Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE Sports.

 

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