A booming burst of Hey Jude, the familiar broad Essex smile and a clever flicked pass to helped Ménez set up the second Paris Saint-Germain goal, off the knee of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, otherwise poor to the extent of being whistled at by his own fans, are on French lips today.
But David Beckham’s debut for PSG, big an event as it deemed to be on both sides of the Channel, was not for me the most memorable feature of the Ligue 1 weekend.
You’ll have gathered from the reappearance of French Fancies that Monsieur Salut is back in France after hibernating in the UK. And in case anyone is thinking “lucky sod”, I can add that I had to drive through repeated snow showers on just over the first half of the 1,200km slog from Calais and am now shivering, with three layers of upper clothing, in the south of France.
So what, for me, was bigger than Beckham at the Parc des Princes?
Step forward, taking care not to fall to dramatically as you do so, Larsen Touré, a Guinea international but born in the Breton port of Brest and playing for that city’s football club.
His dive to win a penalty against Bordeaux was sensational, of undoubted Olympic quality. No diver figured among the Guinea team at the London Games – there were only four of them and they gained no medals – so they really ought to take a look at him for Rio in 2016. Touré, in Guinea, is probably a bit like Smith for us but just in case they are related, one of those four competitors, Aissata Touré, might like to put in a good word.
The contents of the clip keep changing – the incident was previously there in full – so be prepared to take my word for it. To see the one I reproduce, you need to click on the underlined YouTube reference; it gives all the Ligue 1 goals from the weekend but not the buildup to the Brest penalty.
A neat turn from the wing would have taken Touré past the hapless Bordeaux defender Lamine Sané and set up a cracking chance. Instead, he sprang from the ground as soon as he began the manoeuvre, taking care to collide with Sané on his theatrical journey through the air and then to ground. Monsieur Moreira, the man with the whistle, was totally hoodwinked and even brandished his yellow card at the defender. Sané shook his head a lot before inexplicably, if sportingly, offering Touré his hand. Ahmed Kantari fired home the penalty.
I realise some people think I rabbit on far too much about cheating. The way I currently phrase the Who are You? question reflects that. Usually, it is something like “Has diving become so commonplace that we may as well accept it as part of the modern game?”
Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of respondents reply that under no circumstances should we descend into meek tolerance of this despicable aspect of football.
Brest deservedly beat Bordeaux, a result I would normally welcome – see past references to the disgraceful treatment of Sunderland by Bordeaux when we wanted Chamakh (maybe we should, in retrospect, be hugely grateful). But Brest didn’t need a piece of cynical dishonesty to make sure of the three points.
Michel Guyot, Brest’s owner, won warm acclaim here in 2010 when he ordered his players to stop encasing themselves in bubbles – at least when “on duty” and in public – by using headwear and earphones to create even greater distance between them and ordinary supporters. How many more plaudits would he earn if he were now to fine Touré a month’s wages and say he would rather lose points than profit from cheating?
Only two other points to record from the first football weekend of my return to France. Steed Malbranque looked busy and accomplished yet again as Lyon kept pace with PSG, coming from behind to beat Lorient 3-1. And who are fourth top? None other than Nice, formerly managed by our own Monsieur Eric Roy. I am not sure how much credit he can take for the groundwork that has led to this revival but it is a heartening small-club intrusion – not even 9,000 turned out for the 2-0 win over Reims on Friday night – into the Ligue I elite.
As for Beckham, he was delighted with his 18 mintues on the field againt Marseille – who deserved better than to be beaten 2-0 – and clearly has fuel left in the tank. A start in Wednesday’s French cup game, again with Marseille as opponenets, is a possiblity.