The renaissance of Guillaume Hoarau has been quite incredible these past few weeks and his latest salvo against Olympique Lyonnais may just be his best performance in the blue and red under the circumstances.
The 27-year-old had a nightmare start to the season. His future at the club was widely regarded to be more suited elsewhere as QSI began to bankroll the marquee names including Kevin Gameiro from Lorient who has – up until now at least – been the first-choice striker up top. As well as worrying about his future, Hoarau also suffered a massive setback last September as he had to undergo surgery on his shoulder –a problem that had troubled him for some time and putting him of action just prior to Christmas. With Gameiro ahead in the pecking order and talk of a renowned striker arriving at the Parc des Princes – notably Carlos Tevez and Alexandre Pato – the big man’s days at the club look numbered.
The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti cannot be overlooked as the Italian saw something in Hoarau during the mid-season trip to Dubai. There he started against Milan in a friendly and although the game ended in defeat, the striker’s performance was merited – largely down to his work rate and endeavour. What was also telling is the club’s willingness to allow Mevlut Erding leaves for Rennes, opting to sell the Turkish international instead. Hoarau had been linked with clubs in England but clearly the club had no intention of relinquishing his services. With all that comes a bit of luck, something which the player has deserved as director of football Leonardo failed to persuade one of those elite strikers make the move to France. That ultimately put Hoarau in a position to jockey for a starting berth with just Gameiro as the senior man up top.
Despite only starting two games under Ancelotti – both coming in the Coupe de France – his most telling contribution prior to his heroics against Olympique Lyonnais on Saturday came against Montpellier on the 19th February. Coming on just after the hour mark for Gameiro, he netted that all important equaliser with three minutes to go as he and his team trailed 2-1 after John Utaka put MHSC into the lead. Although he ultimately got lucky with the finish that very nearly got cleared off the line, his intelligence prevailed as he peeled away from his marker to get on the end of Jeremy Menez’s ball across goal. An all important goal for his club, gave him the tonic to nurture his confidence and convince Ancelotti to start him against Lyon.
The Italian’s decision was a stroke of genius. He bagged the opening goal, finishing Menez’s drag back from a dead ball situation, taking it with such aplomb with his right foot to sweep past Hugo Lloris. Although his teammates at the back capitulated due to the world class finishing of their adversaries – going 3-1 down at one point – Hoarau continued to be the focal point. He looked a little isolated at times but the introduction of Gameiro in place of Javier Pastore to accompany him in a 4-4-2 changed the balance of the game. Now being 4-2 down, Les Parisiens went for broke and peppered Les Gones with wave after wave of attack. Hoarau’s holdup play and physical presence in the middle gave the Lyon defence problems. He showed tremendous composure to tee up Ceara to get PSG back in it with a third goal, setting up a grand stand finish for which he put his name up in lights. In the fourth minute of injury time, having not played a full 90 minutes in the league for such a long time he still had the spring in his step to get up above his marker and head Bodmer’s looping ball past Lloris and via the post resulting in championship winning scenes. Embraced by his peers, there was no denying how important they knew that goal could be in a Ligue 1 title making its way to the Parc for the first time in 18 years.
As good as that goal is for the team, it will do Hoarau the world of good and with Gameiro not firing on all cylinders, his place in the starting-XI at home to Ajaccio looks inevitable. It is an incredible turnaround for a player who looked set to be seeking pastures new but testament to his character, desire and persona to comeback so admirably.