Odsonne Edouard was one of the greatest striker talents in Europe. But then he shot a man in the ear and nearly ruined his career.
At the 2015 European Under-17 Championship, the German Football Association had a good feeling that this year’s team could win the tournament for the first time since 2009. 2011 and 2012 both saw defeats in the final. In 2013 they were completely absent, in 2014 they were eliminated in the group stage. Things were looking pretty good until the final in 2015.
The German team where Johannes Eggestein, Felix Passlack and Co. played, did not concede a goal out of the game until the final match. In the final, however, Christian Wuck’s squad lost 4-1 to France.
Three goals alone were scored by Odsonne Edouard, who was unsurprisingly voted player of the tournament. Coach Jean-Claude Giuntini, who had left a certain Kylian Mbappe at home before the tournament and relied on Edouard, could breathe a sigh of relief. "Mbappe was still developing. We had to give him time", recalled the coach at BBC Scotland. And Edouard? "For an U17 player, Odsonne had impressive emotional control, especially in front of goal." Which he then showed.
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It was a points victory for Edouard in what was still a young rivalry with Mbappe, but one that had been going on since childhood. However, it was then also the last.
While Mbappe went on to become one of the world’s best players, Edouard was on the verge of ending his career as a teenager. The fact that he now plays for Crystal Palace in the Premier League and has long since shown again what once made him a better choice than Mbappe is not a matter of course.
Rivalry with Kylian Mbappe since childhood
The story of Odsonne Edouard begins in Kourou, French Guyana. The son of Haitian parents, he says he had a happy childhood in the French overseas department on the northeast coast of South America.
This did not change when the Edouards decided to emigrate to France. They moved to Bobigny, a banlieue in the northeast of Paris. The birthplaces of many future national players.
Here also began the friendship with Mbappe. "I know Kylian very well, because we are friends since childhood. We lived very close to each other, but we never played for the same club", said Edouard, who played for Academie Football Bobigny, once at Onze Mondial. Mbappe kicked for AS Bondy: "So there was a rivalry right from the start."
Together, the two actually only played in the youth teams of France. Edouard is eleven months older and was initially one step ahead in his development. He also managed to make the step to Paris Saint-Germain well before Mbappe. Scouts took notice of the young striker with the incredible eye for goal. He was also coached by Said Aigoun at the time, which later turned out to be a lucky coincidence. Edouard scored row upon row of goals in PSG’s academy and was touted as a top star to come. At 16, he got his first professional contract at PSG.
Odsonne Edouard: Then a shot was fired .
Shortly after destroying the DFB’s dream in the U17 final, he was allowed to play in the pros as well. In a test match against Leicester City, he even managed to score a goal after being substituted. But they decided to loan the young lad out. Too good for the youth, still too green for the professionals, where calibers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani romped in the storm.
It was to be a fateful change. FC Toulouse was awarded the contract and the young Odsonne was allowed to play regularly. Until one day, together with his teammate Mathieu Cafaro, he had the idea of getting into a car, carrying an air pistol, and shooting at a passerby in the Busca district.
The person concerned was Francis Guiral, then 62 years old. "I was walking in Busca when suddenly a car stopped", he tells. "I thought they wanted to go by the wayside." But it turned out differently: "I put my head to the window and there was a bang. I slumped to the ground, my ear was bleeding. He looked at me without saying anything, then quietly moved away."
Toulouse sends Edouard back to PSG
Guiral has been deaf in his left ear since the incident. The culprits were identified because a nearby security camera recorded the license plate number. Confusion was caused by Cafaro, who at first said he had shot. But he later retracted the statement. Edouard was facing a prison sentence, from which he was probably spared only because he was still young. The sentence was four months probation. In addition, he had to pay a pain and suffering of almost 20.000 euros, which Edouard ignored for a long time.
The victim went to the media after failing to make the payment. "I will send him a bailiff when I know the address", he said. The address was long since gone from Toulouse. The club immediately suspended Edouard and sent him back to Paris. A career that began so promising seemed to end early. Edouard today speaks reluctantly about that time. Actually he basically does not like to talk.
But what was going on?? A daredevil he always was, never criminal. "I was out of Paris for the first time in my life. Away from home for the first time", he says. Of course no reason to shoot someone deaf.
The distance was first the problem, later the solution. The following summer, however, a few interested parties were found who wanted to give the boy a chance. Then an offer from Celtic from Glasgow fluttered in. Even further away from Paris, even further away from home. "But just the right", says discoverer Giuntini: "He had to get out of France."
But of course the air pistol story had also reached Scotland. Media pounced on this issue. Local greats like Andy Walker also voiced criticism in the media. But they got a problem child and turned him into an adult.
Interest from Borussia Dortmund
After initially being a substitute for Moussa Dembele at Celtic, he made his breakthrough after Dembele’s departure. Celtic paid 11.4 million euros for the young Frenchman, who became the most expensive purchase in the club’s history. Ex-Celtic coach Brendan Rodgers was full of praise: "He has a high level of soccer expertise and excellent technique for his age. He is physically very strong and scores a lot of goals."
86 goals in the end for Celtic, in 179 games. "Scotland has helped him to grow up", says Giuntini. That’s how you can call his game. Despite many skills, Edouard is not a lone artist. His 39 assists in Glasgow also suggest he has developed into a goal-scoring team player. It was also clear that these statistics and skills would not go unnoticed in better leagues.
Even in this country, where Borussia Dortmund 2020, for example, was reportedly interested. But especially from the Premier League there were numerous clubs that naturally followed the development of the attacker in nearby Glasgow. The fact that Crystal Palace then won the contract at the start of the season is also no coincidence. It wasn’t just the fact that coach Patrick Vieira is French that spoke for the Londoners. The assistant coach is called Said Aigoun. Edouard’s coach from the Paris youth. A trailblazer in Parisian times. Someone who knows what makes the boy tick and how he works.
Record set by Aguero
On his debut against Tottenham he scored his first goal with his first touch of the ball 28 seconds after substitution. The fastest debutant goal in league history. A short time later, he also managed his second hit. A brace on Premier League debut has only ever been achieved by Sergio Aguero in 2011 for Manchester City.
Currently stands at six goals and three assists in 19 games. Not bad for a start, especially since he himself admits that the level in the Premier League is much higher than in Scotland.
Besides, he is still learning. And listen to what coach Vieira says: "Patrick is a legend in France. So when he tells you to do something, you have to do it. For example, if he tells you to do this run, you have to do this run. You have to listen to him", so Edouard. childhood friend Kylian Mbappe has slipped away in the meantime, but who knows, maybe they will soon see each other again in the national team.