This article also featured in the 2018 GFFN 100
Much was expected of Bourigeaud as he signed for Rennes in Summer 2017. A break out season encompassed 4 goals and 6 assists as he orchestrating the midfield of fourth placed Ligue 2 club Lens, often from a deep lying central position. Unusually for a player of his renowned in the second division, his talent obvious across various incarnations of the Stade Bollaert-Delelis outfit both in Ligue 1 and since their relegation from the top flight at the end of the 2014/15 campaign, the now 24 year old Bourigeaud’s arrival in the top flight had taken some time. “I was still young,” Bourigeaud told L’equipe, “I preferred to build and grow little by little.”
Although squad turnover can often be drastic in Ligue 2, it was perhaps telling that despite other recent departures of Lens’ fellow talismen such as Wylan Cyprien to Nice and John Bostock to Turkish football, it was the loss of Bourigeaud that proved most troublesome as the Northern club slipped alarmingly quickly towards the bottom of the table without him last season, only finishing fourteenth in their first campaign minus their Calais native midfielder. Bourigeaud had been on the books at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis since 2005.
Bourigead’s enorgiral first division campaign with Stade Rennais proved equally influential. Twelve goals across all competitions, ten in Ligue 1, over 41 games contributed heavily to SRFC enjoying their best season for some years as they battled their way to fifth and a Europa League spot under Sabri Lamouchi. Meanwhile Bourigeaud lead his team with six top flight assists, equalling Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Pepe while bettering Adrien Rabiot’s and Houssem Aouar’s tallies, underlining his importance as Rennes’ newfound creative hub.
Outstanding in September’s 3-1 win at Marseille, the game in which Wahbi Khazri re-announced himself in French football with a brace, a thunderous 30 yard strike and a clever assist from a free kick for the third quickly ensconced Bourigeaud as a key man at Roazhon Park and as a fan favourite. Despite being shifted around the midfield by Lamouchi, and initially by Christian Gourcuff, often lining up in a relatively unfamiliar role on either flank, the young Frenchman produced a startling level of consistency in his displays, only missing four games all season.
Bourigeaud is a technically gifted midfielder, capable of sitting deeper in the midfield and knitting play together with his proactive and intelligent passing while his ability to produce beautifully flat, whipped crosses, reminiscent on occasion of the masterful David Beckham, from a variety of areas remains a highlight. His speed, eye for goal and ability to work space also should also not be underestimated while Bourigeaud’s vision and reading of play prove effective wherever he is deployed. However, when on form and confident, it’s Bourigeaud’s dead ball deliveries that can prove most dangerous, his ‘fiery’ right foot being of quality Lamouchi had “rarely seen”.
Having justifiably won Rennes’ player of the season award, the midfielder was unsurprisingly linked with a move, suitors such as Borussia Dortmund included - Rennes reportedly wanting 25 million euros for the Frenchman according to L’equipe, but Bourigeaud, just as he did with Lens, stayed put into the 2018/19 campaign with Europa League football on the horizon for the first time in his career. This term however has proven a little more troublesome.
Much like many a Ligue 1 side who venture in the Europa league for the first time in some seasons, Rennes’ youthful squad has suffered through a lack of experience in playing tough Ligue 1 games as well as travelling long distances for competitive EL games. Partly as a result, while the team struggled as a whole, Bourigeaud’s previously sparkling form has waned significantly in the latter half of 2018.
Although having assumed sizeable responsibility in leading the Rennes attack during the previous season, Bourigeaud started to drop out of the first 11 as restings around busy Europa League trips failed to aid his ailing performances. A penalty miss amid an absent display in September’s loss at Nice being particularly disappointing, one of many games where he simply struggled to exert the control he had so often previously, although an obvious technical quality remain largely intact.
Impressively however, despite a drop off in influence more generally, his Ligue 1 goals and assists tallies remain solid; counting four and three respectively in the first half of the season despite a reduced number of domestic minutes. A lack of consistent impact in European competition, despite appearing in every group game, perhaps underlines that, clear talent and potential asider, development at the higher levels remains a priority in the seasons to come for Bourigeaud.
Although the 18/19 season may prove to be one of consolidation for the Frenchman, who turns 25 in mid January, it is likely that renewed links with Dortmund and others won’t be too far off. As Bourigeaud told L’equipe in May, on the field he also can “rush sometimes, I must take the time to calm down.” Bourigeaud may have to take his own advice when looking at his career as a whole, just as he did with Lens. Nevertheless, often praised for his professionalism while his talent and ability remains clear, Bourigeaud has everything needed to push on to a higher level in France or on the continent.
by Adam White