PARIS (AP) — When Guingamp forward Marcus Thuram left the Parc des Princes stadium last weekend, he took an important souvenir away with him.
He wasn’t carrying the match ball, which players keep if they score a hat trick. Guingamp lost 9-0 to Paris Saint-Germain, so hat tricks were on the other side.
Instead, Thuram held a crumpled fluorescent yellow shirt in his hands, given to him by PSG’s veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after the game.
There’s a bond between Thuram and Buffon that goes far beyond soccer.
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Thuram’s father Lilian was Buffon’s teammate for five years at Italian side Parma, where Marcus was born in 1997. During their time together at Parma, Buffon and Thuram won the UEFA Cup and the Italian Cup as the club enjoyed a spell of success it hasn’t replicated since.
While Buffon emerged as one of the best goalkeeping talents the Italian league has ever produced, Thuram achieved international fame with France as he won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000.
Thuram holds the France record for appearances — 142 — and the only two goals he scored for Les Bleus were in the World Cup semifinal against Croatia in ’98. It made him a likeable household name, particularly since he was more surprised than anyone by the fine goals he scored that day.
He and Buffon cemented their close friendship by winning two league titles together at their next club, Juventus.
ANOTHER THURAM TROPHY?
Thuram’s 21-year-old son Marcus is also getting the taste for trophies, having won the French Youth Cup with former club Sochaux and the European Under-19 Championship with France. This season, he has a chance to win the first trophy of his professional career.
Guingamp faces Monaco in the League Cup semifinals on Tuesday night.
Both sides are struggling and the competition is a much-needed outlet for their frustrated players. Guingamp is last in the league and Monaco — a Champions League semifinalist two years ago — is only one point ahead in 19th place.
Monaco’s plight is such that it has suspended coach Thierry Henry — who was part of France’s glory era with Thuram’s father.
Guingamp deploys Thuram wide left in a three-man attack but may not be using him effectively enough.
Even though his side was routed by PSG, Thuram stood out by winning many challenges in the air — including a remarkable one where he easily outjumped experienced Brazil center half Thiago Silva. Two other headers stood out: one with his back to goal from a stationery position and one challenging in the penalty area.
He also showed good ability receiving the ball with his back to play, using a deft touch with both feet and turning quickly.
Thuram is Guingamp’s top scorer with seven league goals, nearly half of the team’s meager tally of 16.
The club’s chances of staying up might be improved if Thuram — who is 1.92 meters — plays as a center forward from now on.
He showed glimpses of what he can do with his powerful physique when Guingamp knocked PSG out of the League Cup in the quarterfinals last month.
With the match 1-1 in injury time, Thuram made a run from within his own half, and held off four PSG players before being fouled. He took and scored the penalty, showing remarkable composure having missed a penalty earlier on.
That displayed his mental strength, something his father had plenty of.
Guingamp is a tiny club in Brittany with a small budget and modest wages. Therefore it is unlikely that Thuram stays next season, even if the club avoids relegation.
Given his young age and versatility in attack, he will be coveted during the summer transfer window by clubs in France and abroad.
He could continue his progress by joining a top-six French club, or perhaps a mid-table Premier League side.
More eye-catching performances over the next couple of seasons could lead to him making a name for himself abroad, just like his father did.
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