Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe crossed paths of the Cheyrous - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The crossed paths of the Cheyrous - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The crossed paths of the Cheyrous

As the old adage goes, form is temporary and class is permanent. It looks like a simple enough saying to determine which players are class and which are in form. I suppose that’s what makes the difference between theory and practise…

10-odd years ago, you’d have been a very wise man to finger out which one of the Cheyrou brothers was world class and which one won’t make it. Or rather you would have made the obvious mistake and gone with the successful one without really knowing a whole lot about the young gun trying to make his mark. A reknowned manager, Gerard Houiller, picked tails when the flip of the coin proved to be heads at the time.

Benoît and Bruno were not born in Lille, despite both starting their professionnal careers there, but in a parisian western suburb called Suresnes. Bruno was born in 1978, Benoît 3 years later (almost to the day) in 1981 and both lived right next to the Colombes stadium. Both kids were football crazy as their dad and uncle were playing for Racing Paris and took them to games as often as they can.

Bruno starts playing for Racing Paris in 1986, aged 8 and stays there till he is snatched up by Lens, a club with a strong academy, in 1994. Young Bruno is 16 when he leaves the “cocon familial”. When he arrives in the north, he is noticed for his smugness which gets him in trouble on and off the pitch as things turn a bit sour at school (his dad has to make the trek up north as the Dean wants to talk about Bruno’s disciplinary issues). On the pitch, he is made youth team captain and given the no.10 jersey. This does his ego no good and gets on his teammates’ nerves. He is told off but is seemingly given a second chance by youth team coach Daniel Leclercq. Lens however don’t keep him on their books and don’t offer Bruno a professionnal contract. Days away from having to pack his bags and go back to Paris, he is given a second chance by Lille who take him on and. Meanwhile back in Paris, Benoît goes through the ranks at Racing Paris just like Bruno but goes directly to Lille to be reunited with his big brother.

At Lille, Bruno is said to be better physically and technically than his younger brother. While the physical part is understandable as Bruno is the eldest, the technical part is glaring for all to see. Bruno starts playing during the 1998/99 season where he plays 20 games in Ligue 2 and scores 6 goals while little Benoît is made to wait for his chance. The following season, the season where Lille gain promotion to the top tier of French football, Bruno is an essential part of the team while Benoît makes his opening season playing 13 games. The year after that, Bruno continues to be an ever-present in the Lille team while Benoît is a mere squad player in a season where Lille finish at an impressive 3rd place just 9 points short of champions Lens. Lille make the Champions’ League qualifier and dispose of Italian giants (at the time) Parma (2-0; 0-1). The stage is set, the Cheyrous are playing Champions’ League football. Bruno impresses again scoring 4 goals in 7 matches (including the two-legged qualifier) and one against Manchester United. Bruno goes on to make 2 substitute appearances for the French national team.

His exploits don’t go unnoticed on the other side of the Channel as Gerard Houiller is trying to emulate Arsène Wenger’s policy of buying cheap French players. Houiller buys Bruno for 6.5M€ along with Lens winger El-Hadji Diouf and Sedan’s defensive workhorse Salif Diao. Cheyrou plays a fair bit in his 2-year spell on Merseyside but his experience proves to be a failure while Benoît is becoming the ever-present at Lille that Bruno once was (even though he’s a box-to-box player while Bruno is a more attacking midfielder).

Bruno wants to go back to France but Liverpool want to recoup some of money spent on him so he gets loaned out to French clubs for the next 2 seasons. The first one is at Marseille where he is promised to be partnered upfront with Didier Drogba. Sadly, Marseille sell Drogba 2 weeks later to the new rich kids of the moment Chelsea. Bruno doesn’t play well and Marseille understandably turn down the option to buy. The second year on loan at Bordeaux goes a bit better and despite scoring a solitary goal, Bruno plays one of his best football even though Bordeaux don’t sign him on a permanent basis. During the same timeframe, Benoît plays for Auxerre where he continues his progression. His seasons aren’t dammaged by injury and he plays nigh on every single game at his new club. He stays there 3 seasons before signing for his first big club in 2007: Marseille. This is where the eruption takes place. Benoît is, to this day, one of the most consistent performers of the club. Hardly ever injured (the least amount of league games he’s played for the club was 32 games out of 38 and this season he has played 17 of Marseille’s 21 league games (starting 12 of them)), he is vital to Marseille’s midfield be it in defence or in attack (scoring crucial goals like this weekend). During his first two seasons he is part of the Ligue 1 team of the year (named best Marseille player by many journalists) and then Marseille coach Eric Gerets wonders why he hasn’t been called up for the national side (we still don’t know the answer). When Gerets leaves, Didier Deschamps doesn’t break the trend and makes Benoît the team’s vice-captain behind Mamadou Niang. Cheyrou is so thrilled that he puts pen to paper till 2013. The older brother Bruno meanwhile follows his successful loan spell at Bordeaux with a fruitless 3 and a half years at Rennes which ends with the player being loaned to Cypriot club Anorthosis Famagusta. These last two seasons he’s been playing at Ligue 2 club Nantes where his contract runs out in the summer and the probability of him retiring in 4 months are increasingly likely.

So Bruno was destined to a much rosier future than his younger brother Benoît yet their honours list are quite different. Bruno has a Ligue 2 title and a French Cup final losers medal to boost while Benoît has won the league, won the French Cup twice (with two different clubs), the League Cup and the Trophée des Champions (Charity Shield) twice (again one with Auxerre and one with Marseille). How did Bruno throw away such a promising career out the window? Did he leave Ligue 1 too soon? Maybe. Benoît never left it and at 30 years old, it doesn’t look like he ever will which means he will never be regarded outside of France as a great player but Bruno will be regarded by most as a failure by most Liverpool fans. Is a poor career decision the only factor that seperates the two brothers? No. Another strong factor is the difference in attitude between them. We’ve talked about Bruno’s ego beforehand and it doesn’t seem to have gone away. At Lens he was getting on his teammates’ and his teachers’ nerves, at Lille his coach, disciplinarian Vahid Halilhodzic, told him that he scored goals but that he wasn’t good, at Liverpool he probably kept his mouth shut as they’re one of the big boys of European football which even the biggest trouble-maker can understand and lately he just told Nantes that he isn’t going anywhere even though his contract is up in May. This proves that not only does Bruno’s tinkering needs revisiting but that his attitude stinks. What about Benoît? He was regarded as a lesser player than his brother by all youth team coaches but he made up for it by working hard and having the correct attitude. Most people who know him at Marseille say that he is discreet and you’ll do a good job to find anyone who has anything bad to say about him.

I started with an adage and I may well finish with one: working hard and having the right attitude is worth more than talent. The only travesty is that Benoît still hasn’t got any caps to his name for the national side while Bruno has three. So if Laurent Blanc is reading this would he please set the record straight.

Philip Bargiel

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