After the trophies, it’s time for the end clap for Michaël Guigou. The match between his team from Nîmes and Limoges on Wednesday evening (8:30 p.m.) in the legendary Beaublanc hall will be the very last of his career, at 40 years old. Guigou is one of the emblematic faces of French handball, rarely the head of the gondola, but always an unwavering pillar of the France team and for nearly 20 years of his club Montpellier.
The winger will forever remain as a reference to his position, between talent and the ability to always make the collective shine. This has made him indispensable both in Blue, where he will remain as one of the essential vertebrae of Experts, and in club, for a triple XL record, of which no major trophy is missing. “Mika is one of the greatest. He is the best left winger in history and will leave an indelible mark as much as he could play center half“, praises the former captain of the Blues Jérôme Fernandez.
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Very discreet away from the parquet floors, Guigou, who spent most of his career in Montpellier (1999-2019), leaves the mark of a refined style, an aesthetic even, a visceral attachment to the game and a taste for the victory marked by a dizzying record. “What made Michaël above everyone was his ability to understand the game and to provide the appropriate answers through his technique. When there were no more solutions left, we relied on his talent. As it is a quality that crosses time, he started very early and ended his career late.“, judges coach and manager Patrice Canayer, at the head of Montpellier since 1994.
With the MHB, the prodigy won the Champions League twice at the end of his career: the first in 2003 against Pamplona, the second in 2018 against Nantes. With the Blues, Guigou has been part of all the campaigns and all the successes since 2002. Triple Olympic champion in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and therefore Tokyo less than a year ago, four times world champion and three times European champion, the left winger scored more than a thousand goals to support the hold of the Experts (2006-2017) on the planet of handball, alongside his eternal accomplice Luc Abalo.
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Arrived in Montpellier in 1999, Guigou, originally from Apt (Vaucluse), remained faithful to the MHB until 2019, refusing offers from the biggest Spanish or German clubs like Barcelona or Kiel, to preserve a balance of life. “When Niko (Karabatic) left for Kiel (in 2005, editor’s note), he asked me if I wanted to follow him. There were also contacts with Pamplona, Ciudad Real, Barcelona… My priority was not never been to be the best player in the world, nor to be in the best league. Life is made up of many things and not just a sports career. If you manage to reconcile your happiness, and that of the people around from you, it’s great“, he explained to AFP.
Elegance on parquet floors has no barriers. In 2012, in the betting case, where a dozen Montpellier players were convicted, Guigou was always above suspicion, and had been called to the bar by the civil party as witnesses.
The end with Montpellier, the hitch after unfailing loyalty
Guigou surfed the Roaring Twenties of Montpellier, dominating for more than fifteen years, but he also rowed to restore the club’s tarnished image and won a second European title in 2018, as a symbol of his loyalty and consistency, before to be excluded. “Staying more than fifteen years in a club is rare. Mika is Montpellier, and Montpellier is Mika“, summarizes the international goalkeeper Vincent Gérard, winner of the C1 in 2018 at his side.
After complicated relations with Patrice Canayer, who opposed a contract extension in 2019, he joined neighboring Languedoc, Nîmes, where he will end his career and play an ambassador role there. “I’m not afraid of the aftermath, but I’ll be a little sad. The end of a player’s career will be heartbreaking, as it looks like a little mourning“, confessed this holder of a coaching diploma.
Projected at the Blues in the wake of Montpellier’s first European title, the left winger has always given a major place to the France team to better mark history. “The 2009 World Cup in Croatia and the Olympic Games in London in 2012 marked me. The first European title in 2006 also…“, he recalled recently, before completing his blue epic with a 3rd Olympic title. For his fifth appearance at the Olympic Games, at the end of the game.
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