Premier League Clubs Managed: Fulham (2001-2003)
During the 1980s, Jean Tigana was widely considered as one of the game’s most gifted midfielders. He was a box-to-box midfielder who had endless amounts of stamina, pace and the ability to get forward and create goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
Management took him to clubs in Turkey, China and his homeland in France. In the Premier League, he spent nearly two seasons with Fulham. They were tempestuous times but he did keep the Cottagers comfortably away from any significant relegation danger before his abrupt departure from west London in April 2003.
Semi-final pain became a regular theme
Management might have taken him globetrotting but Jean Tigana’s entire playing days were spent in just one country – France. He started his professional career as a player at Toulon, making his debut aged 20. At the time, Toulon were only a part-time team so he had to earn his keep elsewhere too, with jobs including working as a postman and in a spaghetti factory!
Those days well and truly ended when Lyon signed him in 1978, where he spent three years of his career, before giving his prime days to Bordeaux. In the 1980s, Bordeaux were the main side in French football. Having joined them for £4 million in 1981, Tigana won three league titles with the wine-region city and three domestic cups. Bordeaux didn’t quite reach the promise land of success in continental competition. They lost in the 1985 European Cup semi-finals to eventual winners Juventus and were also beaten in the 1987 Cup Winners’ Cup semis by Lokomotive Leipzig who were one of the stronger German sides until the country’s reunification.
Losing semi-finals was nothing new to Tigana. It was the same at the World Cup as France came up short in 1982 and 1986, losing semi-finals in Spain and Mexico to that old adversary in West Germany. He was part of “The Magic Square” alongside Michel Platini, Luis Fernandez and Alain Giresse in what was considered one of the greatest midfield quadruples the game has ever seen. The World Cup eluded him but Tigana was part of the squad that won the 1984 European Championships on home soil which was easily his biggest honour as a player.
He retired from international duty in 1988 and ended his playing career completely at the end of the 1990-1991 campaign, ending his days with Marseille.
Surprising Fergie and United
After taking a couple of years away from football, Tigana returned to the game in a management capacity in 1993, starting out with Lyon. After two seasons with the French side where he missed out on any major honours, he took the job at AS Monaco which turned out to be a qualified success.
Monaco became French champions in 1997 and a year later, Jean pulled off one of his finest results as a manager as the club from the principality beat Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United on away goals in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. It was at this time where he started to mould the greatness of Thierry Henry, who made his first impacts on football with Monaco before getting bigger moves to Juventus and then, Arsenal. It was Juve who crushed Monaco’s Champions League dream in 1997-1998, beating them 6-4 on aggregate in two absorbing semi-final encounters. In total, he won 92 of his 170 matches’ in-charge of Monaco.
In April 2000, he stepped out of his comfort zone of managing in his home country and took up the post at Fulham after Kevin Keegan had quit, taking the England job on a full-time basis. In his first full season, Tigana guided Fulham to the First Division title and therefore, a first top-flight campaign beckoned in 30 years.
His first match in the Premier League with Fulham was away at Old Trafford and he nearly surprised Fergie and United again, with Louis Saha giving the visitors the lead twice before two Ruud van Nistelrooy goals saw the reigning champions home to a nervy 3-2 victory. He managed to acquire Edwin van der Sar from Juventus and Fulham played some attractive football in their first season at this level. They finished a creditable 13th in the table and reached the FA Cup semi-finals before being beaten by west London rivals Chelsea.
Season two with Fulham was a tougher experience. With Craven Cottage being redeveloped into an all-seater stadium, the club had to play their home matches at Loftus Road, ground sharing with Queens Park Rangers. They did reach the dizzy heights of fourth place in early October and beat Liverpool FC a month later but the relationship between Tigana and the board was beginning to breakdown.
He was accused of overpaying on transfer fees, with the acquisition of Steve Marlet coming under particular scrutiny. Contract negotiations stalled and eventually broke down and after a limp 4-0 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers, Fulham elected to dispense with his services in April 2003. Former club captain Chris Coleman would steer the club through the rest of the season and beyond.
Tigana would later take Fulham to court for wrongful dismissal and won £2.5 million in damages. It was a sad end to a chapter that started so rosy between the Frenchman and the Premier League newcomers.
After two years away, Jean returned to the managerial circle with Besiktas, taking them to back-to-back successes in the Turkish Cup for the first time in eight years. They were his last managerial honours. Less successful spells followed with Bordeaux in 2010-2011 and more recently, in China with Shanghai Shenhua where he lasted just five matches in 2012.
He was sometimes difficult to please but Jean Tigana enjoyed a relatively successful playing career and has enjoyed great moments in management too. However, six years have now passed since his last managerial experience so it is highly unlikely we will see him in the coaching limelight in the future.