He may have been the oldest player on the pitch, but Olivier Giroud lit up the Champions League on Tuesday with his stunning overhead kick that gave Chelsea a crucial 1-0 win at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie.
The 34-year-old rolled back the years to score past Jan Oblak, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, with his spontaneous acrobatic effort that gives his side a precious away goal.
The goal was initially disallowed for offside, but a lengthy 2:48 VAR check eventually concluded that the ball had come off Atletico defender Mario Hermoso in the build-up, thus allowing Giroud's goal to stand.
Odd it took the VAR so long to allow Olivier Giroud's goal for Chelsea.— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) February 24, 2021
- When the cross comes in Giroud, who is clearly onside, is the first player to play the ball
- It's then obviously played by Mario Hermoso to Giroud, and not by any Chelsea player
- No possible offside pic.twitter.com/ZrL3zq4OoQ
As such, the Blues remain unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel after the German coach's first eight games in charge, having outscored their opponents 10-2 in those matches. Indeed, Tuchel was suitably impressed with Giroud's Man-of-the-Match performance against Atletico, praising the veteran centre-forward for his enduring quality and youthful approach.
"If you see him on a daily basis, you cannot be surprised. He is totally fit, his body is in shape and his physicality is on top level," Tuchel told reporters after the game. "He trains like a 20-year-old, like a 24-year-old. He is a guy who has a good mixture of serious and joy in training. He is always positive and it is a big factor for the group."
Giroud's enthusiasm certainly shone through in his postmatch interview, when he declared: "I love overhead kicks!"
Giroud has never really been a consistent first-choice striker since making the move to Stamford Bridge from Arsenal, but has proven time and again he can still be relied upon when selected. He has come into his own as a Champions League specialist this season, having scored six goals in five appearances in the competition so far -- the first being a crucial stoppage-time winner against Rennes, followed by an impressive four-goal glut against Sevilla in the group stage.
While not famed for being particularly prolific, the France international has quietly amassed a very respectable goal tally over the years, having scored 105 goals in 253 appearances for Arsenal (that's a goal every 2.4 games). He was then offloaded by the Gunners to cross-city rivals Chelsea in January 2018 to make way for marquee signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Since then, Giroud has contributed 39 goals in 110 games for the Blues (a goal every 2.82 games) during which time he's only made 58 starts for the club -- not bad for an £18 million back-up forward.
He is also the first Chelsea player to have scored six goals in a single Champions League campaign since Didier Drogba achieved the same back in 2011-12 -- his sixth coming in the final against Bayern Munich. Giroud needs just two more goals to equal the Blues' record Champions League tally of eight goals in a single season, which is currently shared by Drogba (2007-08) and Tore Andre Flo (1999-00).
While he was a central part of the Montpellier team that clinched a historic Ligue 1 championship on the very last day of the 2011-12 season, Giroud has never won a Premier League title. However, that doesn't mean that his trophy cabinet is bare -- far from it, in fact.
The Frenchman is, after all, a World Cup winner with Les Bleus (2018) as well as a four-time FA Cup winner (with Arsenal in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2016-17, then again with Chelsea in 2017-18 before reaching the final once more in 2018-19 only to lose to Manchester United. Giroud also powered Chelsea to Europa League glory in 2018-19 -- the club's first continental silverware in six years -- finishing the season as top goal scorer in the competition.
The striker's 11th goal of the run came against Arsenal in the final, opening the scoring against his former club as the Blues steamrollered to an emphatic 4-1 win over their Premier League cohorts out in Baku. Giroud gleefully took the opportunity to "thank" his ex-employers while holding the Europa League trophy aloft on the team bus afterwards.
Giroud shouting "Thank you Arsenal!" during Chelsea's Europa League celebrations 😂 pic.twitter.com/2TtuT7hLCF— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) May 30, 2019
Of course, we're also talking about a Puskas Award winner here, with Giroud's remarkable backheeled volley against Crystal Palace in 2017 adjudged to be the most beautiful goal scored in the entire world that year. As his acrobatic efforts against Palace and Atletico Madrid duly attest, he's no stranger to the sublime, having made a habit of stunning the world with his spontaneous finishes and important goals in big games. Since the start of last season, Giroud has scored 21 goals and notched in crunch clashes against Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Still a regular fixture in the France national team, Giroud has also scored five goals in his last seven caps (including three goals in five appearances for Les Bleus in the UEFA Nations League), firmly proving he can still mix it on the international stage. He's also France's second highest goal scorer of all-time with 44 goals in 105 appearances, above the likes of Michel Platini, David Trezeguet and Zinedine Zidane, and just seven goals behind Thierry Henry at the top of the list (51 goals in 123 games).
Given his impressive numbers, his trophy haul, the vast treasure trove of wonder goals, the silky touches, the powerful link-up play, AND the raft of managers queuing up to sing his praises, it's perhaps puzzling that Giroud continues to be perennially underrated and unappreciated by fans.
But, with his Chelsea contract due to expire at the end of the season, can the Blues afford to make the same decision Arsenal did three years ago and write him off? Giroud has certainly given his current and potential future employers food for thought.