France is at the forefront of not just European football, but of the beautiful game on a global scale. Responsible for the gifts that have been Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, Lillian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Jean-Pierre Papin and a veritable host of players who currently play their trades across the biggest leagues on the continent, it’s hard to look past the Gallic nation when it comes to the production of world class talent. One player who made a lasting impact on the national team and at club level is a left-back who many have seemingly forgotten; Bixente Lizarazu.
Born in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the Basque province of Labourd in southwestern France, Lizarazu is perhaps the best left-back France has had over the last 20-odd years. A veteran of twelve-year’s service for his country (and 97 caps), Lizarazu featured prominently for Les Blues in three European Championships and two World Cups, including their famous wins at France ’98 and Euro ’00.
He began his career with a small local side, Les Eglantins Hendaye, at the age of 8 – he would remain with the club until 1988 when at the age of 19 he would move to French-side Girondins Bordeaux, but only featuring for their B-side for the first two years of service. He would make his full debut for the club in 1988 and would go on to feature as the first-choice left back for Les Girondins for eight years, making well over 250 appearances and making an appearance in the 1996 UEFA Cup final as well as winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup the previous season. A move to prominent Basque-side Athletic Bilbao would follow, but only last one season when German giants Bayern Munich would come calling, and it would be here where he would really leave his footprint.
From 1997-2004, the diminutive full-back would go on to win four Bundesliga titles as well as four German Cups, four League Cups and a Champions League winners medal. He would briefly part ways with the Bavarian club in 200 when he returned to his native France and joined Lique 1 side Olympique Marseille, but after just six-months on the south coast he would return to Munich where he made 31 appearances as well as picking up an additional Bundesliga title and German Cup victory before retiring the following year.
Regardless of his achievements for club and country, Lizarazu’s career can be described as a muted one, certainly passed over for praise when you lined up along side many a French footballing icon. His years post-retirement mirror the same sentiment of his career as he’s separated himself from football completely, instead turning to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It may not be football, but his knack for accomplishment certainly carried over when he became the first European champion in the Blue Belt Senior 1 Light Division of the competition.
Sometimes there are athletes who have a winning mentality but do it with minimal fuss and fanfare, and Bixente Lizarazu certainly fits the bill in that regard. His achievements on the pitch are certainly tough to equal but perhaps it’s fitting that the little left-back from a quiet far off left corner of France proved that you don’t have to be fashionable to achieve great things.
Remember to check back in each Friday as we induct another great into the Robin Friday Hipster Hall of Fame. Thank you to Hipster Drew @AFCBvB1410 for this contribution.