Crystal Palace’s fast starter Édouard has long been a man in a hurry

·5 min read

Even after Odsonne Édouard scored twice on his Crystal Palace debut, including the quickest goal by a Premier League debutant at 28 seconds, it is unlikely he was reading about his record-breaking performance the next day.

“I follow football and all that can be said, but things about me, I avoid as much as possible,” he said in an interview with the French magazine Onze in 2019. “Finally, if I see, I see. But anyway, I’m not someone who researches me.”

Having grown up as the biggest star of his age group in a France youth team that included his near-neighbour Kylian Mbappé, the 23-year-old – who became the first player to score two goals on his Premier League debut as a substitute since Sergio Agüero in August 2011 – could have plenty of reasons to be big-headed. Born in Kourou in French Guiana, Édouard has made a habit of making an instant impact since he joined local side AF Bobigny in the north-eastern banlieues of the French capital at the age of six.

Mbappé played just up the road for rival club AS Bondy and the future teammates for France’s youth sides were regular opponents during their formative years. “I actually know Kylian very well because we are childhood friends – we used to live very close to each other but we didn’t play for the same club,” said Édouard before Celtic’s meeting with Paris Saint-Germain in a Champions League tie in 2017. “So from the start there was a rivalry.”

While Mbappé – 11 months his junior – continued his development at Monaco, Edouard was the star of PSG’s youth teams and worked under Palace’s new development coach Saïd Aïgoun after joining the club at 13. “I remember, the day before the first day of school, I had not slept all night so I was in a hurry to go,” he recalled.

Édouard lived at the academy during the week and returned home to his family in Bobigny at the weekends. He starred for PSG’s under-17s team in the 2013-14 season and earned a call-up for France’s under-17 European Championship squad ahead of Mbappé in 2015, with a hat-trick in the final against Germany taking his goal tally to eight in six matches as he was named player of the tournament.

Odsonne Édouard celebrates with his France teammates after winning the Under-17 Euros in 2015.
Odsonne Édouard celebrates with his France teammates after winning the Under-17 Euros in 2015. Photograph: EPA

“At the time, Mbappé was in construction – we needed to give him time,” France’s coach Jean-Claude Giuntini told the BBC last year. “But for an under-17 player, Odsonne had impressive emotional control, especially in front of goal.”

Despite his heroics in Bulgaria, Édouard has admitted he “tried to ignore” the media interest his performances created. “I’m not going to lie to you, it disturbed me a bit,” he said. “I tried to deal with it all my way and it worked pretty well. I wanted to get over it all and focus only on football.”

Édouard, having signed his first professional contract at PSG in April 2016 after winning the Titi d’Or award voted for by the club’s supporters for the best academy player, scored against Leicester after coming off the bench in a friendly, before being sent on loan to Toulouse at the start of the season. But a difficult spell that saw him score only once in Ligue 1 culminated in the teenager being handed a four-month suspended sentence for shooting Francis Guiral in the left ear with an air pistol from his car.

A civil case brought by Guiral this year ordered Édouard to pay €23,539 in compensation, although the 62-year-old, who says he can barely hear through the affected ear and suffers from tinnitus, said in a letter to Toulouse’s chairman, Damien Comolli, on learning of the striker’s move to Palace from Celtic that he had received only a €3,000 deposit.

“I’m just asking for a postal address to send him a bailiff,” he told the French newspaper La Dépêche. “The former club management never contacted me to apologise or support me. I hope Mr Comolli will be more humane.”

It is understood that Édouard’s lawyers have since been in contact with the court in France to settle the fine after issues with the paperwork and that it just needs to be signed off. According to Giuntini, the opportunity Édouard had to move to Scotland six weeks after avoiding prison came at just the right time to save the player’s career. “Moving to Celtic helped him to grow up,” he said.

Odsonne Édouard scores for Celtic against Rangers in March 2019.
Odsonne Édouard scores for Celtic against Rangers in March 2019. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Édouard’s status among Celtic supporters may have diminished after some less than impressive performances last season that were perhaps a result of the club’s over-ambitious valuation of their prized asset that blocked a potential move to the Premier League. But 86 goals and 39 assists in 179 appearances for Celtic, who signed him for about £8m after a successful one-season loan, were enough to persuade Palace to pay £14m for a player who had less than 12 months less on his contract.

On the evidence of his debut against Tottenham last Saturday, which meant Édouard has been directly involved in 21 goals in his last 24 league appearances, the former Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk and his Liverpool teammates should beware him when Palace travel to Anfield on Saturday.

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