Lyon boss wishes he had signed teenage Gareth Bale
LYON boss Remi Garde wishes he had been alerted to Gareth Bale's talents earlier - so he could have tried to lure the Tottenham winger to Lyon.
Lyon travel to White Hart Lane tomorrow knowing they will have to stop Bale if they are to stand any chance of making the last 16 of the Europa League.
The 23-year-old has scored five goals in his last four matches to take his tally for the season to 19 - comfortably his best return since he made his bow in 2006.
Garde, Lyon's manager, needs no reminding of how deadly the Welshman can be. The 46-year-old was informed about Bale's talents by former Lyon youth director Georges Prost, who held the same post at Southampton from 2002-2007 when the winger was at the south coast club.
Back then Bale was just a gangly left-back, but Prost was still convinced the wide man was set for stardom.
"Georges Prost worked with Gareth as a youngster at Southampton," Garde said.
"He told me a few years ago about him, but he was about 16 at the time and he had already made his debut for Southampton. He was a young man but he was already expensive then, too expensive.
"Prost told me how quick he was then, how much skill he was blessed with even at that age, so it's not a surprise to me to see the top form Gareth has been in. "He is the sort of player that we do need to keep an eye on tomorrow."
This is the first time that Garde has returned to north London since his playing days with Spurs' bitter local rivals Arsenal.
Garde joined the club from Strasbourg on the same day as Patrick Vieira arrived from AC Milan in 1996, but both players' careers then took very different paths.
Vieira went on to become a Gunners icon, winning three Barclays Premier League titles, but Garde left three years later having made just 27 starts.
Although he only had limited playing time at Arsenal, Garde remembers his years at Highbury fondly and he admits the fact that this game is against the Gunners' biggest rivals adds an extra edge to the occasion.
"I can't deny that when I wore the red shirt of Arsenal the matches against Spurs were important moments for me," said Garde, whose team arrive in London on the back of two 3-1 defeats.
"It was important to beat Spurs and I suppose in truth those feelings are still there in my head now, even though that page in my career has turned now."
Spurs and Lyon are linked by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who joined Andre Villas-Boas in a £12million move last summer.
Lloris has been in superb form of late, but Villas-Boas revealed today that Brad Friedel will start in goal ahead of the France captain, much to Garde's disappointment.
"I suppose it's kind of a regret (that Lloris is not playing).It is for all of us," Garde said.
"He was very much loved at Lyon. He made a big impression.
"He was a great guy so it would have been nice to have the experience of coming up against him, rather than just seeing him in the corridor."