Benjamin Corgnet: “I want to enjoy myself”
Read any article dedicated to Benjamin Corgnet, who on Monday signed a three-year deal at RC Strasbourg, and you’ll notice that they dwell at great length on two moments in his life: when, at 12 years old, he didn’t answer the call of Olympique Lyonnais’s youth academy, and when, at 22 years of age, then playing for Chasselay in CFA2, he delayed his arrival at Dijon in Ligue 2 to finish his BTS diploma in optics. “All that stuff kind of shaped my image,” admits Benjamin. “People liked my slightly different career path when I made it professionally. But, that’s me and I don’t have any regrets. At 12 years old, I didn’t imagine, for example, that I would leave the family home”.
Benjamin was born in Thionville on 6th April 1987. At five years old, he followed his mother and father to the Lyon area, where he would go on to have a quiet, studious adolescence. Did he think then about a career as a professional footballer? “Not really. But I was passionate about football. I liked playing with my mates and the enjoyment that I got from it”. Later, Benjamin appeared in the local amateur leagues before signing for Chasselay, in CFA2. That’s when things took a big turn. Corgnet’s technique caught the eye of Ghislain Anselmini, a local recruitment scout. In just three days of trials at Dijon, everyone was agreed about Benjamin Corgnet. He signed a pre-agreement and, with enough time to finish off his diploma and take part in Chasselay’s promotion to CFA, the time had come to make his entrance into the big wide world at 22 years old.
In 2011, Benjamin was promoted to Ligue 1 with Dijon. The following season, France discovered a peculiarly gifted player whose vision is more owing to his natural talent than his studies as an optician. He shone in the midst of a struggling squad who failed to stay up. “I still started the next season with Dijon in Ligue 2, but in September, I left for Lorient and I was back in Ligue 1”. One season, 26 matches and 5 goals later, however, the adventure was not extended. He was instead headed for Saint-Étienne and the cauldron of Geoffroy-Guichard.
Benjamin has mixed impressions from the four seasons he spent at Les Verts. “Things started off well, I was feeling comfortable in a system where I was playing as a number 10. But Christophe Galtier, the manager, went back to a 4–4–2 which worked well too. I moved around quite a lot, sometimes finding myself on the right wing. The good thing about it was that I learnt to play in different positions. It was still difficult for me, though”. The Lorraine-born player held on, not wanting to leave with one year left on his contract. “I didn’t want it to end like that, I wanted to turn it around, to bring something before I left. The last six months allowed me to put things right”.
Benjamin knows that he had his day at ASSE. He’s 30 years old, but only has eight years of professional football behind him. “Maybe that’s my strength now. I’m still really fresh, I don’t feel like I’m near the end. Like some other players at Strasbourg, I followed the unusual career path that those who haven’t been through a youth academy follow. I’m not tired of the game. Physically and mentally, I’m still full of juice”. Alsace has become a new starting point, the next turn on the road of enjoyment.
“I’m not coming with any feelings of revenge,” admits Benjamin. “It’s really just pleasure that I’m looking for. I want to enjoy myself again, to feel the taste of the game that I love so much, to get 100% back into it. I get the feeling that Strasbourg is the right place for that, and that I’ll be able to share a certain idea of football here”.
The attacking midfielder is drawn to the dynamic at Racing. “You get the feeling that everything here is made to get back to the bright lights of yesteryear, even though survival will be the first priority”.
Soon, Benjamin Corgnet will be joined by his family, his spouse, Barbara, and the two boys, 5-year-old Jolann and 2-year-old Milo. In the meantime, he has moved in with his aunt and uncle who live in nearby Lingolsheim. He’s delighted to discover Strasbourg. He says simply: “It’s lovely”.