PARIS Jan 12 Girondins Bordeaux and Yoann Gourcuff provided a massive boost on Sunday for all those tired of Olympique Lyon and Karim Benzema.
Lyon, chasing an eighth consecutive Ligue 1 title, still top the table and 21-year old France striker Benzema, with 10 league goals to his name this season, remains a feared marksman.
But Bordeaux's 4-0 hammering of a hapless Paris St Germain side and a superb performance by Gourcuff capped by a splendid goal suggested, however, that Lyon's days at the top could be numbered.
Last season's runners-up, now second just one point behind Lyon and with a better goal difference, looked very much like champions on Sunday, setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting second half of the campaign.
The 22-year-old Gourcuff stole the show, setting up his side's first goal before scoring the third in style.
The gifted playmaker is already being compared to the great Zinedine Zidane, who also cut his teeth at Bordeaux before hitting the heights with Juventus, Real Madrid and France.
Gourcuff took a leaf out of the retired maestro's book with a piece of magic on 71 minutes.
He collected the ball with his back to the goal just outside the box and set himself up by rolling it back with the sole of his boot. He then turned around and twisted his way through two PSG defenders with inspired close control before hitting the back of the net.
"Gourcuff is Zidane," read a headline in Monday's issue of French sports daily L'Equipe, as to put a bit more pressure on a player who still officially belongs to AC Milan.
Bordeaux have an option to buy him and must be thinking that the reported 15 million euros ($20.10 million) the Italian side are asking for is a bargain.
PSG, who had scored wins over Bordeaux, Lyon and Olympique Marseille in the first half of the season to emerge as title contenders, could do very little against Girondins on Sunday. With not only Gourcuff but a string of other fine players such as holding midfielder Alou Diarra and Argentine poacher Fernando Cavenaghi, Bordeaux gave the Parisian club a football lesson, thrilling their fans with fluent moves.
"We were competitive in every area of the game and scored four goals, each by a different scorer, without conceding any, which is very satisfying and shows that we can move the ball forward without losing our balance at the back", Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc proudly told reporters.
Bordeaux, the most complete side in the league with a taste for attacking football but also plenty of discipline and power, have not lost a league match in three months and have won their last four games with 13 goals scored.
By contrast, Lyon have looked ordinary lately, notably on Saturday, when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by mid-table Lorient. Never since winning the first of their seven titles in 2002 has the yardstick for French sides looked so vulnerable.
A man of few words since the days when, as a rock-solid defender, he helped France lift the 1998 World Cup, Blanc says Bordeaux have the right to dream of the title.
"Am I satisfied with being just one point behind Lyon?" he asked reporters on Sunday.
"No. I'd rather be ahead of them."
(Additional reporting by Claude Canellas in Bordeaux; editing by Miles Evans)