|Full name||Laurent N'Dri Pokou|
Aug 10, 1947
Treichville, IVORY COAST
|Dead||Nov 13, 2016 (69 years old)|
Côte d'Ivoire A
Laurent Pokou was born in the Ivory Coast, and had a golden talen. He is without doubt the best player to ever grace the Stade Rennais team. He started his playing career in 1966 in his native Ivory Coast with ASEC Abidjan with the senior side, having played in their Youth setup. A rapid and excellent dribbler, he scored a hat-trick in his first match and rapidly became first-choice in attack. He stayed at the club for several years, winning 6 national cups and 4 league titles in that time. Idolised and recognised in his country, he became an Ivory Coast international at the beginning of 1967, and was decisive on numerous occasions with his national side. He played in four African Cup of Nations, and finished tournament top scorer twice (1968 and 1970), obtaining a record for the number of goals scored (14 goals), a performance which would only be beaten several years later by Eto'o in 2008. He was followed by numerous clubs around Europe, and in France (notably Nantes, Marseille, Monaco and Saint Etienne), over many seasons, but it took him a long time to leave his country as the local authorities refused point-blank to let him go elsewhere. Finally, it would be Stade Rennais who managed to secure his services in December 1973, right from under the noses of Nantes, who were expecting him to sign for them. With the Red and Blacks, Pokou actually signed his first professional contract, as he was always considered as an amateur when playing in the Ivory Coast, meaning that he had to do a job on the side to earn money to live off. He made an instant impact in his debut, scoring in his first appearance for the club against Troyes on 6th January 1974. The Rennes supporters were rapidly won over by this explosive and clinical striker, notably in his first match at the old Stade de la Route de Lorient (now known as "Roazhon Park") when he scored the only goal of the encounter to end the 3-month unbeaten run of Lyon. When he arrived at the club, Rennes were 18th, and with his help, they would end up 13th in the First Division by the end of that season. Despite a positive start to the 1974/1975 league championship, he would be plagued by injury, and Stade Rennais were relegated to the Second Division at the end of the season. Pokou chose to stay in Brittany, and made a remarkable start to the 1975/1976 season, scoring no fewer than 17 times in the first 12 games. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious knee ligament injury in a match against Châteauroux, which again sidelined him for a number of months, and forced him to have two operations before he could return to action once more. Almost a year-and-a-half later, he finally returned to the side, and finished the 1976/1977 season, but he was powerless to stop Rennes from being relegated once more to the Second Division. Out of contract, he left Rennes to sign for Nancy and link up with their playmaker Michel Platini in 1977/1978. Sadly for Pokou, his season in Nancy would again be disappointing owing to multiple muscular injuries, which reduced his game-time there. He found himself increasingly warming the sub's bench, but would still start the following season with Nancy, before returning to Rennes in September 1978. Despite 12 goals for Rennes, his return to Brittany would end in the worst-possible way. In the 7th Round of the French Cup, Rennes were playing at Saint Pol de Léon in December 1978, and Pokou was sent-off after allegedly striking the referee, and was suspended for 6 months. He struggled to come to terms with this suspension, and chose to return to the Ivory Coast and his old club ASEC Abidjan, who bought out the end of his contract with Stade Rennais. He continued to play for a further three years before a brief spell in coaching with some clubs in his native Ivory Coast, of which his original club ASEC Abidjan. After that, he converted to sales management in the automotive industry, and then went in to textile management. He passed away on 13th November 2016 after a long battle with illness. Laurent Pokou, nowadays, is considered as one of the best players - not only in African football history, but also in the history of Stade Rennais Football Club.