Alexandre Villaplane – A Football Genius Turned Criminal Mastermind

Alexandre Villaplane
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Over the years, football has seen several ‘bad boys’ in its illustrious history, but none compared to that of former French captain Alexandre Villaplane. Arguably the most controversial player of all time, Villaplane was at the peak of his stardom when he captained Les Blues to their first-ever World Cup in 1930. Men wanted to be like him, women wanted to be with him. But fourteen years later, after his glorious ascent to superstardom. Villaplane found himself staring at a firing squad after being found guilty of war crimes and several murders.

Alexandre Villaplane: A Brilliant Footballer and a Brutal Murderer

The Early Years of Alexandre Villaplane

Villaplane was born in French-occupied Algeria in 1905. He moved to Southern France at 16 or 17 to live with his uncle. It was during this time that the young Villaplane caught the attention of the local football team, FC Sete, manager Victor Gibson. Under Gibson’s guidance, Villaplane developed his raw football talent, quickly progressing through the ranks and establishing himself as a regular before turning 18.

At that time, French football was still in the amateur stage of the game. Professionalism in football was still alien to French football. Despite that, players were known to have been offered fictitious jobs with high salaries to lure them to other clubs. The talented midfielder quickly caught the eye of other clubs and was subsequently lured to FC Vergeze at 18.

The change in scenery did not deter young Alex rather, it improved his stature in the game. Gibson, quick to realise the mistake, brought the midfielder back to Sete a year later. By then, Alex had established himself as one of the brightest young footballers in the country.

It didn’t take long for the bigger clubs to take note of the rising young African-born midfielder. By 1926, the whole of France knew about Alexandre Villaplane. The midfielder also earned his first international cap during this period, becoming the first French immigrant to represent the country.

In a way, Villaplane paved the way for the entry of future immigrants into the French national team.

Alexandre Villaplane Rise to Superstardom

The international exposure, along with the ever-rising reputation, saw Olympique Nimes reach out for the signature of Alex. The midfielder joined Nimes in 1927 after accepting a fictitious job with a handsome salary. The youngster by then had started to understand his worth amongst the football fraternity.

For two years, Villaplane donned the jersey of Les Crocodiles. Despite not winning any notable trophies, the attacker had established himself as one of the best in the country. The Algerian-born attacker moved to the French capital to join RC Paris in 1929. After then RC Paris president Jean-Bernard Levy offered him a lucrative offer.

By then, Villaplane was not the same player. He had allowed the hype to get to his head and, as a result, the relatively young Villaplane was increasingly found spending time at cabarets, casinos, bars and horse betting rounds after matches and practice sessions.

Despite his flamboyant lifestyle, the attacker still maintained to deliver consistent performances. Villaplane’s performance for RC Paris eventually led to the French national team captaincy. Villaplane led France in the inaugural FIFA World Cup, which he described as “The happiest day of my life.”

Sadly, it remains the only World Cup in which the gifted attacker took part. The tables started to turn once Villaplane returned from the World Cup. The French World Cup captain’s attention was beginning to drift away from football. The fame and fortune had drawn Villaplane into the wrong crowds. The captain’s ordeal away from football did not fare well with the French football authorities, either. In 1930 at the age of 24, Alexandre Villaplane abruptly ended his international career, the same year he led the French national team into the World Cup.

The Beginning of the End

Upon arrival from the World Cup, Villaplane led RC Paris to back-to-back FFFA Ligue De Paris in 1931 and 1932. The year 1932 also saw Villaplane joining Antibes. The same year also saw France legalising professional football.

The Antibes journey, though, was not a very fruitful one. Villaplane managed to lead the French club to the league title in 1933 after beating Lille. But proof of match-fixing by both managers saw the title stripped of Antibes. In reality, though, the managers were scapegoats. Villaplane, along with two other teammates, were rumoured to be responsible for fixing the match. All three players were never caught.

Nice signed Villaplane in 1933, hoping to rediscover the player that was once the best in the nation. But, they soon regretted the decision. Villaplane had lost interest in the game. He missed matches and training sessions. Whenever Villaplane played, he lumbered around the pitch looking uninterested and unfit. Horse racing, casinos and cabarets had moved up the priority list for Villaplane. The end of the 1933-34 season saw Nice getting relegated and Villaplane being released.

Villaplane’s former manager Victor Gibson tried to revive the career of his former pupil by signing him for Bordeaux club Hispano-Bastidienne. But the teacher failed miserably to bring his pupil back on track. The attacker rarely turned up for practice and, Scott fired him three months after signing the player. The final nail in the coffin struck after Villaplane found himself embroiled in a horse-race fixing scandal. The jury found the footballer guilty and handed him a few months of imprisonment. By then, the world of football had forever lost Alexandre Villaplane. The former French captain played his final game in 1935, retiring at the age of 30.

The Wicked Turn

The next couple of years saw Villapane turning into a full-time criminal, spending time in and out of prisons. Then the second World War broke out, and the French found themselves falling under the rule of Nazi Germany in 1940.

The Nazi takeover spawned new opportunities for Alexandre Villaplane. The former footballer got involved in the Parisian black market and racketeering. In 1940, Villaplane was handed a two-month sentence after getting caught with stolen goods.

It was during this sentence that Villaplane caught the attention of the French Gestapo. Headed by Henri Lafont and Pierre Bonny, the French Gestapo was an organisation working to support the Nazis. Unlike Nazis, the Gestapo did not have any ideals; rather, they worked for the sole purpose of getting rich. Villaplane, who also harboured the same ambition, gradually became one of its members.

French Gestapo

Despite having their own motives, the French Gestapo worked according to the bidding of the Nazis. They wore SS uniforms and regularly tracked down Jews, resistance fighters and other enemies of the Third Reich.

In 1942, Villaplane left Paris for Toulouse to escape capture. But a year later, SS did catch him for theft of precious stones, but Lafont succeeded in obtaining his release. By 1944, the French resistance started to intensify, and the French Gestapo was ordered to help exterminate the rebels.

Alexandre Villaplane, an already proven leader on the pitch, was tasked with heading the North African Brigade (BNA). BNA was made up of French immigrants from French colonies to help the SS cleanse the Perigord region. Like his nature, Villaplane’s unit quickly became notorious for its cruelty.

Downfall, Capture and Death

As the war went on, the French Resistance started growing stronger as numerous people joined the organisation to outthrow the Germans. Starting to realise that Germans were slowly on their way to losing, the cunning Villaplane changed his approach to the enemies of the Reich. He allowed people, who should have been caught, to escape to cultivate an image of a French citizen who collaborated with the Nazis only to help his compatriots.

In August 1944, the French resistance liberated Paris and defeated the SS. Villaplane, along with LaFont, Bonnie and other members of the French Gestapo, were caught. Despite trying his best to change his image, Villaplane along with other members of the organisation were given a trial and sentenced to death. On the 26th of December 1944, Villaplane, Lafont, Bonnie and five others were shot dead at the Fort de Montrouge.

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