By Ralph Miller
Born: Sully-on-Loire, France (6/2/70)
Clubs: Nantes, Paris St Germain, Montpellier, Lyon, Troyes, FC Lorient and Ajaccio.
International: France (26 games, 7 goals)
Patrice Loko’s talent was spotted early and he rose through the international ranks at a young age. After showing much promise as a youngster and being selected for French youth international games in Scotland and the USSR, Patrice signed with top division side Nantes as a 15-year-old.
Patrice made his professional debut for the club in 1989 and quickly established a reputation as a skillful finisher. Within a few years Patrice received his first full international call-up, making his debut against Portugal in 1993, becoming a key member of the national team.
Patrice would have probably made the 1994 World Cup squad, had his team mates not so disastrously collapsed in their final qualifiers.
Patrice bounced back with a great season in which he starred as part of the “trio magique” alongside playmaker Reynald Pedros and striker Nicolas Ouédec. The trio helped Nantes to stunning league victory in 1994-95 season and Patrice finished that campaign with 22 goals.
The following season he was snapped up by Paris St-Germain. His career in the capital did not get off to the most auspicious of starts. Soon after joining the Paris club Patrice was arrested for violent behavior outside of a discotheque. Patrice reportedly punched several cars, spat at police officers and a female officer accused him of exposing himself to her. Patrice’s father Pascal said at the time that his son was struggling to come to terms with the death of his young child.
Despite this incident, he played his part in the team which won the European Cup Winner’s Cup trophy in 1996. In the final a Bruno N’Gotty goal saw off Rapid Vienna.
Although Patrice never really scaled the international heights, he was capped by France 26 times and played a part in his country’s march to the semi-finals at Euro 96 in England. Patrice started several games and scored in France’s 3-1 victory over Bulgaria. The French were only eliminated in the semis when Patrice’s Nantes team-mate Reynald Pedros missed the sixth penalty kick. (Patrice was likely to have been the next taker in line after Pedros).
Soon after Euro 96 Patrice’s international career came to an end and by the time his country hosted the World Cup in 1998 Patrice had played his last game for France. His last international appearance came as a substitute against England at the Tournoi de France in 1997.
Patrice played a key role in St Germain’s return to the 1997 final of the same tournament, including a hat trick away to AEK Athens. In the final itself, Loko hit the post and eventually the valiant French side lost to Bobby Robson’s Barcelona team starring Ronaldo, Figo, Luis Enrique and Stoichkov.
After leaving Paris St Germain, his career never quite reached the same heights. Initially Patrice moved on to Lorient and then Montpellier where he scored nine goals before an unfortunate spell at Lyon in which he only made a handful of appearances.
His last hurrah came the following season when he joined the unfancied Troyes. Patrice sat out the club’s Intertoto Cup victory over Newcastle United, but went on to star in two UEFA Cup thrillers against David O’Leary’s Leeds babies. Patrice snatched a brace in the 4-2 defeat at Elland Road. In the second leg his side took a 3-2 lead and Patrice inexplicably missed a sitter late on from six yards out and saw his side fall to a 6-5 defeat.
After his time at Troyes, Loko rejoined Lorient before moving on to Ajaccio. However, at this stage he was limited to a more bit-part role with only the occasional goal. Patrice retired in 2004, but was rumoured to have been on trial with Shrewsbury Town in 2009.
Since his retirement Patrice has run an events firm called Loko Sport Events