Newly crowned French champions have done it on less than a quarter of PSG’s budget

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021 00:00 |
Lille’s players celebrate after winning the French L1 football match between Angers SCO and Lille OSC at The Raymond-Kopa Stadium in Angers, north-western France on May 23, 2021. Photo/AFP

London, Monday

It is a remarkable transformation. Three years ago, Lille were almost relegated, only surviving after winning three of their final four matches. Now, they have pipped the might of Paris St-Germain to the French title.

They have done it on less than a quarter of PSG’s budget, and amid the uncertainty of a mid-season takeover. They can thank an astute, underrated manager in Christophe Galtier, some smart signings - and a few of PSG’s own discarded youth products.

But while Lille celebrate, PSG have been left to wonder how the Ligue 1 crown has been wrestled away from them.

Lille should not have been able to compete on an even playing field. Their squad cost 147 euros (£126.5m), while PSG’s cost 640m euros (£551m). 

But he also unwittingly struck upon another reason for PSG to blame themselves: Lille’s success was fashioned to a great extent in the dethroned champions’ own youth academy.

No fewer than four former PSG players played key roles in the Lille squad - goalkeeper Mike Maignan, midfielder Boubakary Soumare, and forwards Jonathan Ikone and Timothy Weah.

Maignan in particular has been a standout performer. Former Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham United centre-back Jose Fonte - now 37 - held together a backline with the hugely promising Sven Botman, Gabriel’s replacement.

A new front two clicked as well. Burak Yilmaz, the 35-year-old Turkey striker - barring a spell in China - had not played for a club outside his own country before joining Lille last summer as a replacement for Loic Remy, but worked superbly in attack, scoring 16 goals in Ligue 1.

He provided the experience to support Jonathan David, the Canada forward signed from Belgian club Gent before the start of the season. 

David was brought in to fill the gap left by Victor Osimhen’s departure to Napoli, and his 13 league goals were crucial to Lille’s title success.

Lille used just 21 players to claim their fifth top-flight title, fewer than any other side in the division. Given they also reached the knockout stages of the Europa League, it’s all the more remarkable, and adds to the credit that manager Galtier fully deserves.

Galtier established himself in coaching as an assistant, working alongside Alain Perrin at Portsmouth, Lyon and Saint-Etienne among others. When Saint-Etienne sacked Perrin in 2009, Galtier got his chance as a manager, and has proved an adept leader.                                                 - BBC

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