Lille bring the French revolution to fruition

A team in transition with a mix of nationalities and generations beat the all-powerful PSG


Lille's squad has a market value of 300 million euros. Paris Saint-Germain's squad is worth almost 900 million euros. In their two meetings in the 20/21 season, they played out a goalless draw in the first leg and Lille won 1-0 in the second. The northern side have scored 63 goals and PSG 83. But the reigning Ligue 1 champions have conceded just 23 goals to the competition's owners' 28 in recent years. 


Facts. Numbers. Statistics. A bit like the movie Moneyball where Brad Pitt created a winning baseball team out of Excel tables. LOSC Lille Métropole is the official name of the team everyone is asking about. Some people talk about the French Atletico Madrid. It could be a good definition. Good work in the offices, a squad balanced in age and quality and a coach not as identified as Simeone, but with a past at home.



Christopher Galtier (Marseille, 1966) is the coach who has taken Lille to the top of France. The city couldn't be further north in the country and, now, neither could the team. He joined the club in the 17/18 season from St. Ettiene where he coached from 2009 to 2017. Prior to that he had been assistant coach at various clubs in France and England, and in Marseille he played 15 games with Javier Clemente in 01/02. Galtier played football in his country without glory. He was a central defender. He scored one goal in 234 games back in 1994 against Marseille. 

His arrival at Lille was not easy. He arrived after the stormy departure of Marcelo Bielsa. He managed to stay in the penultimate matchday and stayed at the club knowing that the future was going to be complicated. Lille sold players. They signed younger players and veterans on loan. But Galtier's hand led them to the runners-up spot in 18/19. In the 19/20 season they were one of the big losers when the league was suspended because of the coronavirus. After 27 games played they were fourth in the standings, one point behind Rennes who did play in the Champions League. 



The lack of revenue and the departure of club president Gerard Lopez foreshadowed years of instability. The Luxembourgian ownership that acquired the club appointed former French footballer Olivier Letang as president. In the midst of these departures, Marc Ingla, the former Barça vice-president who served as general manager, and Luis Campos, the sporting director, also left the club. The latter is the real architect of the Lille league champions. He was Mourinho's tactical assistant at Real Madrid and is considered one of the best in his position, which, by the way, could bring him back to Chamartín to carry out the revolution that Florentino Pérez needs to make. Physical preparation has a Spanish accent. Campos looked to Pedro Gómez, Eduardo Parra and Alberto Piernas to fine-tune the squad and they continued after the departure of the Portuguese manager.

Campos built Lille's squad and achieved sporting and financial success. Some examples: Nicolas Pépé was signed for 10 million and sold for 80 to Arsenal, Victor Osimhen cost 12 million and was transferred for 70 to Napoli, while Leao was sold for 30 to Milan. But the squad that has won Ligue 1 brings together big names, youngsters and a veteran top scorer. A different team from the rest of the French clubs. Out of the 554 players in the competition, 48% are foreigners. Senegal (9%), Brazil (7%), and Algeria (6.7%) are the three biggest contributors. Morocco (3%) is ninth and Spain (3%) tenth with the majority in PSG's ranks.  



Lille are champions thanks to 16 goals from veteran Burak Yilmaz (35) who arrived from Besiktas on a free transfer. Jonathan David scored 13 goals. An unknown American player from Gent for whom they paid 27 million euros and who is already on the European radar. Yusuf Yacizi is another highly rated playmaker who finished the season with seven goals. There are other talents in the squad who are also likely to leave the club. The strikers Ikoné (Congo) and Bamba (Ivory Coast) and the son of the legendary George Weah, current president of Liberia and former player of City, Chelsea, Milan and PSG. Timothy Weah was born in New York, has made his debut with the United States national team and has won two leagues as a PSG player and one with Celtic. 



Incidentally, the last league Lille lifted was with Eden Hazard in their ranks. He scored twelve goals and it set him up for his final year before joining Chelsea. The best of his career with 22 goals and as many assists. The future of the club is an unknown. It can sell well and make money. It can sustain the current squad by adjusting the players upwards. And it can even make some signings to improve for a new season where Mbappé and Neymar will continue to be more valuable than the entire Lille squad.