Why the 'Lille Project' is one to watch in coming seasons
It’s been quite a while now since there has been a true title race in France. Paris Saint-Germain have dominated year after year since being backed by oil-rich Qataris. Yet this season we’ve seen a change at the top of the table in France, with OGC Nice shooting off to an early lead only to be overtaken by the best attacking side in Europe, Monaco.
Monaco’s ascent to the top of the table has come as somewhat of a surprise given that they’ve had to restructure their transfer policy from signing big name stars such as Falcao and James Rodriguez to a more domestic based, youth orientated approach. They’ve been made to do this as a result of their owner Dmitry Rybolovlev’s divorce, in which he lost half of his overall fortune. Nice, on the other hand, are the beneficiaries of a new financial backing in the form of a Chinese consortium. With an influx of money into south coast side, they could be able to sustain a title challenge in the coming seasons.
The emergence of the likes of Monaco and Nice could coincide with the resurgence of former French giants, Olympique Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais. Both clubs have won multiple French titles in past years, but have both been surpassed by PSG in more recent times. Now, though, as a result of new ownership at both clubs, they look as though they could be able to push PSG for the title once again. While they are still not at the same financial level that their French rivals are at, signings such as Dimitri Payet and Memphis Depay are a clear signal of intent from the two clubs that they intend to fight for the title in the near future.
A true title race is exactly what Ligue 1 needs in order to revitalise itself and be considered amongst the best leagues in Europe. With five teams now that could potentially compete for the title, the future looks bright. There could even be a sixth team added to the mix in future as well, in the form of LOSC Lille. Lille are another side with a new owner, and they’ve already started to make some impressive moves.
Businessman and former F1 team Lotus president, Gerard Lopez, took control of the club on January 26th after almost purchasing Olympique Marseille. Lopez wasn’t shy in expressing his ambitions for the club, stating he wants Lille to become a top six side within the next season. He went on to say that he wants Lille to be challenging for the title in the next two years. As a side that have been frequent participants in the Europa League, it’s clear that Lopez now wants the side to make that next step.
But just how are they going to make that next step? First of all, they have announced that Marcelo Bielsa is set to become the new manager at the start of next season. The hiring of such a high profile in the form of “El Loco” underlines their ambition to join Europe’s elite. The Argentine manager is regarded as one of the most influential managers in the game and is the source of inspiration for the likes of Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Jorge Sampaoli.
They’ve also decided to change their transfer policy. Opting for a youthful approach to rebuilding their squad. The club have chosen to sign players aged between the ages of 20 – 24 in an attempt to revitalize their set-up. They’ve already signed Anwar El Ghazi, an exciting young Dutch International winger, from Ajax and Junior Alonso, a highly rated Paraguayan defender from Cerro Porteno.
Having moved into a flash new stadium, built for the Euros, the infrastructure is certainly there for the club to kick on and compete with the bigger teams in France and perhaps even Europe. Exciting times lie ahead for Lille – a fresh, youthful squad combined with a big-name manager like Bielsa should have fans of the club drooling at the mouth. Who knows what will happen in the future for the French club? Their situation is in fact personified by their new manager, unpredictable, hectic, yet undoubtedly exciting and fascinating to watch. The Lille project is certainly one to keep a close eye on.
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