Lille return home to celebrate Ligue 1 title, but impending overhaul looms for French champions


Lille OSC returned home to their delighted supporters on Monday after securing their first Ligue 1 title since 2010-11 with a 2-1 win away at Angers SCO’s Stade Raymond Kopa. One of Europe’s tensest league races went right to the wire and Christophe Galtier and his men heroically brought it over the line through Jonathan David and Burak Yilmaz goals to fend off second-place PSG in the table.

It is the third time since Paris Saint-Germain were bought by Qatar Sports Investments back in 2011 that they have been beaten to the Championnat crown — twice when they changed head coach mid-season and twice to squads put together by transfer guru Luis Campos — after respective runs of four and three consecutive successes.

However, like the swashbuckling AS Monaco side of 2016-17, this LOSC outfit is destined to be picked apart by bigger European clubs this summer as a combination of their unexpected success and the financial impact of COVID-19 on the continental game as a whole.

Galtier, the manager, is already a wanted man for having masterminded Lille’s recovery from relegation candidates in 2017 to 2019 UEFA Champions League qualifiers and eventually 2021 French title winners for the fourth time in the club’s 76-year history. OGC Nice are keen to bring him to Allianz Riviera and Olympique Lyonnais are hopeful that he will overlook his strong ties with bitter rivals AS Saint-Etienne.

SSC Napoli in Serie A have also shown an interest, but the 54-year-old Frenchman explained on Monday that he sees his future in France and did not even rule out staying with Les Dogues — as unlikely as that is.

“Nothing is stopping me from staying,” said Galtier. “I am not telling you that I am leaving. I have often fielded this question and a lot of things have been said. I have a meeting with my president [Olivier Letang], not to give him my decision or position, but to discuss and exchange with him. After that, we will decide together and always in the interest of the club as well as ourselves. Nothing is done.

“Honestly, I have been approached by these two clubs [Nice and Lyon] and others too. Napoli as well, but I did not turn them down. I like it in France, but I cannot answer whether it is a decision between Nice and Lyon. We spoke two months ago, the president and I. We discussed everything. However, there has been no further discussion in recent weeks as we were focused on this incredible goal. No decision has been taken. Everything is possible and I am under contract with Lille.”

Letang, for his part, only arrived mid-season after former owner Gerard Lopez was forced out due to the financial uncertainty created by the collapse of the lucrative Mediapro television deal and replaced by the former Stade Rennais supremo on behalf of Merlyn Partners.

Having already spoken of his desire to see Lille “well-managed from a sporting and financial standpoint” and with parent company Callisto Sporting having injected 40 million Euros into the club back in December, Letang will now oversee a significant rebuild that will attempt to cash in on top performers this summer while spending prudently.

“It is a good question,” said the 48-year-old of Galtier’s future. “But we want to celebrate and live this moment most of all. We do this job for these emotions and passion. As Christophe said, we speak often. We will discuss individual cases later. Our partnership is very good. I am very happy with him. He is a professional and wonderful coach.”

In terms of the players expected to move on, goalkeeper Mike Maignan has been heavily linked with AC Milan, defender Sven Botman was on Liverpool’s radar back in January, midfielder Boubakary Soumare is the subject of intense interest from Leicester City and full-back Zeki Celik as well as reborn midfielder Renato Sanches are regulars in Premier League gossip columns.

Other players such as Jonathan Bamba, Yusuf Yazici and Canada’s Jonathan David have performed well enough to also merit attention this summer as a host of giants looks to retool after disappointing campaigns.

Whatever happens next, the celebrations will not stop in Lille for at least the next few days — possibly only ending when the exodus begins — but make no mistake that it will be a significantly different Lille side that competes in the Champions League next term to the one that has just been crowned kings of France.





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