PSG’s next Ligue 1 challenger? Christophe Galtier exits Lille as firesale begins; Nice, Lyon among top options


The Lille OSC firesale has started earlier than anybody expected with head coach Christophe Galtier having already announced his departure and goalkeeper Mike Maignan being on the verge of joining AC Milan who the Ligue 1 champions loosely share owners with.

LOSC only confirmed their fourth French title on Sunday night with a 2-1 win away at Angers SCO and within 24 hours, Maignan was in Italy for his medical and contract signature having lifted the Hexagoal trophy earlier that day with the France international expected to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Less than 24 hours later, it was Galtier’s turn with the three-time Ligue 1 Manager of the Year winner telling L’Equipe that “I made my decision and informed my president [Olivier Letang], after listening to him a lot, that I am leaving — or stopping — with LOSC. I just feel strongly that my time here is done. Four years is a long time to coach, even if we have only been working together for five months.”

Perhaps most interestingly, Galtier then went into detail about his three main options in OGC Nice, Olympique Lyonnais and SSC Napoli and the 54-year-old’s decision later this week, particularly if it is one of the two French clubs, will likely indicate the next power to rise and challenge PSG alongside a rejuvenated AS Monaco.

“Everyone knows the relationship I have with [Nice’s director of football] Julien [Fournier], who I have known for a very long time,” Galtier said of Les Aiglons. “He is part of the colossal INEOS project in Nice. Wherever INEOS go, they win. I think that the necessary conditions for efficiency are there in Nice.

“Lyon are one of the big Ligue 1 clubs,” he said on the topic of OL. “Being called on by them is gratifying. The fact that they are not in the Champions League does not make them less appealing. I do not know if I still identify myself solely with AS Saint-Etienne. It is not part of my considerations. I think that I have proved everywhere I have been that I give 200% of myself.”

“It is an opportunity,” said Galtier of Napoli. “They are interested, but also in others as well and I do not know where I rank in that. I understood that they were signing Sergio Conceicao. When my phone sounded earlier, it was Napoli.”

Regardless of whoever follows Galtier and Maignan out of Stade Pierre Mauroy, a list that is likely to be long by the end of this summer, the French tactician’s decision — particularly if it is already Nice — could herald the birth of a new sustainable challenger to PSG’s dominance and a new threat for traditional Riviera rivals Monaco.

Le Gym, as they are also known, came close to that back in 2016-17 by finishing third under Lucien Favre, but that proved to be a false dawn and a vibrant and attractive team spearheaded by Mario Balotelli eventually fell apart and the Swiss coach returned to Germany with Borussia Dortmund.

With the significant financial backing of INEOS, Galtier has a great opportunity to succeed where Patrick Vieira was never likely to do so due to his previously strained relationship with the aforementioned Fournier and president Jean-Pierre Rivere, who left for a short period before returning to the shiny Allianz Riviera. The club have even made way for him already by parting company with Vieira’s interim replacement Adrian Ursea.

Well-run Monaco under former Red Bull strategist Paul Mitchell aside, traditional powers Lyon and Olympique de Marseille are unlikely to challenge for the title in the foreseeable future as they try to rebuild after damaging spells of ill-timed failure in a time of COVID-19 and the collapse of the lucrative Mediapro television rights deal and OL’s parting of ways with Rudi Garcia has already sparked acrimony.

Widening the scope across the whole of Ligue 1, a sweeping wave of changes has already begun that could see the Championnat landscape change in the near future with the idea of 18-team top and second flights growing and the likes of Girondins de Bordeaux fighting for their very existence.

ESTAC Troyes’ promotion from Ligue 2 means that City Football Group are now in the mix while Clermont Foot 63 will compete in the top tier for the first time ever and sides like Angers SCO, Montpellier HSC, RC Strasbourg Alsace and Stade de Reims have decent foundations that could be built on with the right approaches and new leadership on the pitch.

Will Galtier’s next move herald the start of a new era for French football with PSG’s Qatari owners also reaching a critical juncture in their project with the 2022 FIFA World Cup on the horizon? The 2020-21 season might be just days over, but 21-22 is already shaping up to be highly intriguing.





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