In 8th position in the French Premier League, being unceremoniously eliminated from the Champions League, their top player enticed to cross the English Channel, and a club up for sale, the second half of the 2012 season will be no walk in the park for the LOSC who seem to have run out of steam. Things seem stacked up against them.
How ironic the 21st August 2012 headlines in France Football sound today! “Lille is over the moon.” With the sub-headline: “With their fantastic new stadium and top team, the LOSC should be able to give the PSG a run for their money and shine on the European scene.” In the middle of the summer, everything looked truly promising.
A few months later, the newspaper headlines are no longer so optimistic for the 2011 Champions of France. First of all, sports-wise, the LOSC have failed to live up to their reputation. In the league, they are in 8th position. Mathematically – as the players say – the season is not a write-off as they can still qualify for the Champions League, but it’s difficult to be optimistic. After a catastrophic performance in the Champions League last year, the club did even worse this year, floundering completely. One win in six matches and they went down big time to Ribery’s Bayern Munich (6-1) and to the little club of Borisov (3-1). Not a good omen for a club that hoped to compete with the PSG.
As if that wasn’t enough, things also started to go horribly wrong at the LOSC in the back room where normally all is hunky dory… The most obvious being the untimely departure of Mickaël Landreau just a few days before the end of the winter transfer season, a very rare mid-season termination of contract, indicating that things are not all rosy backstage. Reading between the lines, Landreau, star of the double in 2011 and France’s third national goalkeeper, had been put on the sidelines and was kicked out of the player/staff ‘marriage guidance council’ for having shot his mouth off once too often.
Another telltale sign concerning the players: Mathieu Debuchy’s departure. The Blues‘right- back has just signed for Newcastle to join his mate Yohan Cabaye as he’d been hoping since last summer. Back then, he was worth at least 12 million Euros but the LOSC blocked the transfer. This winter, he is worth a mere 6.5 million (if that) and his transfer marks the end of an era: the player from Fretin was the team’s last local lad, born and bred in the North.
So, Lille has lost two international players in the space of a month, in addition to five other major departures in the last 18 months (Gervinho, Cabaye, Rami, Hazard and Sow). Debuchy and Cabaye may have not been the brightest of stars in recent months, but it still looks a bit like a closing down sale to put some cash back into the club, and that’s new, as any LOSC club observer will tell you. In spite of the sale of Hazard to Chelsea for 40 million Euros, in spite of thrifty cash management, in spite of the Grande Stadium that was supposed to give the club the resources to develop, the LOSC is losing ground financially speaking. Michel Seydoux, President and owner, needs money and wants to sell the club. So, he’s selling off his best players. He’s even thinking of selling his star summer recruit, Salomon Kalou, who has proved such a disappointment this winter. They’ll make space for the young ‘uns and less expensive players at the risk of saying goodbye to all league and cup hopes for a couple of years. It looks like the end of an era even though the Grande Stadium was meant to have boosted LOSC’s chances to play with the big boys. “We’re going to fall into line,” Michel Seydoux announced to L’Equipe on Friday. A cruel change of headlines in just a few months…
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