Lille, currently top of Ligue 1, are set to be the first victims of the serious financial trouble that French football finds itself in.
The breakdown of the monster television agreement signed with Mediapro has broken down after only a matter of weeks, and numerous sides have been plunged into a state of crisis.
The agreement between the Spanish company and the French League (LFP) is not even official yet, and owners are already scrambling to exit.
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On Wednesday, on the eve of the club’s top-of-the-table clash with Paris Saint-Germain, owner Gerard Lopez announced the imminent sale to Merlyn Partners.
“The difficulties related to the Covid and the TV rights contract mean that the time may have come for a change of business model with a new owner,” a press release from Lopez explains.
LOSC might not have been on the most stable financial footing, but as their league position is testimony to, their on-field work has been exceptional.
In truth, the project in the north of France has been on the verge of collapse for several months. Sporting director Luis Campos has been notable because of his absence, with the Spaniard credited with many of the deals that have made Lille such a force both domestically and on the continent.
For Lille supporters and those who love the game in France, this “change of business model” is an ominous sign. It likely adds up to a January – or in the best-case scenario – summer sale of players.
Lille players who could leave
Clearly, Lille are a side with plenty of assets on the playing side who could depart. Their success was founded on bringing players into the club cheaply and selling them on at a premium. They have generally been highly successful in achieving that goal.
Renato Sanches will get the biggest billing in the transfer market. Although he struggled at Bayern Munich and Swansea, he has his confidence back. The Portuguese midfielder has become one of Lille’s top performers over the last 18 months.
With a broad range of skills, any club seeking central midfield reinforcements would be wise to look at him. Still only 23, he still has ample time to succeed at a European giant, although after FCB were burned, he may be forced to prove himself at another side before taking the big step up.
Fellow midfielder Boubacary Soumare will also be of interest, although his form has declined since this time last year.
Wingers Jonathan Bamba and Jonathan Ikone are among those who will be sought after. Borussia Dortmund were eyeing Ikone as a potential replacement to Jadon Sancho in the summer. Should the Englishman leave in 2021, the France international could be on their shortlist again.
Bamba, meanwhile, has been arguably Lille’s best player this season. Coming off the back of a poor 2019/20 campaign by his standards, the 24-year-old is back to his best. Five goals and six assists in 14 league matches is a fine return.
Elsewhere in the offensive line, Yusuf Yazici’s displays in the Europa League have been eye catching. Milan, especially, will have taken notice of his qualities as he scored a hat-trick at San Siro.
There are defensive assets, too. Sven Botman has been one of the signings of the summer at centre-back. Plucked from Ajax’s reserve side, he already looks a far more seasoned performer than his 20 years. Right-back Zeki Celik and goalkeeper Mike Maignan will also attract interest.
Off the field
It has virtually been confirmed that Lille’s sporting director Luiz Campos will be one of the first out of the door. This has been on the cards for months, though.
Campos has a tremendous reputation thanks to his success at Monaco and now Lille. He is bound to be a wanted man. Manchester United could do a lot worse than target him for a role at Old Trafford. Tottenham, however, have been more closely linked with the Portuguese due to his links with Jose Mourinho.
Head coach Christophe Galtier (pictured) will likely depart, too. After three successful years, he will likely feel he has taken Lille as far as possible. While he has previously announced his intention to take charge of Liverpool, it would be little surprise to see him move to another Premier League side.