Gerard Lopez has bought the majority stake in Ligue 1 club Lille.
A margin of four points is all that separates the bottom eight teams in France, with only two between those placed 13 and 18. It is tight. This makes it a particularly interesting time for someone to buy one of the clubs down there, as Gerard Lopez a half-Spanish, half-Luxembourgeoise businessman, did last week in purchasing a majority stake in Lille. Negotiations for this deal lasted over a year, and fans are excited because Lopez reportedly wants to hire Marcelo Bielsa as coach and Luis Campos, formerly of Monaco, as sporting director.
Lille, which sits in 13th place on 22 points, won the title as recently as 2011 and kick-started the careers of Eden Hazard, Mathieu Debuchy, Yohan Cabaye and Sofiane Boufal. Previous owner Mathieu Seydoux has spoken of his desire to “not find a buyer, but a successor… some with the vision, ability and desire to help the club to win titles.” At the moment, the team lacks a standout from the academy and this is something Lopez wants to address.
Lopez tried to buy Lens in 2013, and he was in talks with Marseille in the past. He has insisted that Lille is not his Plan B, but with Marseille under new ownership and with Rudi Garcia (ex-Lille) in charge, Ligue 1 is shaping up nicely with teams to challenge the recent PSG hegemony. Nice and Monaco are both three points clear of PSG at the top of the table, while Marseille is in sixth and looking to spend big this window.
If Lopez’s plan works out–and there is no guarantee, given the fate of many smart businessmen who take over football clubs–then Lille could be back competing at the top in the next few years. This is actually what PSG's Qatari owners wanted all along–some competition for its own side.