Sunday evening was an opportunity for Lille to virtually guarantee themselves the Ligue 1 title, yet the failed to muster anything more than a 0-0 draw at home to Saint-Etienne, leaving the door ever so slightly ajar for Paris Saint-Germain to burst through in the final matchday.For Lille, they still control their own destiny, sitting one point clear of the Parisian club, and a victory away to Angers on the final weekend of the season will officially confirm them as French champions, irrespective of what Mauricio Pochettino’s team do in their league finale.How have Lille got to this point?
Lille, having not won the Ligue 1 title since 2010, when Eden Hazard carried the team to glory, have been an outstanding example of how best to maximise resources.At a time when Premier League and LaLiga Santander clubs are focusing on big-name signings for extortionate fees, Lille have been incredibly astute and have virtually played the market to their own advantage.Gerard Lopez no longer owns the club, but his time in charge was where many of the positive changes took place.Having purchased a majority stake in the club back in January of 2017, the Luxembourg-Spanish businessman was eager to get back into sport after a disastrous time in charge of the Lotus F1 team.He brought finance to the French club that was facing the prospect of both relegation and administration, although it was finance to be used responsibly.The money wasn’t there to challenge PSG in the market, so Lille did something different. They hired the person who had been instrumental in the last club to give PSG a bloody nose: Monaco.Luis Campos has been credited with the acquisition of talent that led to Monaco winning the Ligue 1 title and taking the Champions League by storm in 2015.Those players outperformed their market values and were then sold for massive fees, which have since sustained the Principality club.Campos was hired by Lille to do the exact same job, and whilst he’s recently left the French club, his endeavours – along with the excellent coaching of Christophe Galtier – are likely to result in a famous Ligue 1 triumph for Les Dogues.A collection of players to be sold
The transfer strategy was very similar to Monaco, although perhaps less focused on domestic talents.Boubakary Soumare has been an outstanding midfielder for the club. The 22-year-old was signed for nothing from PSG’s B team 12 days after Campos arrived, yet he’s now set to net Lille a profit of over 20 million euros with a sale to Leicester City.Renato Sanches is a talent that everyone had given up on. His spell with Bayern Munich was a disaster and he even struggled on loan at Swansea City in the Premier League. The Portugal international is now back to his best in France and will inevitably move back to one of Europe’s elite.Jonathan Bamba, Jonathan Ikone and Zeki Celik have all improved since signing for Lille for relatively low fees.Ikone arrived from PSG for four million euros and is now worth 27 million euros, according to Transfermarkt. Bamba arrived from Saint-Etienne on a free transfer in July 2018 and is now worth 22.5 million euros.Celik arrived from Istanbulspor in July 2018 for 2.25 million euros, yet after leaving the Turkish second tier, he is now worth 18 million euros and has contributed significantly to Lille’s on-pitch success.You can’t rule PSG out
For all the excellence at Lille, it’s impossible to get away from the fact they did slip-up against Saint-Etienne on Sunday, in a home match against a team with nothing to play for.Angers shouldn’t be a tricky opponent, but pressure does funny things to a football team. Meanwhile, you can never rule PSG out, especially with the talent they have.It’s almost certain Pochettino’s charges will win their final match against Brest, so it’s all on Lille to avoid faltering.However, one brief point to make is that Lille have a full week to prepare, whilst PSG have the small matter of the Coupe de France final against Monaco on Wednesday. That could bring an added level of fatigue to the defending champions, but Lille simply have to focus on doing their own job. If they do, they’ll have completed the journey Luis Campos set them on.