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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007, 11:34 GMT
Lille make giant steps in Europe
Jean II Makoun (r)

By John Sinnott

Given that Manchester United's turnover is seven times greater than that of Lille, Tuesday's Champions League encounter should, in theory, be a walkover for the Premiership side.

Lille might operate on a budget of just over 23m but the French side have proved they are capable of punching well above their weight even if they will have to play United at Lens' Stade Felix-Bollaert ground because their own stadium does not meet Uefa standards.

Last season Lille beat United at home and drew away in the Champions League and this time around the Ligue 1 side have gone one better by reaching the last 16 of the competition.

Tottenham's French technical director Damien Comolli, who knows Lille's coach Claude Puel well from their time together at Monaco, tells BBC Sport the secrets behind Lille's success.


The trio at the head of the club - president Michel Seydoux, the chief executive Xavier Thuilot and the coach Puel - are very intelligent, committed and they work together very well.

Michel Seydoux
Lille have made giant strides under president Michel Seydoux

When you speak to people at Lille you can sense there is strong leadership at the club.

The feeling from outside is that Seydoux is in football for sporting rather than business reasons.

Lille are investing money in a superb training ground and they are also saving money to build a new stadium. It is all about taking long-term decisions.


Lille looked at the statistics and noticed that players who made it from the academy through to the first team tended to come from the local area.

All the clubs are fighting for the best young players, so Lille took a decision not to bring kids from places as far away as Marseille or Bordeaux.

Instead they have solely concentrated on developing local players. Those kids might not be the most talented in France but importantly they would be able to stay with their families.

606 VIEW
BBC Sport's John Sinnott

If a kid came from Marseille to Lille he would only see his family a few times a year because he is over 1,000km away.

Lille are gambling on the psychological aspect of trying to make the boys as happy as possible.

Those players are also likely to be more committed because they would probably be Lille fans as well.

As a result the club have developed a good scouting network in northern France and a bit of Belgium as well.


I'm a bit biased because Claude Puel is a very good friend of mine.

When I was a youth player at Monaco, Claude was in the first-team but he was committed to training young players in his free time every Wednesday.

He gave a lot of advice and help to Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet. Thierry will tell you that he helped improve him a lot with his finishing and runs.

Claude Puel
Puel's Lille side clinched a win over Man Utd last season

He is so passionate about football and I never doubted that he would be a good coach.

Puel was never the type of player to just train and then go home - he was always thinking about the game tactically.

He is very competitive. In training he was someone who used to fight like mad to try to win the eight-a-side games at the end of the session.

I've never known someone who hates to lose as much as he does.

He transmits that spirit to his players. Lille are very fit, very aggressive and they play good football.

They have a great team spirit and are very committed. That is exactly Puel's personality.


You could say two players sum up Lille's achievement - Efstathios Tavlaridis and midfielder Jean II Makoun.

Efstathios Tavlaridis
Lille's Tavlaridis spent three years at Arsenal

I convinced Puel to take Tavlaridis to Lille and he has done really well there.

Puel is very good at getting the best out of the players tactically, physically and technically.

As for Makoun, he reminds me of Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes.

I like Makoun a lot. He works hard and he is not afraid to put his foot in. He's not tall, he is not big, but he is not scared of anything.

He has good vision and for such a small man he is good in the air.

He is very much the symbol of Lille.

Lille v Man Utd
18 Feb 07 |  Europe
Comolli replaces Arnesen at Spurs
08 Sep 05 |  Tottenham Hotspur
Lille 1-0 Man Utd
02 Nov 05 |  Europe
Man Utd 0-0 Lille
18 Oct 05 |  Europe


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