My Five: Lille Exports

WORDS: MATTHEW RICHARDS

The transfer story of the summer so far has to be Chelsea’s capture of Eden Hazard from Lille, the club where the Belgian creator became a French League and Cup Double-winner in 2011, as well as a household name across Europe. But Hazard certainly isn’t the first star to have made his name in Lille and, as supporters said farewell to another inspirational talent, we turned to one of their number to select his five stand-out departing heroes from the club known to its friends as LOSC…

Image: Julien Haler (via Flickr)

COR VAN DER HART (1950-1954)

One of the most influential figures in bringing the professional game to the Netherlands and it was all thanks to his move to northern France. Cor van der Hart was a graduate of the Ajax youth system and he went on to win the Eredivisie with the mighty Amsterdam club in his debut season in 1947. His decision to move out of his homeland, however, was not taken lightly.

Although van der Hart became a professional upon moving to France, it came at a cost as the Dutch governing body (KNVB) suspended him and any other players plying their trade professionally outside of Holland from their number. Van der Hart, then was unable to make his debut for the national side until returning home to play for Fortuna ’54, by which time the Dutch league had also taken on professional status. He had played a key part in the decision to break that barrier as well, having taken part in a fundraising game in Paris between a Holland XI (deemed unofficial due to the inclusion of several professionals) and France. The game proved to be such a success with the Dutch public that professionalism was taken into serious consideration by the KNVB and subsequently given the green light.

While at Lille, van der Hart made 114 appearances, scoring five goals. The talented defender goes down in the club’s history as one of its most influential players ever, while he will always be remembered in Holland as one of the ambitious few who brought about the initial changes that soon transformed the nation into a footballing legend.

YOHAN CABAYE ( 2004-2011)

A product of the youth system in place at LOSC since the age of seven, Yohan Cabaye (pictured below) quickly went about cementing himself as a regular for club and country. He was first brought into the side by Claude Puel, before his talent was polished by current Lille coach Rudi Garcia and, while his nine years at the club may have lacked silverware until he lifted the Double in his final season, that time spent with Les Dogues was certainly to thank for his development into a complete midfielder.

After Puel’s departure at the beginning of the 2008/09 season, Cabaye was given his now-trademark box-to-box role in the Lille side. Put into a system where he was given the freedom to play, Yohan blossomed. 31 goals in 191 first-team appearances came largely thanks to Garcia’s decision to allot a playmaking role to the Tourcoing-born youngster, but it was in the title-winning season of 2010/11 that his more disciplined style of play emerged, and it helped to secure a historic double for the club.

A move away appeared imminent, however, and Newcastle was his chosen destination, following a well-mannered departure from the club with whom he had spent so many years of his early career. And his first season in the Premier League turned out to be an outright success. He made 34 appearances, contributing nine assists and four goals as the Magpies shot to an unexpected fifth-place finish.

Lille supporters were among the few who were not shocked at his early success abroad. And, with his reputation on the international team growing too, the future continues to look very bright indeed for Yohan Cabaye.

Image: mikebrown59 (via Flickr)

JEAN II MAKOUN (2001-2008)

The emergence of Cameroon international, Jean II Makoun, came about amidst a stellar start to his career in European football with LOSC. A key part of Claude Puel’s side between 2001 and 2008, Makoun established himself as a first-team regular during a time of transition for the club. In his defensive midfield role he helped to free up the creative talents of emerging stars like Yohan Cabaye, Eden Hazard and Gervinho, as the club finished regularly in the top five spots in Ligue 1.

Makoun was also part of the Lille side that famously beat and finished above Manchester United in the group stage of the 2005 Champions League, although he subsequently suffered as part of the side that lost controversially to the same club in the Last 16 of the following season’s competition. He eventually called time on his successful spell at the heart of the Lille midfield when he completed a £14 million move to Lyon in 2008, where he was reunited with manager Puel.

76 appearances later, he moved again – this time to England. However, despite a less than smooth ride with his current club Aston Villa, where he has failed to make any real impact, Makoun remains one of Ligue 1’s stellar performers of the past decade and it is something of a shame that his contribution to Lille’s journey from top-five finishers to title-winners often goes unnoticed.

MICHEL BASTOS (2006-2009)

This left-sided Brazilian had a tough start to European life. A spell with Feyenoord between 2001 and 2003 saw Michel Bastos make no appearances for the Rotterdam club, with his only first-team experience coming when he was sent on loan to Excelsior, where he suffered relegation from the Dutch top flight at the end of the 2002/03 campaign. That summer, a move back to his home country followed and he remained something of a nomadic player, turning out for several Brazilian clubs until Les Dogues rediscovered him in 2006.

Used as both a left wing-back and an out-and-out winger by Claude Puel, Bastos made steady progress in his early career for the French outfit. A goal in the Derby du Nord, against Lens, certainly helped him make some friends among the locals, but it wasn’t until his permanent switch to left-winger that Bastos really started to excel. In 2008/09, the Brazilian managed 16 goals in 41 games, as well as receiving a nomination for Ligue 1 Player of the Year.

However, as new coach Rudi Garcia began to build Lille in his own image, Bastos, like Makoun, moved onto Olympique Lyonnais, following in the footsteps of Puel, where he quickly forced his way into the first team. Like many of the foreign players who have settled in Lille, Bastos (pictured below, in action for Lyon) has gone on to be one of the most recognisable names in Ligue 1, with his attacking talents on full display, week in, week out.

Image: Ronnie Macdonald (via Flickr)

PER FRANDSEN (1990-1994)

Even though he is the most unglamorous name on this list by far, Per Frandsen was a popular figure in Lille and the Dane owes a lot to his time in the Nord region.

He was a record signing for LOSC in 1990, as the club clinched a deal to bring him to the north of France from Danish side B 1903. During his time at Lille, the gifted midfielder made 109 league appearances, grabbing 19 goals along the way and the exposure he gained in doing so earned him a move back to his hometown club, FC Copenhagen before he became a cult figure in the North-West of England during spells with Lancashire clubs Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and, briefly, Wigan Athletic.

To some, his may have seemed an unexceptional career, but Frandsen deserves recognition beyond just being a footnote in Lille record books. He put a good shift in during a less than successful period in the club’s history and I have no qualms in saying my hat goes off to you, Per Frandsen, server of the unattractive Northern football teams!

Matthew Richards is an English LOSC supporter and Ligue 1 blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @MatthewAnthony9
If you think someone has been left of this list, use the Comments section below to tell us who you would have included and why. And, don’t forget, if you want to contribute your own list for My Five, write in and tell us your idea. Find out more on the Contact page.
And if you don’t already, remember to follow @theinsidelefty on Twitter as well!

One thought on “My Five: Lille Exports

  1. Louise Roberts says:

    Will be interesting to see if Hazard can become the success Cabaye has in the Premier League. He looks an intelligent player and certianly has bags of potential, but I must admit to being slightly cautious about him.

    He seems to be the type of player we have needed at Chelsea for a while and I hope he can slot in alongside Juan Mata to add some extra dimension to our attack.

    Hopefully we’ll raid Lille for another of their talented players – have been very impressed with Debuchy at Euro 2012. We need a good right-back.

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