New projects: Success in the works
By D. Crossan
Ligue 1 Conforama's growing quality, popularity and success are attracting more talent, new investors and fresh impetus to the French game. Take a look at which clubs are looking to rejuvenate their challenge to the country's biggest sides.
Rennes, Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne and Nice finished the 2017-2018 season between fifth and eighth in that order. Rennes and Bordeaux prevailed in an intense battle for the two Europa League spots on offer and how the quartet fare in 2018-2019 will be fascinating to monitor.
Nineteen points separated Marseille in fourth and Rennes in fifth but the Brittany club will fancy their chances of getting closer to the top four in the upcoming season. Appointed as Christian Gourcuff's successor in November 2017, Sabri Lamouchi did a marvellous job. President Olivier Létang, the former Paris Saint-Germain sporting director, was the man who appointed Lamouchi and in early July 2018 the former Côte d'Ivoire boss was rewarded with a contract extension through to 2020, with the option of an additional year.
After penning the deal, Lamouchi said: "I'm very happy to carry on the adventure and to give stability to a project that was launched last November. We had a beautiful end to the season; one that was very rewarding and exceptional in sporting terms. I'm delighted to carry on collaborating with President Olivier Létang."
Gus hoping to build at Bordeaux
Bordeaux appointed Gus Poyet on 20 January, 2018 and under the Uruguayan Les Girondins scored 29 points from 16 games to finish sixth. With French TV channel M6 looking to sell the club in the close season, Poyet went public with his frustrations. The former Real Betis boss said: "For the current owners it's difficult because they might leave but I don't know when. The potential new owners can't do anything yet. The most important time at any football club is the summer. If you do things right in the summer then everything's easier. We have done nothing."
Gasset turns Sainté around
Saint-Etienne's fortunes were revived by veteran coach Jean-Louis Gasset, promoted to the number one role on 20 December, 2017 after a short spell as assistant to the club's former coach Julien Sablé. When Gasset - formerly assistant to Laurent Blanc with Bordeaux, France and Paris Saint-Germain - took over, Les Verts were short on confidence and in danger of being relegated. Gasset presided over 20 games, collecting 35 points as Saint-Etienne went on an unlikely push for European qualification.
Shrewd recruitment, as Gasset worked his contacts, certainly helped and in late May the 64-year-old confirmed he would be staying on for the 2018-2019 season. Gasset commented: "I'm delighted and proud to be carrying on as Saint-Etienne coach. The project and the ambition of the directors convinced me. For six months I took extraordinary pleasure coaching the team. Saint-Etienne is a city that breathes football."
Vieira brings pedigree to the Côte d'Azur
OGC Nice finished eighth last term, a fall of five spots from 2016-2017. Following Lucien Favre's departure, Les Aiglons were audacious in finding a replacement for the Swiss, convincing 1998 World Cup winner Patrick Vieira to come on board. Vieira left MLS side New York City to move to the Côte d'Azur and revealed the lengths Nice had gone to in order to secure his signature.
Vieira said: "I met the president (Jean-Pierre Rivère), and Julien Fournier (the director general), with whom I got on very well. We talked about the club several times and we spoke about the project. He presented Nice to me so I knew what I'd be letting myself in for. The difference between Nice and the other clubs that were interested in me was that Julien came to New York. He said to me: 'I'm coming to see you.' The other clubs' attitude was: 'If you're in Paris between such and such dates then we'll call each other and meet.' What Nice did was important to me."