More good news for the unfancied south-coast side as Lyon continue to struggle
Let’s start with a good news story. Success in football doesn’t always have to come via an open cheque book. Montpellier, the southern outfit that usually battles it out with rugby to be the dominant sport in the city, continue to take Ligue 1 by storm. After 22 games they find themselves sitting pretty in second place behind league leaders Bordeaux, three points ahead of Lyon, six in front of Marseille and a massive 13 beyond Paris Saint-Germain.
They have already beaten both Lyon and Marseille in the league and managed a draw against PSG in the opening game of the campaign. The club’s fans aren’t perhaps the most loyal – with gates fluctuating between 15,000 and 30,000 depending on the glamour or otherwise of the opposition – but there are already those with long memories who are harking back to the glory days when they won the French Cup in 1990 and League Cup two years later.
New heroes are also emerging at the Stade de la Mosson to rival the two most famous sons to have worn the blue of Montpellier: Eric Cantona and Carlos Valderrama. Croatian defender Emir Spahic has been a rock who is attracting the attention of bigger clubs, Colombian forward Victor Hugo Montano has led the line well, while the much-travelled Souleymane Camara has also been in top form.
Regardless of whether Montpellier are still in a Champions League spot come the end of the season, this has been an incredible campaign, and their 2-0 win over big-boy neighbours Marseille at the end of January has given them the kind of bragging rights that everyone thought impossible at the start of the campaign.
Elsewhere, there was more bad news for Lyon, who were knocked out of the French Cup and the League Cup in the same week, heaping extra pressure on beleaguered boss Claude Puel. A 2-1 home win in the league against PSG bought Puel a bit more time, but with Lyon facing the real possibility of a second season without a trophy after a £70million recruitment drive, you wouldn’t bet on the former Lille man being at the helm for the start of the next campaign.
Sacking of Perrin
Saint-Etienne remain precariously placed despite the sacking of Alain Perrin after a catastrophic first half of the season.
Perrin has been fired from a number of high-profile jobs, including that of Lyon coach, and Saint-Etienne owner Bernard Caiazzo reckons the 53-year-old has banked in the region of €10m (£8.7m) from his contract terminations and therefore “you might question his desire”.
Perrin himself claimed he felt his sacking was “unjust”, but says he doesn’t harbour any ill feeling towards the club. And with €10m in the bank, why would he? Perrin’s replacement, at least in the short term, is former assistant coach Christophe Galtier.
Someone now perhaps a little lighter in the pocket than Perrin, is Marseille defender Stephane Mbia. Thieves took advantage of the knowledge that he was away with Cameroon, preparing for the African Nations Cup in Angola, and robbed his house, making off with jewellery, watches, a hi-fi and a home cinema.
All the football gossip in France, meanwhile, centres around whether Laurent Blanc will replace Raymond Domenech as coach of the national team after the World Cup. While the French federation president, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, has gone on record saying Blanc has the perfect profile for the job, the man himself has refused to answer questions on the issue – which has only helped to increase the speculation.
Blanc has done a fantastic job at Bordeaux, of course, and the club’s fine performances in the Champions League have alerted many of Europe’s elite to his potential. Time will tell where Le President finally ends up, but you can rest assured Bordeaux will be doing all they can to hold on to their man a while longer.