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So it’s club number four (Varbergs, Lillestrøm, Bordeaux and now Lille) and midway through the 2024/2025 season.
We touched on a couple of players from the Lille squad already, and one of them in particular is proving to be an absolute sensation.
The player in question is Argentinian wonderkid, José Luis Garavano, or as I like to call him ‘JLG9.’ He has 22 goals in 43 league games for the club so far, and just keeps getting better. The good news is, he’s not the only Argentine.
In transfer business, I offloaded £99million worth of players from the Lille squad. Notably, Diego Laínez went off to Brugge for £25m, 32-year old full back Santiago Arias moved to Bournemouth for £20m and 30-year old winger Ivan Petryak went to Neil Lennon’s Lazio for £18m (writer’s note – what a time to be alive).
We all know Hannibal Mejbri, right? The wonderkid number 10 was already at Lille prior to my arrival and I managed to convince Manchester United to loan him back to me for a further two seasons.
In terms of permanent transfers in, I brought in Hoffenheim’s attacking midfielder Christophe Baumgartner and young PSV full back Mikail Epskamp as squad competition. Malmö’s promising midfielder Kenin Dzafic joined the ranks, as did 36-year old Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Rui Patrício, as between the sticks is a position I really felt we needed competition in.
Onto the more exciting bits of business. I gave my former club Bordeaux nearly £25million for a quintet of players I felt deserved to join me in Lille. Former top-scorer Efe Koulouris, ball-playing centre back Silvan Hefti, long-serving and solid defensive midfielder Otávio and two promising youngsters, goalkeeper Mickael Debord and former Santa Clara man Augusto Caneca.
I also added to my Argentinian contingent with Iván Gómez. The exceptional all-rounder had been at Estudiantes for his whole career so far (11 years) and will form part of the entirely South American midfield line alongside Fausto Vera and Thiago Maia.
Lastly, to join my other wonderkid strikers (Robert Marin and JLG9), I found an incredible player, fresh off the ever-impressing Boca Juniors production line. Introducing Enzo Romano!
One of the players who left was ex-Chelsea striker Bertrand Traoré. It turns out he wasn’t as pleased at leaving as I thought he was, however.
Exceptional striker Tomás Badaloni was unfortunately the victim of the strict four non-EU player registration limit, and had to go out on loan. I was delighted, however, when my beloved Rangers came in for him! He has since scored 12 in 24 for the Glasgow giants, and I can’t imagine a better place for him to be plying his trade this year.
Before we check out the results of the rest of 2024, what happened to those beautiful modern apartments I was checking out before I moved across France?
Erm, I bought one!
So what did happen in the first half of the 24/25 season?
Well I utilised my Football Philosophy Index for the first time here in France and did a full analysis of my squad.
My philosophy effectively centres around workrate, decision-making, composure, technique and passing and this data analysis technique helped me figure out which of my players best fit that mould, and which I could improve on.
Between the start of the season and January 2025, there’s only two competitions in play, Ligue Un, and my maiden campaign in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
In Ligue Un, things could not be going much better.
Robert Marin has bagged 12 goals in 16 games (only 10 of them starts) and Yusuf Yazici has 7 goals and 7 assists from the number 10 position, a decent return for a player who gives us much more than those statistics suggest.
We also received news that in spite of the exceptional facilities and constant investment, we can’t produce a competent youth prospect for toffee.
So now into Europe. It’s my first venture into UEFA’s third most prestigious European club football competition. How’s that going?
Our performances in Europe only begun to dip once I started heavily
drinking rotating the squad during busy periods of the year-end, so it has a been good European campaign so far. I was disappointed that our reward for getting past Estonia’s Flora was a tough tie against Italy’s Cagliari, but we made it through and had a decent group stage. The next phase isn’t until March as there is a whole knockout round in between, for those who finished second in their groups.
I also reached a memorable milestone. 200 games in management!
So far so good in my 274 days here in Lille. It’s crazy to think that in three month’s time I’ll have been in Lille the same length of time I was ever in Bordeaux.
In summary, I’ve discovered the best wonderkid trio of forwards (JLG9, Romano and Marin), we are playing well in the league and in Europe, the board are happy, there’s £45m to spend and I know the key positions I want to strengthen in the January 2025 transfer window (long-term replacement for the soon-to-be 37 year old goalkeeper Patricio, and a first choice right back).
I’m happy. Are you?
Now that I’ve bought a property here in Lille, it looks like I’ll be here for a good while yet!
The real question is, should I get a dog? In fact, with all the travelling, surely footballers and managers can’t have dogs if they don’t have an other half to walk and feed it? With no Eva, Daisy or Alicia in sight, I couldn’t, could I?
The January transfer window is upon us, the 9th round of the Coupe de France pits us against PSG (but our board wants the semi-final as a minimum!) and we need to carry on our Ligue Un and Europa Conference form to ensure a successful season. Let’s keep it going, Les Dogues!
Thanks for reading.