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The sale of Lille OSC may reveal an imminent domino effect in Ligue 1

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Historically, Ligue 1 has been characterized by being very balanced, giving several teams the opportunity to have their little glory days, except in recent years with PSG and in the mid-2000s with Olympique Lyonnais. Lille OSC, a small club in northern France, had its best historical period in the late 1940s and early 1950s where it was one of the contenders for the titles in the French country. And now difficult days lie ahead for this important club of French football.

Back when manager Rudi Garcia was at the helm of Lille OSC, the French club had a great period of success when they won the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de France in 2011 with star performers such as Eden Hazard, Gervinho or Yohan Cabaye. Currently, Lille OSC is leading Ligue 1 in its 2020-21 edition, one point above the almighty PSG. However, this has not prevented an economic crisis in the team that has led its owner, Gerard López, to put up the “for sale” sign on the French club.

López acquired the club in 2017 and his management seemed to be rather intelligent, betting on a trend that is increasingly used in European football due to the inflation generated from the arrival of clubs such as PSG or the mighty budgets of English Premier League clubs. This trend consists of signing or training talented players, taking advantage of them and then selling them for higher fees to other clubs, as Lille OSC themselves did with Simone Pépé or Victor Osimhen. All of this was done to ensure the economic well-being of the club.

However, due to the debts of Lille and the concurrent collapse of the TV rights of the Ligue 1 between the French football federation and Mediapro, Gerard Lopez was forced to sell the French team in order to avoid losing the control next August, when the debts were expected to be repaid. In this regard, Gerard Lopez agreed with the consent of his lender, Elliott Management, supposedly the owner of AC Milan, to transfer the shares of the club to ex-JP Morgan banker Maarten Petermann. The parties did not reveal all the details of the transaction. However, it seems that Mr. Petermann acquired the shares of Lille via a commercial vehicle connected to Merlyn Partners and set up in Luxembourg.

Unfortunately, this seems to be only the first of potentially many other similar transactions in the French football due to the financial troubles caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent termination of the TV rights by Mediapro, which was happy to compensate the French federation with Euro 100 millions instead of honoring the future payments.

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