State-of-the-art training ground: check. Most modern stadium in France: check. LOSC Lille president Michel Seydoux must be thinking now is the time to win something following the opening of the Grand Stade Lille Métropole over the summer. It is not panning out as smoothly as he might have hoped.
LOSC have enjoyed their fair share of recent success, having won Ligue 1 and the French Cup in 2010/11. They finished third last term – behind only big-spending Paris Saint-Germain FC and champions Montpellier Hérault SC – but then came the close season. As is so often the case in Lille, this signalled a time of sales.
This year's offering was Eden Hazard; out went a truly world-class player, in came €40m. "How can a club like ours compensate for the loss of a player like that?" asked Seydoux. Consider the 20 goals and 15 assists that Hazard contributed in the league last term, and the president's point seems a fair one. It is, after all, not the first time.
Around €138.7m worth of talent has left the club since Éric Abidal departed for Olympique Lyonnais in 2004, though it is the more recent losses – the most damaging being Hazard's – that have led to LOSC's current troubles. While Yohan Cabaye has been replaced by Benoît Pedretti in midfield, the year-old absences of Gervinho and Moussa Sow up front – and to a lesser extent Adil Rami at the back – remain keenly felt.
Marvin Martin, picked up from FC Sochaux-Montbéliard this summer for €9m, and Salomon Kalou, out of contract with UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea FC, have yet to suggest they can provide the creativity once supplied by Hazard. Meanwhile, Nolan Roux, Ryan Mendes and Túlio de Melo – the hero of LOSC's play-off victory against FC København – have not contributed anywhere near the goal threat of Gervinho, Sow and Hazard.
"At the moment we don't have the capacity to score two or three times," admitted coach Rudi Garcia after the defeat by Valencia CF on matchday two. "So when we concede a goal it makes life even more difficult." Only two clean sheets in their first 12 competitive outings this season hint at a broader malaise, exacerbated by the absence of injured captain Rio Mavuba. There are signs, however, that a recent reversion to the 4-3-3 formation which helped LOSC to the Ligue 1 title may bear fruit.
The 3-1 loss that FC Bayern München sustained at FC BATE Borisov was highlighted by Garcia, maybe implying that his own team's downfall by the same scoreline at the hands of the Belarusian outfit was not as bad as initially portrayed. LOSC, though, need much more than that straw to clutch at with back-to-back encounters against a bruised Bayern next up in Group F.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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