Ludovic Delporte is relishing the prospect of returning to his first professional club as CA Osasuna travel to France to take on RC Lens in UEFA Cup Group D.
Ludovic Delporte is relishing the prospect of returning to his first professional club as CA Osasuna travel to RC Lens in the UEFA Cup.
The French midfielder is proud to be going back with Osasuna and cannot wait to see his family and friends in the region again. "I am going to play in front of my people, in my home, and I am really pleased because I cannot wait to play against my old side," he said. "They are the team closest to my heart. I scored my first goal as a professional there, but I am not going back just to see my family and friends, I also want to win."
Born in nearby Sainte-Catherine-lès-Arras, Delporte joined Lens aged nine and spent a decade there, during which time he made seven senior appearances. After two seasons on loan at Stade Lavallois-Mayenne FC (2000/01) and Racing Club de Ferrol (2001/02), Delporte made a permanent move to Spain. Two campaigns with Albacete Balompié followed, before he signed for Osasuna in the summer of 2004.
Under previous coach Javier Aguirre, the left-sided playmaker excelled to become a key member of the team that finished fourth in the Primera División last term, claiming a first-ever place in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers. Although the Pamplona-based side were eliminated by Hamburger SV before the group stage, confidence is high as they challenge for the UEFA Cup.
After a goalless draw in their Group D opener against SC Heerenveen at the Reyno de Navarra stadium, Osasuna aim to use their secret weapon at Lens. Despite the distance in geography and years, Delporte remains familiar with the players and style of the northern French club. "They play a lot like us," he said. "They use four at the back, two playmaking midfielders and one defensive player in the middle, Nenad Kovačević. He is a 25-year-old Serb who is very similar to [AC Milan's] Gennaro Gattuso.
"Probably their best player is their seven-goal top scorer, Aruna Dindane," the 25-year-old added. "Another player who is doing well is the right-back, Yohan Demont, who is very good. I would not say they have a better team than us, because we are also very strong, but we will have to be careful. They have home advantage, but at this level I think that should not affect us and it will be 50-50."
Delporte, who has made 61 league appearances for Osasuna, is certainly relishing this flying visit to his native land - and it is a journey he would happily repeat in the future. "I only want the best for Osasuna and I hope we can win," he stated. "But one day, if possible, I would love to go back to the club."