Lille hadn’t garnered the attention of many in Europe or even domestically within the French top flight for several years, but during a pandemic-riddled 2020-21 season Les Dogues are on the brink of winning their first Ligue 1 title in over a decade.
The club’s rise hasn’t come without challenges, but what’s made Lille’s success so impressive is the fact that they have parlayed a number of massive transfers away from the team into a title lead over Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco and Lyon -- all of whom are traditional powerhouses in the French top flight.
Manager Christophe Galtier has helped improve his Lille side in each season he has been involved with the club after nearly escaping relegation during his debut season in 2017/18.
Les Dogues have finished top four in each of the past two seasons prior to their current spell at the top of LIgue 1 under Galtier, and that’s in spite of the club moving on from several of its top talents.
Two summers ago, Lille had one of the most promising wingers at the club in Nicholas Pepe. The budding Ivorian scored 35 goals in all competitions during his time with Lille, but big clubs came calling and ultimately a move to Arsenal generated a $88 million move to the Premier League giants.
The club also moved star defender Gabriel to the Gunners in exchange for over $28 million, which while profitable did create two significant holes in the Lille squad.
Pepe and Gabriel’s moves to the Emirates Stadium were met with another big-money transfer this past summer when Napoli opted for the services of Victor Osimhen.
The Nigeria international left France for an outgoing transfer of $77 million, bringing their total over the last two summers to over $200 million in profits.
While most clubs would reinvest that money immediately in new transfers inbound, Lille have remained relatively quiet on that front and instead focused on the players already at their disposal.