Winning the French championship brought jubilation to the streets of Lille. Red and white flags were woven on May 22nd with the double mark emblazoned on them after Lille OSC clinched their first league title since 1954 with a 2-2 draw against Paris St. Germain away in the Parc des Princes. The title win was followed by the French cup victory over PSG with the goal scored late on by French born, Polish international midfielder Ludovic Obraniak.
The eyes and ears of Europe perked up and began the chase after Lille’s stars. Victory in a championship, especially one that was a surprise considering the 57 year wait for the title, will result in the star players being scouted and rumoured with moves to Europe’s top clubs. The two main stars at Lille come in the form of Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard and Ivorian playmaker Gervinho. A disastrous situation for Lille manager Rudi Garcia would be to lose both of them in this summer transfer window, especially after the impending departure of central midfielder Yohann Cabaye to Premier League side Newcastle United.
Gervinho seems to have his heart set on a move. A whole host of European clubs have declared interest, but the move that the Ivorian skipper desires is to the Premier League. Arsenal were seen as the firm favourites to sign the Ivorian, especially after Gervinho said in 2008 that to play for Arsenal would be the best day of his life. However, the interest of Newcastle United may have changed Gervinho’s heart and there are strong rumours that he is tempted to join his former teammate Cabaye at St. James’ Park.
Lille president Michel Seydoux seems resigned to losing the 24 year old this summer with the amount of interest circulating the attacking forward, who impressed heavily in Ivory Coast’s World Cup campaign in South Africa. Seydoux has valued Gervinho at around £11 million and there is a wonder whether Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will pay big money, after his generally conservative tactics in the transfer market during his management career in North London. Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley is determined to put money into the club to get back on side with the fans who jeered him and with Magpies star Kevin Nolan rejecting a new contract offer from the club, the money they could raise from the sale of the Liverpudlian would partially fund a bid for Gervinho.
What Seydoux does not want to do is lose both Hazard and Gervinho. The 20 year old Belgian has made 20 international appearances for his country and his play alongside Gervinho last season was mesmerising and resulted in the championship for Lille. Manager of the LOSC Rudi Garcia has described the loss of both of these players as a ‘nightmare‘, but Hazard’s head may be turned by the interest of Spanish giants Real Madrid. Hazard is seen as a collected and calm character, which could be the difference in Real Madrid’s pursuit of the La Liga title and dethroning Barcelona.
Lille general manager Frederic Paquet has quoted that it ‘will take something unreal’ as a bid to allow Lille to think about an offer, but in this era of player power, will Hazard’s taste of international glory and championship victories force him to slap down a transfer offer on Seydoux’s desk and demand a move away from LOSC? If both of these players, Lille can expect a great windfall of money from the sales of the two playmakers and could rebuild the squad to try and cement a place in European football for next season.
LOSC will be fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their prize assets, but there is an inevitability that the efforts will be in vain. Gervinho is a certain departure after the enormous attention Premier League sides are showing him, but the worry is losing Hazard. Lille lose Hazard and they lose the Ligue 1 title next season and may go back to the wilderness of another five decades without a domestic championship.