Montpellier, a family-run club
still in Ligue 2 three years ago, claimed their maiden French
title on Sunday at the end of a remarkable season that rewarded
stability over spending.
Owned by Louis Nicollin, a 68-year-old businessman at the
helm of a refuse company, Montpellier had the league's 14th
largest budget but played the best football thanks to a
considered team-building policy.
"It all started with the Strasbourg game that earned us
promotion back to Ligue 1 three years ago. It created a
dynamic," sporting director Bruno Carotti, who played for
Montpellier from 1991-95 and 2001-09, told Reuters.
In their first season back in the top flight, the club from
the handball-mad city finished fifth and qualified for the
Europa League before reaching the League Cup final last year.
"Stability was key. The squad never stopped improving, with
youngsters from the youth academy," Carotti explained. "They
know each other very well, they improved together as a group."
Montpellier built their success around the home-grown Mapou
Yanga-Mbiwa, one of the league's top centre-backs, and Morocco
midfielder Younes Belhanda, who is on course to win the player
of the year award.
Belhanda missed the last three games after being sent off
for his involvement in a brawl but his replacement Remy Cabella
rose to the challenge.
"[Coach] Rene [Girard] asked me for two players in January
to make up for those who were going to the Africa Cup of Nations,"
Nicollin, whose son Laurent is the club's deputy president, was
quoted as saying in French media this week.
"I told him: 'Look, you have [Benjamin] Stambouli and
Cabella'. You cannot say I was wrong."
Stambouli and Cabella were groomed at Montpellier.
"We do not have the same weapons as others. We don't have
the same financial means so we try to compensate," said Carotti.
"Before the start of the season we knew some players would
leave to [go to] the Africa Cup of Nations so we built the squad
With Belhanda away at the African tournament in Gabon and
Equatorial Guinea, Cabella was propelled to centre stage,
gaining experience that eventually helped the team when the
Moroccan missed the final few games because of his suspension.
"His [Cabella's] short experience was very important at the
end of the season," said Carotti.
Montpellier also benefited from Olivier Giroud's outstanding
Giroud, who is set to take part in the European Championships for France next month, ended as the league's joint top
scorer with 21 goals.
He joined the club last season for two million euros, a far cry from the 42 million euros Paris Saint-Germain
paid for Argentine Javier Pastore from Palermo last summer.
Carotti, though, believes his team will struggle to retain
their title next season.
"We will do everything we can, but clubs like PSG, Lyon or
Olympique Marseille will certainly bounce back," he said.
England striker puts pen to paper on permanent deal
The new season is but six weeks away (in the Football League)
"Get on the weights," says expert
It's all about the legacy, says Sepp
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010