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Monday, 21 May 2012

Montpellier are French football champions, "Money cannot buy happiness"

Hallelujah.

Montpellier have proven that the so-called Beautiful Game isn't all about money by winning the French Ligue title.

They came from behind to beat already-relegated Auxerre 2-1 in their last match of the season, clinching the title three points ahead of their nearest rivals Paris-Saint Germain, PSG.

Montpellier supporters celebrate (screenshot France 24 match report)
 In doing so, Montpellier not only rewrote club history by winning the championship for the first time, they also delivered an important reminder that seems to be forgotten in these days where cash speaks.

Football, soccer, call it what you will, doesn't just have to be all about money. It can still be about team spirit.

You see in a game which sees top players earning obscene amounts and often having little or no loyalty to a club, preferring instead to chase the big bucks, Montpellier are something of an anomaly or maybe even an anachronism.

Owned since 1974 by the somewhat larger-than-life French businessmen Laurent Nicollin, Montpellier Hérault Sport Club, to give them their full name, have a less than glowing history.

Sure they've produced some famous players - such as current national manager and former World Cup and Euro 2000 winner Laurent Blanc - and seen the likes of Eric Cantona or Cameroon's Roger Milla take to the field in their colours

But their sporting success to date has been somewhat modest.

On the domestic front they've been division two champions three times, twice French Cup winners (1929 and 1990) and once Coupe de la Ligue winners (1992). Internationally - well their only claim to fame was as one of three winners  now defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999.

When it comes to money, Montpellier simply can't splash out as much as many other clubs in the French Ligue.

Of the 20 teams, They ranked only 13th in terms of spending in this year's transfer market.

Spend wisely, nurture talent nobody else seems to want such as striker Olivier Giroud and build a team spirit seem to have been the real keys to success which as manager René Girard says produce a club which, "invests in its players, is a squad of friends and proves that money cannot buy happiness."

And the irony of the whole thing is that PSG, runners-up this year, are everything that Montpellier aren't.

Last year Qatar Investment Authority became PSG's controlling shareholder in the club, and since then they sunk millions into the club.

They've hired big names such as former Brazil international Leonardo as director of football and Italian Carlo Ancelotti as manager to run the club and spent invested heavily in recruiting players.

In the process of trying to make PSG a world class side in terms of results, QIA managed to make the club the third biggest spender in the world.

The latter doesn't always ensure the former - not immediately at least - as PSG have learned this season.

And that's why Montpellier's title is so bloody refreshing.

It might not last and the team nicknamed La Paillade could well struggle in the the Champions League next season - but what the heck. They've got the title and PSG haven't;

So go ahead Montpellier - savour and enjoy.

You deserve it.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love it when it's the underdog that wins (though I have to admit, I care little for football, have always prefered lawn tennis)

Deirdre

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