Speaking in an interview with L’Équipe, Ligue 1 title-winning manager Christophe Galtier announced his decision to leave Lille, as expected.
Have you made a decision on your future?
I have taken my decision. I have informed my president, Olivier Létang, after listening a lot to him this morning, that I am going to quit Lille. Or that I am stopping with Lille, I don’t know exactly what term to use. I simply am of the conviction that I have done my time here. That this 4-year cycle is quite long for a manager. But yes, we have only been working together daily for the last 5 months me and Olivier Létang and 5 months is not a long time for a collaboration… After doing 4 years, I feel internally that this is the moment to quit this wonderful, magnificent club.
My decision is not linked to the final league table position of Lille, if we had finished 4th or 7th I would have taken the same decision. I did not want to leave on a high note (necessarily). I am leaving because I have decided that after 4 years, it is time to leave. I spent 8.5 years at St Étienne, 7.5 in charge, it was good. I am leaving Lille with an incredible result, I need something different. I don’t want to fall into a routine, in something classic, like I experienced at a certain point at St Étienne.
Was this decision personal?
Oh yes, it was very personal.
And if Gérard Lopez was still president, would you still have left?
I think so.
You aren’t sure?
(Thinks for a long time) It would have been different but it is not about comparing Gérard Lopez and Olivier Létang. It was anticipated that I would sign an extension at a certain moment at the beginning of the season, and, if I had done so, maybe I would have continued. I am saying maybe. Here, I am under contract for a year, with a year that was triggered automatically, because I have performed well. It is difficult to answer this question on Gérard, I really don’t know.
If Lille’s financial situation was good and Olivier Létang would have said for example: “We are going to extend Soumaré, Maignan, and keep our best players,” would you still have left?
That did not enter my thinking. I promise. My decision is not linked to fears about the future of Lille, in terms of the general situation of French football. The renewal of a workforce is linked to the economic aspects of a club, but it is also linked to the seniority of this workforce and, at some point, there must also be a change and a turnover. Players who have been there for three or four years will surely surf on this title and look elsewhere. But the quality of the squad for next season or the economic situation of the club are not linked to my departure. It’s related to me. After the past four seasons, I feel it’s time.
Is there are thinking that is a little more intimate, or linked to family, like a desire to return a bit closer to home, in the South, or things like that?
No, not at all. To change scene, yes, I need to, but to go closer to my family area, no, I don’t care about that. It is not a geographical issue, nor about bringing a family together.
How many offers from other clubs do you have?
Approaches, I have, but they are not offers. The offers, they are contracts, with numbers and everything and everything.
Do you have a lot of interest?
You’ve never had this much.
How many approaches do you have from clubs?
Clubs have approached me, I think around 5 and that is a big privilege. But there are clubs who have come in a bit later. There are so many falsehoods about the number of clubs that have been after me for a long time, which is not true, because I remained very closed off. There were approaches that arrived at the desk of my advisors without me knowing because I remained very away from all that. I started to receive a lot of information from Monday (once the title was won) because I wanted to remain very hermit-like with all that. That is what I asked of my players, so I took the same approach. Aside from that, a lot of people came to enquire about my contractual situation or what I wanted to do. But very few clubs got a response on what I wanted to do. So to respond, among the clubs that approached me, there are 3 that interest me.
Lyon, Napoli and Nice?
Yes I am thinking about these three clubs. We can say there was a 4th with Lille.
So we can assume that you will next be at one of these 3?
Football is very unique, you never know.
What do you mean? If one of these clubs signs someone before you have made a decision?
Exactly. It is a question of timing.
Do you know at all where you are going to sign?
I have not signed with anyone and I have not found an agreement with anyone. What I knew, was that I had to stop with Lille.
How much time are you giving yourself to sign elsewhere?
I do not know. It is very new for me what is going on here, in the end. My journey was staying 7.5 years in a club where I decided to stop for physical reasons, a serious fatigue. When will I decide? I am going to have to speak with each of them.
Today is the 25th May, do you think you will sort things out around the 5th June?
Oh no, before then.
Before the end of the week?
I think yes.
And you still have not done so?
No. If you think so, you have the wrong information.
What is your plan for the coming days?
I am heading south this afternoon (Tuesday). The meetings will stack up. Everyone knows the relationship that I have with Julien Fournier (OGC Nice, Sporting Director), who I have known for a long time. He is in a project with Nice, with INEOS, which is colossal. Wherever INEOS goes, they win. They are tied to the fastest car in Formula 1 (Mercedes). They are tied to the fastest boats and bicycles in the world. Obviously when you look at what the INEOS group is, it merits respect. That the project is taking time, aside from that, yes…
Projects, we think that they start, bim, bam, boum, the results come straight away. But not necessarily. Here too (LOSC), we took time. I have spoken with Julien about the INEOS project well before everything that we have heard recently (about his future). Because we are friends, because we play padel together. Our relationship means that we have been speaking about INEOS for a long time. I know that they are very interested but we have had exchanges in an informal way. Aside from that, if I go to Nice, I understand that this could surprise people.
Not at the price being reported (OGC Nice are offering to double Galtier’s salary at Lille, to take it to €360k per month, which Les Aiglons have denied):
It is false. Money is not taboo but what is being reported is false. My decision will never be made on the financial aspect. If I were to make decisions on financial criterion, I would no longer be in Europe. Outside of the exotic destinations, the contract, it will be nearly the same everywhere. It is not by winning €100k, or €120k, or €130k that it will make a difference.
And Lyon? Does the fact that Lyon have not qualified in the Champions’ League create an advantage or a drawback?
Lyon is one of the big clubs in our league. To be approached by Lyon is very validating. The fact that they are not in the Champions’ League does not really bother me.
And what about the fact that you are identified with St Étienne?
I do not know if I am still identified with St Étienne? We have done a lot of derbies, that is true. But that does not enter into my thinking. I think that I have proved, everywhere that I have gone, that I give 200% for the shirt and for the people that sign me. I respect the engagement.
Lyon for you, are they still the great OL? Or do they shine a little less brightly than before?
There is competition from PSG which impacts everyone but Lyon remains one of the great clubs in our league, I am convinced.
And you have already worked with Jean-Michel Aulas.
One year, yes, when I was an assistant to Alain (Perrin). We respect each other a lot.
The presidential pressure – is it stronger at Lyon?
Presidential pressure is very strong everywhere. That is normal. I have always experienced that. I experienced that for 7.5 years with two presidents (Roland Romeyer and Bernard Caïazzo, at St Étienne), it was like that. That is not pressure. When you are a senior manager in a company, you have things to answer for and it was the same here with Olivier. When you president wants answers, it is legitimate to respond to him. When your president wants to know what starting XI you have in mind for the next match, you respond to him. And if he needs to hear your thought process at certain moments, I give it to him.
What will make the difference between Nice and Lyon?
The meeting, the meetings.
You will have to meet with Jim Ratcliffe, the English billionaire owner of Nice, if that has not already happened.
It is Bob (his brother), no? It is Bob who is principally in charge of managing the club, no? Of course I will need to meet the people. You need to feel people. And it is the same with them, they need to have an idea of who you are. They know Galtier the manager of Lille but they need certain certitudes and exchanges.
Lots of people believe that it is done between you and Nice.
They have the right to say that.
And Napoli in all that, it could be a nice international opening?
It is an opportunity. Napoli are interested in me but also in other managers and I do not know where I rank in all that. But I thought I understood that Napoli were in the process of signing as certain Sergio Conceiçao.
So we won’t speak about it anymore.
Yes, except my phone beeped this morning when I was with Olivier.
It beeped and you did not respond to the Napoli call?
It is not that I did not respond, but I was with my president when I got their message. I said to Olivier: “Look, look I have just received a congratulatory message from Napoli for our title.”
Would a move to Nice, despite the ambitions of their project and the faith that you have INEOS, not be a step down? Could you not surf this wave of momentum you are on?
But I don’t want to surf a wave. Why would I surf a wave?
You are in the nuts and bolts of your career…
Ok but so what? I am going to PSG, the strongest in France? No, I am not going to PSG. Since my name has been linked with Nice, I listen to the reactions of people around me. Even those close to me say things like: “Ah really, are you ready to go to Nice? But why don’t you go elsewhere?” Me, I do not bother listening to all that because the human side is very important. And, aside from that, there is what we can do together. And I think that at Nice the conditions are aligned to perform. To grow and to achieve greater things.
In your view, will Nice soon be a potential rival to PSG, like Lille were this season?
Difficult to say. Nice will always have the competition from Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Monaco. But I think that the current structure at Nice, it has the means to rival the clubs that I have just cited.
You have just taken the title away from PSG with Lille – in the next club that you sign with, will the idea also be to take the title away from PSG?
We are always ambitious. But we have to be realistic. Montpellier did it at the beginning of PSG under QSI. Monaco did it in a magnificent way. We did it and I think that other clubs can do it, I am convinced.
Do you think Nice can do it one day with what you know of the project?
I think so.
So that would be a good reason to go there if you think Nice are capable.
There are projects that you put in place and then there is the reality in real time. You can be slowed down, or set back. Could Nice compete with PSG one day? I think that Nice, like the other clubs I cited, can fight for the podium each year.
Were you happy at Lille?
Very happy. The relationships I had with people made me very happy. And then I have evolved on the professional side, thanks to an exchange of cultures above all. I worked with my loyal assistant, Thierry Oleksiak, but also with an international staff, with differing methodologies from one another. I am convinced today that there is no methodology that is better than another, you cannot be radical. I had this capacity to take the best from everyone. I relied on each, Spanish, Portuguese, French. Luis (Campos) taught me to take the best from others, to produce momentum behind a project and create a great dynamic. I am very happy with the results. As a collective yes, but personally too. I am no longer the same manager that I was at the end of my St Étienne cycle.
In what way?
Already, I focused 99% of my time on the pitch, on the management of the squad, on the training sessions, on the playing strategies, on observing opponents. The very essence of the coaching profession: technical, technical, tactical, that’s it. Before, I got lost in signing players. I don’t want to touch that anymore, it’s not my area of expertise. You need the right people in the right place. We have to put our skills at the service of the club and that’s what happened here. Believe me, it is no coincidence that we finished 2nd, 4th and 1st. There was competence everywhere. And such attention to detail, on diet, lifestyle, management of young players, support for families. The organisation was crazy, the players were integrating at breakneck speed. I am an open-minded person and I have strived to take the best in everyone. It happened season after season and I’m different today, better equipped, stronger.
What separates you from Thomas Tuchel or a Mauricio Pochettino to be able to manage PSG for example?
Because I am French, no? At its core I say that but I don’t know. Thomas had very good results in Germany. Pochettino had a very good spell with Southampton and Tottenham. I like them both. I think PSG prefer to have a foreign manager because this team, the club and its atmosphere, has an international dimension and they need an international manager. Just like Monaco, who work in an international environment with foreign managers. Which I understand very well. I don’t have a problem with that. I am not saying that it is a handicap to be French.
Are you worried about Lille for next season? Your departure and that of Mike Maignan risk not being the only ones…
No I have no worries. Nobody is irreplaceable and I have no doubt in the choice that the board will make in terms of my successor. I will follow that closely. Owing to what I have experienced here, saving the club from relegation in 2018 and winning the title in 2021, I will follow Lille’s results until the end of my days.