As Christophe Galtier prepares to face his former side later this afternoon as Nice travel to Lille, L’Équipe have broken down the circumstances behind last year’s title-winning manager’s departure.
The coach’s transfer south was characterised by a drawn-out saga during which relations with Lille president Olivier Létang had deteriorated, while Galtier looks set to be booed by his former fans at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium this afternoon.
Tensions began in December, as Galtier was introduced to Létang – who had not yet taken over as president – and the future majority shareholder Maarten Petermann, who came to the then-manager’s flat to tell him that there would be immiment changes at board level – Gérard Lopez would soon leave the club. The relationship with the incoming president was then worsened when the club’s press release supposedly cited Galtier welcoming Létang – a quote which the manager denied ever saying.
January then saw Galtier explain to Létang that he was considering leaving the club, with Lopez and Luis Campos both gone. Negotiations with the players over the freezing of matchday bonuses over the next few months deteriorated the situation, with the club explaining French football’s dire financial situation to the first-team squad following the Mediapro TV rights fiasco.
On the morning after the club’s title win, Galtier and Létang had a meeting in the latter’s office, in which the president reiterated his desire for the manager to stay. Galtier went on to leave the meeting having asked for some time to reflect, although at one point in the meeting he received a text message from a Napoli director – the Serie A club being one of the sides interested in him – and showed it to Létang: “Look, even in Naples they’re congratulating us”.
Later that morning, Galter sat down for an interview with L’Équipe, in which he agreed to tell the outlet that he would leave the club on the condition that they waited for him to tell Létang first before publishing it. By the evening, Galtier had given L’Équipe the go-ahead to publish the piece. Létang would explain that he “respected” the decision, but that with one year left on the Frenchman’s contract, the club would have to negotiate with his next team.
The two men met for the last time in Paris in early June, at a meeting where Galtier was made aware that Nice would have to pay to secure his services. Nice later sent a transfer offer for Galtier and three members of his staff – two of which were turned down by the club. The manager went on to explain that he had been “disappointed” by the club’s resolve in negotiating as high a fee as possible for his departure, but was “not surprised”.
By the end of June, the transfer was still not completed, and Galtier was ready to return to Lille to – at least – take charge of the club’s pre-season campaign. Nevertheless, eventually an agreement was reached over a sum in the range of €3.5m-€4m – a sum which the coach has interpreted as a sign of Nice’s willingness to bring him in.
“In took up my entire holiday. […] I’m happy to return to the Pierre-Mauroy, and come across some of the people with which I’ve gone through great times. For five months, we worked tirelessly and never gave up even though we were left alone and that Gérard Lopez left. I’m going to meet with the Lille fans, to whom I didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye. Will I go meet with Olivier Létang? I don’t see the point.”