Last season Lille were responsible for one of modern football’s great shocks, beating off competition from Paris Saint-Germain – and their bottomless pit of money – to win Ligue 1.
The scale of this upset cannot be overstated. Their wage bill was around four times smaller than PSG’s and the summer before they lost two key players, Victor Osimhen and Gabriel to Napoli and Lille respectively.
Les Dogues’ triumph was a Parisian nightmare. It was just the second time in nine seasons that they failed to win Ligue 1 and it was not the only disappointment they endured. They also treated the world to another display of their fragile mentality, collapsing in on themselves over two legs in the Champions League semi-finals against Manchester City.
Lille’s title win has proved to be a watershed moment for both clubs. Determined to avoid similar humiliation this season, PSG have been extremely busy in the transfer market. Their business has been uncharacteristically competent as well.
In what could prove to be one of the deals of the summer, Georginio Wijnaldum has been snapped up on a free transfer following his release from Liverpool. They have also strengthened at right-back – an area in which they have long lacked a big name star – by bringing in Achraf Hakimi from cash-strapped Inter.
In addition, perhaps in an attempt to toughen up their soft underbelly, Sergio Ramos has been recruited on a free. The best signing of all, though, has been Gianluigi Donnarumma. Easily the best young goalkeeper on the planet, tying him down for five-years without having to pay a penny is truly remarkable business.
Since scooping the title Lille have also been active in the transfer window. However, they have been doing far more selling than buying. Manager Christophe Galtier has jumped ship to Nice, while Boubakary Soumare, Mike Maignan and a handful of squad players have departed as well.
More could follow out the exit door too with Sven Botman, Renato Sanches and Jonathan David all linked with exits.
In short then, prior to the 2021 Trophee des Champions showcase in Tel Aviv on Sunday night Lille and PSG seemed to be on very different trajectories.
Don’t be fooled by the friendly nature of the Community Shield in England by the way. The Trophee des Champions is a proper game of football and this year it carried extra spice.
Tackles were flying in from the off and aside from a few noticeable absentees for PSG, both teams put out strong starting XIs. Mauricio Pochettino, who is already under significant pressure just months after taking the job, would have been desperate to pick up a statement win against the side who inflicted the biggest blow to his managerial record to date.
By the time the final whistle was blown, though, Pochettino’s reputation had been harmed further. Lille would run out 1-0 winners, with midfielder Xeka bagging a net-busting strike just before half time.
Throughout the contest, with the necessary footnote of it being their first outing of the season, PSG looked extremely ordinary. A lack of cohesion in the final third was disappointing but it was the overall absence of intensity that was more worrying.
What opened the door for Lille’s title charge last season was PSG’s back to back Ligue 1 defeats to Lens and Marseille during the first two weeks of the campaign. Complacency was blamed for those results at the time and the same could have been levelled at their performance in the Trophee des Champions.
With the signings they have made, anything less than winning Ligue 1 at a canter and performing well in Europe must be seen as abject failure. Therefore, a significant improvement is required when they face off against Troyes in their league opener on Saturday.
Start badly again and they will offer encouragement to the rest of the division that a repeat of Lille’s incredible triumph might be on the cards again.