Christophe Galtier has announced he is leaving his role as Lille head coach after guiding the club to a shock Ligue 1 title.

The 54-year-old says he has had contact from fellow Ligue 1 sides Lyon and Nice as well as Serie A team Napoli.

Galtier joined Lille in December 2017 after having an eight-year run in charge of Saint-Etienne.

"I simply have the deep belief that my time is up here," he told L'Equipe on Tuesday.

"I've made up my mind. I informed my president, Olivier Letang, after listening to him a lot this morning that I was going to leave LOSC.

"This four-year cycle is long enough for a coach. I feel inside that this is the time to leave this beautiful club, this magnificent club."

Lille defeated Angers 2-1 on Sunday to ensure they finished one point clear of a usually dominant Paris Saint-Germain side in France's top flight.

It was just the club's fourth league title in the professional era and their first since 2010-11, when Eden Hazard was part of a star-studded squad.

Lille's points tally of 83 was the best in their history and they only lost three matches all season, the last of which was in March against Nimes.

Their success was only the second time in nine seasons that PSG have not been crowned champions, with Monaco also having lifted the trophy back in 2016-17.

Galtier, who replaced Marcelo Bielsa when he took over at Lille, saved the club from relegation in that 2017-18 season.

He then led them to a second-place finish in 2018-19 and to fourth last season, which was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Veteran striker Burak Yilmaz was one of the stars of a Lille squad who upset the odds in 2020-21 and ensured the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe missed out on Ligue 1 silverware.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

The domestic football season concluded at the weekend in typically dramatic fashion.

The title went down to the wire in France and Spain, while Champions League qualification was up for grabs for some big names in England and Italy.

Much of the focus during the closing rounds in Germany was on Robert Lewandowski's record bid, but there was no shortage of intrigue whichever way you looked.

It was in keeping with the rest of an unpredictable campaign, one that Stats Perform breaks down with the use of Opta data.
 

LILLE, LALIGA AND LUKAKU SHAKE THINGS UP

Lille, Atletico Madrid and Inter all have relatively recent history of league glory, but a pre-season wager would have fetched long odds.

In Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain had won seven of the previous eight titles and would have expected to do so again, having claimed a domestic treble and reached the Champions League final in 2020.

As it was, under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, they had to settle for pushing Lille all the way.

Les Dogues claimed the title but had already set a club points record when they reached 79 with two games to spare. PSG finished on 82, though, meaning Lille desperately needed the final two results to boost their tally.

Despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in LaLiga, Atletico's triumph was perhaps more likely, even if the impressive nature of it may have come as a surprise.

Although they stuttered on the home stretch and had to come from behind on the last day to edge out Madrid, Atleti spent 30 matchdays at the top of the table – a mark only bettered once in their 10 other title-winning campaigns (36 matchdays in 1995-96).

Indeed, Atleti are used to having to wait to celebrate, with 10 of their 11 championships seeing the destination of the trophy decided on the final day (all except 1976-77).

Inter are another big name but had been waiting even longer than Lille for their most recent title, with one Milan victory and then nine in a row for Juventus since the 2009-10 Nerazzurri treble.

Antonio Conte's men completed the job in style, though, confirmed as champions with four games to play before finishing with 91 points (behind only their 2006-07 haul of 97) and 89 goals (third-most behind the classes of 1949-50 and 1950-51 – 99 and 107 respectively).

Talisman Romelu Lukaku was involved in 35 of them, becoming the first Serie A player to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season since at least 2004-05.


BAYERN BACK ON TOP, CITY SCALING NEW HEIGHTS

In Germany, the title race was a little less exciting. Winners of everything in 2020, Bayern Munich took home the Bundesliga crown for a ninth successive season.

Prior to this run, no team had won more than three on the bounce, yet there appears no end to Bayern's dominance in sight. They have now won 52 per cent of the championships since the formation of the competition in 1963.

Julian Nagelsmann, arriving from RB Leipzig, will be the coach tasked with achieving 10 in a row and Hansi Flick has set the bar high. His 86 games brought seven trophies.

Manchester City could soon be reflecting on a similarly dominant dynasty having now claimed three titles in four seasons.

Pep Guardiola played a big part in Bayern's run and now has nine league wins in 12 top-flight seasons as a coach, although this was an unprecedented achievement, with City eighth on Christmas Day – the lowest position at that stage for an eventual Premier League champion.

A record English league run of 12 away victories played a pivotal role in City's season, while defending champions Liverpool saw a club-record 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League ended as they subsequently lost six consecutive league matches at Anfield for the first time in their history.

City could yet win the Champions League too, where Sergio Aguero is in line for his final appearance before his contract expires. He will hope it is as successful as his last league outing, during which he scored twice against Everton on Sunday to set a new record for the most Premier League goals by a player for one club (184).
 

RECORD-BREAKING LEWY DELAYS NEXT GENERATION

Aguero might have had his say on the final day, once the title was secure, but he largely took a backseat – unlike Lewandowski at Bayern.

His 41 Bundesliga goals broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 in a single season. The next-best tally in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21 saw Lionel Messi trailing well behind on 30.

Lewandowski unsurprisingly also led Europe in expected goals, with his chances worth 32.2 xG, and expected goals on target, producing shots with a value of 35.8 xGOT.

As Lewandowski took the Kicker-Torjagerkanone and Messi went away with the Pichichi, Cristiano Ronaldo (29 goals) won the Capocannoniere, having also previously topped the charts in England and Spain.

Kylian Mbappe (27) was the leading marksman in France, while Harry Kane (23) earned the Premier League Golden Boot for a third time.

Kane is set to be the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the close-season – replacing Aguero at City might be one option if he gets his wish to leave Spurs – and he will join Mbappe and Erling Haaland in that regard.

Haaland also scored 27 league goals and only just trailed Mbappe's seven assists with his six.

The expectation is both players will establish themselves as the world's best in the coming seasons, but it is now Lewandowski, rather than Messi and Ronaldo, they must surpass.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino said he is disappointed his side missed out on the Ligue 1 title, while lamenting their hectic fixture schedule.

PSG won 2-0 at Brest on the final day of the Ligue 1 season on Sunday but leaders Lille secured the trophy with their 2-1 victory away to Angers.

The result ended PSG's run of three consecutive league titles, leaving former Tottenham boss Pochettino – who replaced Thomas Tuchel in January –  "sad and disappointed".

Pochettino pointed to the fact PSG won both the Trophee des Champions and Coupe de France, while they also reached the Champions League semi-finals after eliminating Barcelona and holders Bayern Munich.

PSG played 57 matches across a lengthy campaign where they had little time to rest after reaching last season's Champions League final, which they lost to Bayern.

"I think it's important to put everything in context and to look at what happened in January," Pochettino said post-game. "We arrived and had no time to work, but we were welcomed really well by the club and the players.

"We were playing every three days and we made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League, beating Bayern Munich and Barcelona. We won the Trophee des Champions and the Coupe de Franc, which was important for the team.

"But Paris Saint-Germain will always be disappointed when finishing in second. We need to use the experience for the future of the club and of course to change things.

"It's important for the club to improve and we believe that we can get better. We are going to work hard for that to happen."

It is only the second time in the last nine seasons that PSG failed to win the title after 2016-17, when the French capital club were edged out by Monaco.

PSG finished the season with 82 points, their lowest tally over a complete season since 2011-12 (79, second place). It is only the second time a team have reached this total or better without being crowned champions after PSG, who totalled 87 points in 2016-17 when Monaco won the title.

Pochettino said PSG dropped too many points when they should not have in 2020-21.

"It is clear that during the whole season, not just from January, we lost points that we should have never lost in normal circumstances," he said.

"Today we won but we depended on a bad result from Lille in Angers. First of all I want to congratulate Lille because always when you win a championship it is well deserved, so the first thing I have to do is to congratulate them."

Kylian Mbappe became Ligue 1’s top goalscorer for a third consecutive season – the first player to achieve the feat since Jean-Pierre Papin (five between 1987-88 and 1991-92).

It is the 12th time a PSG player has finished as top scorer at the end of a campaign (Mbappe and Zlatan Ibrahimovic three times each, Carlos Bianchi, Pauleta and Edinson Cavani twice each), equalling the record currently held by Marseille.

Pochettino added: "Of course we are disappointed, we really believed that anything could happen in Angers, but it didn't happen. I think we were professional and we won. But in the end, it wasn't enough to win the title. We are disappointed and really sad."

Ligue 1 champions Lille had just two players named in the competition's Team of the Season, with runners-up Paris Saint-Germain represented by five.

It was an incredible season for Christophe Galtier's Lille, who had finished fourth in the shortened 2019-20 campaign.

A talented squad full of vibrant, youthful attackers – albeit spearheaded by veteran campaigner Burak Yilmaz – clinched Ligue 1 title number four for the club on Sunday, with their success confirmed when they beat Angers 2-1 on the final day of the season.

PSG finished top in the previous three seasons since Monaco's Kylian Mbappe-inspired win in 2016-17.

Indeed, it is only the second time since 2012-13 that the capital club has not won the title… Not that you would know it when looking at the Team of the Season as announced by the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) following the conclusion of the season.

The Parisians dominate the XI with five players: Keylor Navas, Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

The only two Lille players to be included in the selection were left-back Reinildo Mandava and Benjamin Andre.

Yilmaz in particular will have every right to be disappointed by his exclusion, with the veteran Turkish striker only outscored by Cristiano Ronaldo (29) among players over the age of 35 across Europe's top five leagues.

His penalty on Sunday, which ultimately proved to be the goal that sealed Lille the title, was his 16th in Ligue 1, a haul bettered by only Mbappe, Monaco's Wissam Ben Yedder and Lyon star Memphis Depay.

Yilmaz is performing well in excess of his expected goals (xG) figure of 9.97. A positive differential of 6.03 is the sixth-best in the elite divisions behind Robert Lewandowski, Marcos Llorente, Son Heung-min, Luis Muriel and Lionel Messi.

Similarly, goalkeeper Mike Maignan may feel a slightly hard done by, his 21 clean sheets two better than anyone else across the top five leagues.

Although, using the xGOT (expected goals on target) conceded model, Navas (8.1) is one of the three goalkeepers in Europe's top leagues to have prevented more goals than Maignan (5.8).

Either way, Lille may not even notice the team has been announced as they look set for a long night of celebrations at the end of a momentous campaign.

Lille secured their first Ligue 1 title in 10 years on Sunday, ending Paris Saint-Germain's dominance of France's top tier. 

It has been an incredible season for Christophe Galtier's team, who finished fourth in the shortened 2019-20 campaign.

But a talented squad full of vibrant, youthful attackers – albeit spearheaded by veteran campaigner Burak Yilmaz – has clinched Ligue 1 title number four for the club, with their success confirmed when they beat Angers 2-1 on the final day of the campaign.

Eden Hazard was among the stars to propel Lille to their last title, in 2011, with Les Douges also triumphing in 1946 and 1954.

PSG finished top in the previous three seasons, since Monaco's Kylian Mbappe-inspired win in 2016-17. Indeed, it is only the second time since 2012-13 that the capital club has not won the title.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the numbers behind Lille's sensational season.

 

STACKING UP THE POINTS

With 79 points after 36 games, Lille already set their best tally in a Ligue 1 season in their history (based on three points for a win) ahead of the penultimate meeting of 2020-21 with Saint-Etienne.

A win against Claude Puel's team last week eluded Lille, though, with a point keeping PSG – who beat Reims – firmly in the running heading into the last round of fixtures.

Yet they came up with the vital three points against mid-table Angers.

Galtier's side have lost only three league fixtures this term (W24, D11) – those defeats coming in November, January and March against Brest (2-3), Angers (1-2) and Nimes (1-2) respectively. 

It is Galtier's first Ligue 1 crown as a coach. Since his appointment at Lille in December 2017, only George Barry, between 1944 and 1946, has managed a better win rate in the club's history (55.9 per cent).

 

MAGNIFICENT MAIGNAN MARSHALLS MISERLY DEFENCE

According to multiple reports, Mike Maignan may have played his final game for Lille, with Serie A giants Milan rumoured to have lined the goalkeeper up as their replacement for Gianluigi Donnarumma, who is out of contract next month.

Maignan joined Lille in 2015, and the 25-year-old has developed into one of the best goalkeepers in Europe.

He has kept 21 clean sheets in Ligue 1 this season, more than any other goalkeeper across the continent's top five leagues, while before Sunday's game, only PSG's Keylor Navas (79.3) and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak (80.2) had a better shot-stopping rate than Maignan (79.1) of 'keepers to have played at least 15 games.

Ahead of Maignan, Lille's defence have also performed admirably, with the experienced Jose Fonte partnering Dutch youngster Sven Botman, who has been linked to Liverpool.

Lille have let in just seven goals in the second half of Ligue 1 matches in 2020-21 and conceded only 22 times in total. 

 

TURKISH DELIGHT AS YILMAZ ENJOYS LATE BLOOM

Eyebrows may have been raised when Lille brought in Yilmaz, the former Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Besiktas striker.

However, the 35-year-old has more than proved any doubters wrong, scoring 16 times in his maiden Ligue 1 season, while also providing five assists.

His 21 direct goal involvements put him six ahead of any other Lille player, and his experience has profited a front line which includes Jonathan Bamba, Jonathan David, Yusuf Yazici and Jonathan Ikone, who have combined for 30 league goals.

Yilmaz is the first player to score at least 15 goals in his first season with Lille in Ligue 1 since Moussa Sow in 2010-11 (25), while his penalty at Angers beat the record for the most goals netted by a Turkish player in a single campaign in the competition, set by Mevlut Erdinc in 2009-10.

The striker has also shown an eye for the spectacular and Lille's 12 goals from outside the box were more than any other team Ligue 1 team. 

Lille were crowned Ligue 1 champions on Sunday as they pipped Paris Saint-Germain to the title by a single point.

Christophe Galtier's side won 2-1 at Angers to ensure they finished 2020-21 in top spot, with PSG's 2-0 victory at Brest proving academic.

It is Lille's fourth top-flight title in the professional era and their first since 2010-11, when Eden Hazard was named the competition's player of the year.

Lille's points tally of 83 is the best in their history and they only lost three matches all season, the last of which was in March against Nimes.

It is Galtier's first Ligue 1 title as a coach, while Sunday's match is expected to be his last at the club before he takes charge of Nice.

Lille's triumph was inspired by the form of 35-year-old striker Burak Yilmaz, who scored 16 times in his first campaign in France's top tier.

He is the first player to score at least 15 goals in his first Ligue 1 season with Lille since Moussa Sow hit 25 in their title-winning campaign a decade ago.

It is only the second time in nine seasons that PSG have not been crowned champions, with Monaco also having lifted the trophy back in 2016-17.

The Ligue 1 title tussle between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille is going to the wire, and it is Les Dogues who hold a slender advantage heading into the final day.

Lille could have won the title – their first since 2010-11 – last week had they beaten Saint-Etienne and PSG dropped points against Reims.

Neither of those outcomes came to fruition, however, and Lille are just one point ahead with one game left to play. It is the smallest gap between a leader and the second-placed team at this stage in a Ligue 1 campaign since 2001-02.

Christophe Galtier's team need only to beat Angers to guarantee their triumph, but the mid-table team are one of the only three sides Lille have lost to this season in Ligue 1, while PSG face Brest.

Just below the title battle, Monaco – who have a slim chance of taking top billing – and Lyon are vying for the final Champions League spot. 

Monaco could yet end up at the summit, but Niko Kovac's team would finish fourth if they fail to beat Lens and Lyon defeat Nice.

At the other end of the table, there is potential for drama, with six teams between 18th-placed Nantes and 13th-placed Reims involved in a relegation scrap.

It has been a tightly fought contest throughout the season at the top of the table, but all will be decided on Sunday.

How does the predictor work?

First of all, here's how we got the data...

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality. Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly. All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position. The points total is based on an average of the predicted points from the simulations of the league outcome.

Let's see how the model now predicts the final league table will look...

 

Lille likely to pip PSG to the post

Our model suggests that it will be Lille who hold firm to triumph this season, and claim their fourth Ligue 1 crown in the process, giving Les Dogues a 57.9 per cent chance of finishing top.

Lille did lose to Angers earlier this season, but they had won the previous three matches against them.

Angers, though, have only failed to score in two of their 18 Ligue 1 home games against Lille, doing so in their first such meeting in September 1957 (0-0) and in their most recent in February 2020 (0-2).

However, Lille's away form is superb – they have won 11 of their last 12 Ligue 1 games on the road.

Opta's AI predicts a 34 per cent chance of Lille finishing second, and an 8.9 per cent of them finishing third. The latter outcome would require Lille to lose, PSG to avoid defeat, Monaco to win, and there to be at least a six-goal swing in goal difference in the principality club's favour.

For PSG, the model offers them a 45.7 per chance of finishing second. If they drop points at all, then Lille will only need to draw to win the title, while a defeat – combined with a Monaco victory – would see Mauricio Pochettino's team finish third. Opta predict there is a 10.9 per cent chance of this happening.

There is very slim potential (3.1 per cent) for PSG to finish outside of the Champions League places and in fourth, but the goal difference swing required (17) would be bordering on the realms of impossibility.

PSG have a 40.3 per cent chance of finishing top, with Monaco not technically out of the running – they have a 2.6 per cent chance.

Monaco would need both Lille and PSG to slip up for that to occur. However, their main focus is to secure Champions League football.

Opta suggests this may be tough, with Lyon – led by the in-form Memphis Depay – given a 43.2 per cent chance of snatching third place, with Monaco destined for fourth. This is due in part to their poor record away at Lens in Ligue 1, where they have won just one of their last 14 top-flight games.

Bad luck for Brest

In the relegation scrap, Opta predict that Nantes, who currently occupy 18th place or Brest are the most likely teams to have to play-off against Toulouse or Grenoble Foot for a place in next season's Ligue 1.

Brest of course face PSG, and they have lost their last three Ligue 1 home games against the capital club, giving them a 50 per cent chance of finishing 18th.

Nantes are in action against Montpellier, and the model suggests their most likely finishing position is also in the bottom three (35.8 per cent), though only one unwanted place is up for grabs.

Reims, who sit in 13th, are not mathematically safe, with only two points between them and Nantes, but they are predicted to secure their top-flight status for next season.

Lorient, Bordeaux and Strasbourg could also be dragged into the relegation/promotion play-off place.

Mauricio Pochettino believes Paris Saint-Germain will be worthy Ligue 1 champions if they leapfrog Lille on the season's final day – and said it would not be a "failure" to fall short.

The head coach, who took over from Thomas Tuchel in January, has seen his team show inconsistent league form, suffering defeats to Lorient, Nantes, Monaco and Lille.

A late-season surge has seen PSG close to just one point behind Lille going into Sunday's final round of games.

The Coupe de France final triumph over Monaco on Wednesday means Pochettino's team already have one major trophy, but the former Tottenham boss wants a double.

"In football you always have to believe. That is the principle we have always had," said Pochettino.

His team travel to relegation-threatened Brest on Sunday evening, while Lille head to Angers, who are safe from the threat of the drop.

"We always think anything can happen and we have to be ready to win in case Lille slip up at Angers which means we will win the league," Pochettino said.

"We believe that good things will happen. Everyone will do their job as well as they can. So we hope to win tomorrow and to also win the title.

"We would be worthy champions, as would any other team that might win it. Whoever wins it will be worthy champions."

Asked whether it might be considered a failure if the Parisians fail to win the title, Pochettino dismissed the emotive term.

PSG have been champions in seven of the last eight seasons, and their budget far exceeds that of any domestic rival.

"At a club like PSG, not winning any of those competitions is always a big disappointment," Pochettino said.

"I don't know if the word failure applies because that has a very strong connotation, but it would be a disappointment rather than a failure.

"It would be disappointing not to win the league, but we are thinking positively and that it may be possible."

PSG also won the Trophee des Champions under Pochettino's watch – beating Marseille in January – having earned their place in that match following a league and cup double last season.

"We hope to win another trophy; it would be our third in five months," Pochettino told reporters in a news conference on Saturday.

"We had a good campaign in the Champions League, reaching the semi-finals, but we were disappointed not to reach the final. I think the squad and players have put in a huge effort to compete in the best way."

The last time there was such a small gap between the top two entering the final round of a Ligue 1 season was way back in 2001-02, when Lens led Lyon by a point but were overtaken on the final day after losing to their title rivals.

That is one positive omen for PSG, with another being that Brest boss Olivier Dall’Oglio has lost on all six previous occasions when he has faced the capital side as a head coach in the league.

Brest's last league win against PSG was a 3-1 success in January 1985. Indeed, Brest have been beaten in their last three Ligue 1 home games against PSG, but they have never lost four in a row at home against a single opponent in the top-flight.

That may need to change for PSG to stand a chance of a final-day turnaround at the top, although a draw would suffice should Lille lose to Angers.

Pochettino expects to be kept informed about Lille's progress but is urging his players not to be distracted.

"I think it will be difficult not to keep tabs on it," Pochettino said. "The most important thing is that the players are fully focused on what they have to do, which is winning the game, so that if something happens in Angers we will not have a problem ourselves.

"What matters is winning and hoping that something goes our way in the game with Lille."

Paris Saint-Germain have won seven of the past eight Ligue 1 titles. This weekend, they might make it eight out of nine.

But this time, the odds are against them.

In the Qatari Sports Investment era, PSG have turned Ligue 1 into their own personal playground, away from the heartache that Champions League tilts tend the bring.

In 2016-17, they missed out to Monaco, whose lavishly gifted young squad came together at the perfect time.

Kylian Mbappe's supernova emergence inconvenienced PSG so much they decided they had to sign him once the campaign ended, but the France sensation had quite the supporting cast.

Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar, Fabinho, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Benjamin Mendy all went on to rake in hundreds of millions of euros collectively as Europe's elite embarked upon a feeding frenzy.

Monaco's triumph spoke of the improbability of PSG being unseated again any time soon, given the extent to which numerous stars would have to align at just the right moment and for long enough before being ripped apart.

However, something feels different as leaders Lille head into Sunday's final matchday needing to match PSG's result at Brest when they travel to face Angers.

Once again, a vibrant youthful core are seeking to take down the kings of France, but if Christophe Galtier's fearless insurgents pull off their heist, it is unlikely their star attacker will have Parisian eyelashes fluttered in his direction.

That is because he is a 35-year-old veteran Turkey striker who, before this season, had never played anywhere outside his home country in Europe.

A free transfer to replace the €70m man

If there was a parallel to Burak Yilmaz in that shimmering Monaco team, it was Radamel Falcao, whose goalscoring nous and experience proved invaluable to Leonardo Jardim's side.

But the Colombia international was enjoying a resurgence, having established himself as one of the most lethal strikers in the world at Atletico Madrid before falling on hard times, initially at Monaco and then during fruitless loan stints at Manchester United and Chelsea.

Yilmaz's CV provides a who's who of Turkish football, counting Besiktas, Fenerbahce, Trabzonspor and Galatasaray among his former employers. While Monaco were getting to work in 2016-17, he enjoyed a hop aboard the fleeting Chinese Super League gravy train at Beijing Guoan.

He arrived at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on a free transfer last August with 224 league goals to his name over the course of a career impressive in its consistency. Nevertheless, it was impossible for the man brought in following Victor Osimhen's €70million departure to Napoli not to feel like an underwhelming replacement.

"During my career, I played in big clubs with a lot of pressure," Yilmaz said during his presentation to the media at Lille.

"I realised that this pressure was an advantage, something positive for me. It continues here in another way, with other objectives. I want to write a new page with LOSC."

Even calling upon all that experience, all that title pedigree from his homeland, Yilmaz surely could not have imagined the fairy tale to which he now only needs to apply the final pieces of punctuation and a definitive full-stop on Sunday.

Bearing teeth for Les Dogues

He went without a goal in Lille's opening four games, but the solid foundation that has become the bedrock of their title change ensured Galtier's men went unbeaten and picked up eight points.

In their fifth match, a late Yilmaz penalty sealed a 2-0 win over Nantes and, next time out, he crowned a fluid team move by outmuscling his marker and sliding home in a supreme piece of centre-forward play. Strasbourg were beaten 3-0 and Lille's attacking fulcrum was off and running, not to look back.

He has 15 goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season, more goal involvements than any of his team-mates. Jonathan David has two assists alongside his 12 goals and Jonathan Bamba has six goals having laid on nine others.

 

Yilmaz has equalled the most goals scored in France's top-flight in a single season by a Turkish player, level with Melvut Erdinc's haul for PSG in 2009-10.

In terms of goals alone, his is the best debut season for Lille in Ligue 1 since Moussa Sow fired 25 in 2010-11 – the club's previous title success.

Golden autumns and heavy goals

It feels like a good time to be an experienced hitman in Europe right now and Yilmaz is among the most prolific.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo, with 29 despite Juventus' Serie A woes, has more goals across the top five leagues among players aged 35 and over.

Yilmaz is level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on 15, with Sampdoria's evergreen Fabio Quagliarella up next on 12.

Like Ibrahimovic, Yilmaz has been forced to spend some time on the sidelines since the turn of the year and it is tempting to wonder whether Lille might already have the title in the bag were it not for a calf injury that ruled their talisman out for two months.

Yilmaz was on a run of three in three games before being forced to watch on for nine Ligue 1 rounds. His team-mates ploughed on, winning seven and drawing two of those games and he returned as a man on a mission.

Lille were 2-0 down at Lyon when he thundered home a magnificent 25-yard free-kick. Yilmaz crossed for David to equalise with an hour played and he then charged through to dink in an 85th-minute winner.

 

That was a truly bravura performance, with the calmness under pressure he boldly highlighted eight months earlier proving unshakable. An astonishing 30-yarder as part of a brace in a 3-0 win at Lens was his 15th and best of the campaign, taking Lille to the brink of glory.

Lille's 12 strikes from outside the box are the most in Ligue 1 in 2020-21 and goals of such quality mean Yilmaz is performing well in excess of his expected goals (xG) figure of 9.2. A positive differential of 5.8 is the sixth-best in the elite divisions behind Robert Lewandowski, Marcos Llorente, Son Heung-min, Luis Muriel and Lionel Messi.

Don't look back in Angers

Yilmaz was unable to whip up another dose of magic last weekend, with a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Saint-Etienne meaning Lille's advantage heading into Sunday's decisive fixtures is down to a point.

Their 80 points is already the club's record tally and is built as much on a watertight defence as it is on Yilmaz's attacking fireworks.

Only PSG in 2015-16 (19) have conceded fewer after 37 games than Les Dogues' 22. During the second half of the season, they have kept things improbably tight – letting in just six goals, eight fewer than any other team in the top five leagues over this time. Atletico Madrid, also on the verge of an unforgettable triumph this weekend, are up next with a typically miserly 14.

Lille's Mike Maignan closed out a 21st clean sheet of the campaign against Saint-Etienne, a continental best that puts him three clear of Atleti's Jan Oblak and Manchester City's Premier League Golden Glove winner Ederson.

 

Alongside his clean sheet percentage of 56.8, another leading mark in the elite competitions, he has saved 79.1 per cent of shots faced, which can only be bettered by Oblak (80.2) and Keylor Navas (79.3) of PSG.

Obviously, this makes Lille very hard to beat. They have only lost three Ligue 1 games, although one of those was against Angers in January.

That might set nerves jangling when it comes to the crunch this weekend, but they need only look towards Yilmaz and his air of a man who will not be denied.

Eden Hazard believes Lille winning Ligue 1 this season would be a greater achievement than when he inspired the club to a domestic double a decade ago.

Belgium star Hazard enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010-11 when Lille won Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France.

He left for Chelsea after the following season, when he retained the Ligue 1 Player of the Year crown, but has kept a keen eye on Les Dogues ever since, having joined the club at 14 and progressed through the youth ranks.

"I owe almost everything to Lille," he said in an interview with the club's official website.

"If I am here today, it is partly thanks to the people I met in the north [of France], to the coaches, but also to all those whom I was able to meet during these years. 

"They all have a part in my success."

 

Christophe Galtier's current vintage will wrap up an improbable Ligue 1 success this weekend if they are able to match Paris Saint-Germain's result.

PSG are away at relegation-threatened Brest, while Lille travel to mid-table Angers, although last weekend's frustrating 0-0 draw against Saint-Etienne has done plenty to set nerves jangling – their advantage at the summit trimmed to a solitary point.

Bolstered by the lavish wealth of their Qatari owners, PSG have won seven of the past eight French titles, with Monaco's success in 2016-17 the outlier.

"Honestly, if [Lille] are champions this season, it would be even better than us in 2011, because there is now the Qatar version of PSG, which makes this championship even more difficult to win," Hazard added.

"The supporters deserve it. When we won this double, they had to wait over 50 years to see the club lift a trophy. And in this complicated period, it would be good for everyone. 

"The people of the north deserve it and especially the players."

Where will Harry Kane play in 2021-22?

The Tottenham star Kane reportedly wants out of his boyhood club.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are ready to pounce…

 

TOP STORY – KANE SEEKING SPURS DEPARTURE

Harry Kane has told Tottenham he wants to leave the club in the off-season, according to widespread reports in England.

Frustrated at a lack of silverware in London, Spurs star Kane would reportedly prefer to remain in the Premier League amid links to champions Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Kane is believed to be open to a LaLiga switch, with Barcelona among his admirers.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Diario AS claims former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane if the Frenchman leaves Real Madrid. Club great Raul, who is currently in charge of the Castilla team, is another option. It comes as Madrid push to bring in a franchise player in the form of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich's David Alaba are also wanted amid links to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and United midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Sun says City are considering a mega move for Barca superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Messi is reportedly open to reuniting with Pep Guardiola in Manchester on a one-year deal.

Barca are weighing up the futures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, reports Mundo Deportivo. Due to their financial situation, the players could be asked to take a pay cut as Lyon captain Memphis Depay prepares to arrive on a free transfer. City forward Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, Haaland and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum have also been linked.

- Lille's Jonathan Ikone is Dortmund's top priority as the Bundesliga club prepare for life without Jadon Sancho, according to France Football. Sancho has been tipped to join United or Liverpool, while Dortmund are also eyeing PSV sensation Donyell Malen, Ajax forward David Neres and Pedro Goncalves of Sporting CP.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Lille head into their final Ligue 1 match of the season with a slender one-point lead after they could only draw 0-0 at home to Saint-Etienne as nearest challengers Paris Saint-Germain were victorious.

Les Dogues were three points clear at the summit heading into Sunday's fixtures, knowing they could potentially seal the title on the day.

But their performance lacked lustre almost from start to finish, with Christophe Galtier's men unable to get a single shot on target in the first half.

Out of necessity Lille were rather more forceful in their attacking after the break, though their desperation translated to Zeki Celik appearing to dive in an attempt to win a penalty.

They then thought Jonathan David had been fouled in the box a few minutes later, though replays showed the contact was minimal.

A winner almost arrived in the 90th minute as Yusuf Yazici's free-kick went all the way through a crowd of players and appeared to be heading into the bottom-left corner, but Etienne Green in the Saint-Etienne net produced a remarkable save to tip it on to the post.

That was to be their last opportunity, meaning Lille go to Angers on the final day next Sunday with the title race in the balance, just a point ahead of PSG.

It is the smallest lead held by the first-place team ahead of the final matchday of a Ligue 1 season since 2001-02, when Lens were a point clear of Lyon. The latter went on seal the title.

On the final day of the season, PSG will go to Brest while third-placed Monaco – who can still technically win the title as well – head to Lens.

Lille winning Ligue 1 would be "something huge for French football" according to their former striker Eder.

Christophe Galtier's side could be crowned champions on Sunday when they host Saint-Etienne, if their result in that match betters Paris Saint-Germain's efforts against Reims.

Even if the race goes to the final weekend, a three-point lead with two games to play and the title race being in Lille's hands represents a phenomenal achievement.

PSG have won seven of the past eight top-flight titles in France, but Eder has observed a competition reborn this season – something he feels would be validated by Lille completing an unlikely march to glory.

"I think it's amazing for the championship because a lot of people have been saying that the French championship is PSG and no others," he told Stats Perform.

"I think that a lot of people, a lot of teams this year have been proving that they are there to compete with PSG, like Lyon and Monaco. They are having a great season.

"Lille have been doing amazingly well and I think that this is going to be something huge for French football."

Eder represented Lille between 2016 and 2018, a span that took in his undoubted career highlight – a goalscoring turn off the bench to snatch a 1-0 extra time victory for Portugal over hosts France in the final of Euro 2016.

The Portuguese link at Lille remains strong, with veteran centre-back Jose Fonte and playmaker Renato Sanches team-mates of Eder's in Fernando Santos' Euro 2016 squad.

Fonte and Sanches are joined by countrymen Tiago Djalo and Xeka in Galtier's side.

"We have groups of chats, and we are always cheering for Jose Fonte," Eder added. "We have our fingers crossed and we hope that he is going to win."

Fonte has played 35 of Lille's 36 Ligue 1 games this season.

Of defenders to have played more than 20 times in the division, none can better the 37-year-old's 68.7 per cent duel success rate.

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