A French Soccer Team Clings to First Place as the Bottom Falls Out

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There is a reason that even José Mourinho, not a man given to complimenting other humans, is happy to talk about his friend’s “great career.” Campos, after all, is the technical director who pieced together the Monaco team that made the semifinals of the Champions League in 2017 and was then sold across the Continent for the better part of a billion euros.

His work at Lille was, quietly, no less impressive, even if he was never, technically, an employee of the club. Instead, he was employed by a company called Scoutly, which was wholly owned by Victory Soccer, the vehicle through which López and Ingla owned Lille.

López insisted that this Byzantine approach was necessary so that Campos could operate with “independence” in the market. Regardless, Lille benefited from the arrangement. Its squad is replete with the fruits of Campos’s labor: Boubakary Soumaré and Jonathan Ikoné, spotted in the reserve ranks at P.S.G.; Zeki Celik, plucked from the obscurity of the Turkish second division; Renato Sanches, offered a shot at rejuvenation after four years in the wilderness; and the two crown jewels, the most salable assets, the Dutch defender Sven Botman and the Canadian forward Jonathan David.

The belief that they might, together, one day be worth as much as that Monaco team of Mbappé and Bernardo Silva and Fabinho and the rest was, of course, overstated. That assumption rested on the idea that every single player would reach his maximum value, but it was, for a while, an explicable delusion.

That changed as soon as the pandemic struck, and it calcified as the scale of French soccer’s financial crisis was laid bare. Ligue 1 expects to sign a new television deal in the coming weeks, almost certainly with Canal Plus, the broadcaster it ditched last summer.

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