Lille expert offers positive insight on Fonseca: “The best football in Ligue 1”

By Oliver Fisher -

Paulo Fonseca is expected to be the new head coach of AC Milan replacing Stefano Pioli, but how is his work with Lille viewed by those in France?

Milan’s decision to entrust Fonseca with the role of being the man to lead the new era has raised some eyebrows, given the availability of other more established coaches like Antonio Conte, but there are some factors which suggest it could be a good fit.

Fonseca finished in fourth place in Lille with the eighth-highest gross wage bill in the league and this, for a club like Milan, is not trivial. Moreover, he improved their defensive numbers and continued his track record of developing young talent.

His possession-driven style, ability the help players grow and the balance offered between the two phases seem to have ticked enough boxes for the Rossoneri to believe he is the right man, even if he is yet to win a trophy in a ‘top five’ league and had struggles at Roma.

MilanNews conducted an interview with Sebastien Noé from La Voix du Nord, a newspaper that covers Lille extensively, and he offered some insight on the former Porto and Roma boss.

How do you evaluate Fonseca’s work in his two-year period?

“The judgment is obviously very positive. Lille qualified for a European competition twice and still have a chance of making it to the Champions League next year. This season they also reached the quarter-finals of the Conference League.

“And, beyond the results, above all he made Lille the team that played the best football in Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain. A style very inclined towards attack, with the choice of ball possession: taking risks and never giving up. Some players have shown off thanks to him, like Edon Zhegrova, Angel Gomes or Leny Yoro.”

What are the strengths and weaknesses of his management?

“I have just explained many things but first we can say that the playing style of Paulo Fonseca’s team was a real pleasure. He also pleased the increasingly numerous and fervent audience present at the stadium. If I had to find a negative point it would be the end of the season.

“While on the one hand Lille again qualified for a European competition, on the other hand they failed to gain direct access to the Champions League right at the last minute. The most annoying thing is that before the last match Lille were on course to quality.”

How did he handle the pressure?

“Honestly very good. For two years he managed to get the following of his players, who believed in his project. As for the relationship with the media, in the first few months there was a language barrier, but he made an effort to speak French quite quickly. He was relatively open to talking about different topics.”

Do you think he’s a profile ready for Milan?

“Yes, I think it’s a good choice. You have experience, gained not only in France but also in Ukraine. And he knows the Italian league after having coached Roma. He has very interesting game principles and the ambition to make a qualitative leap in your career. He is capable of reviving a team that, I believe, has had difficulties this season.

“And you will obviously have superior players to those you managed at Lille. We have to give him some time at the beginning of the season so that the team understands his game plan. And, of course, the transfer window will be important.”

The fans, however, are perplexed: they don’t consider him a winning coach…

“Yes, this is the flaw we can find in him today, looking at his results. This is what Lille has been missing for two seasons, despite very important games. It is with Milan that he must overcome this hurdle.”

Among the players in AC Milan’s sights is Jonathan David…

“Jo David has been one of Lille’s most important players for four years. He is the team’s top scorer, he has scored 19 goals this season. He isn’t the most spectacular striker or more aesthetic of the world but he scores and above all he has an enormous collective commitment. He works a lot and everywhere on the pitch.”

Another player that has been linked is Tiago Santos…

“Tiago Santos is one of the revelations of the season in Ligue 1. He arrived under the radar last summer from Portugal and without the expectation of being a starter, but he immediately impressed everyone with his physical qualities and techniques.

“On the counter-attack he is formidable and has a powerful shot. On the other hand he still has to grow defensively and still has experience at the highest level.”

Tags AC Milan Paulo Fonseca


  1. Fonseca appointment is just an alternative for Klopp. He has sabatical leave for a year and if Fonseca fail then Milan will choose Klopp without risk of paying too much for Fonseca. That’s why Fonseca’s contract is only for 2 years (with an option to extend for another year), if he wins the Scudetto or CL then he will continue and Milan can forget Klopp, so let’s see

  2. One thing milan fans need to understand is, a good coach is not all about how many trophies a coach wins although very important.
    The ability to make the team gel and have an identity and playing good football is also important. As well as developing players to grow to their full potential !
    The best example is Bayern Munich hiring Vicent Kompany as head coach after his team Burnley, just got relegated.
    Vicent Kompany has ZERO trophies in the top leagues but he has a good system that has potential.

    Pioli is not necessarily a bad coach but with him Milan lacked an identity. One game we’ll play like Real Madrid next game we’ll play like a Sunday league team.

    With fonseca, he has an identity. Now Let’s see if he can deliver. Forza Milan!

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