Who is Paulo Fonseca, Lille’s new coach?

It was an open secret, it’s now official. After Portugal, Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk) and Italy (AS Roma), Paulo Fonseca will discover France on the Losc bench. The Lusitanian technician initialed a two-year lease with the northern club on Wednesday June 29. He replaces Jocelyn Gourvennec, who was dismissed on June 16. Here are five things to know about Lille’s new 49-year-old manager.

A miracle worker in Paços de Ferreira

Have you ever heard of Paços de Ferreira? In your defense, the club is not really a cador of the Portuguese championship. His notoriety nevertheless went beyond the Portuguese borders in 2012-2013, under the leadership of Paulo Fonseca. Until then coach of the modest CD Aves, in the second division, the young coach landed in Paços… and hoisted his club on the podium of the Liga Sagres. Third, the Pacenses even have the luxury of getting ahead of Sporting Portugal and Braga to enter the preliminary round of the Champions League.

The feat is huge for Paços, a novice at this level. Short-lived, too: Paulo Fonseca is in the process spotted by the great FC Porto. But the step is too high, the 40-year-old technician takes the door eight months after his arrival. Without his mentor, Paços borders on correctional and flees in a barrage. Fonseca was called to the rescue in the summer of 2014. The second romance worked, as the club from northern Portugal finished eighth one point behind Europe.

A fan of attacking football

Wherever he went, Paulo Fonseca tried to play an attractive game. « People come to the stadium to have a good time.he declared in 2018 to L’Equipe. I want my teams to be looking to score, to take the initiative, to be attacking, to have possession. » A big fan of Pep Guardiola, he received praise from the Catalan coach during a meeting between Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Paulo Fonseca and Pep Guardiola, December 6, 2017 in Kharkiv.  (STANISLAV VEDMID / AFP)

« Fonseca taught me to feel footballsaid about him Jean-Michael Séri, former player of Paços, at the Guardian [article en anglais]. You knew what you had to do on the pitch before the ball arrived. » These dogmas can also play tricks on him. Close to Tottenham in June 2021, he was finally rejected. The reason ? A new sporting director has arrived in the meantime, « and we disagreed on some ideas »Fonseca told the Telegram [article en anglais].

Difficult to establish over time

Lille is Paulo Fonseca’s sixth club since 2012. This data reflects a certain difficulty for the Portuguese coach to embrace a long-term project. His two stays at Paços de Ferreira lasted a year, like his time at Braga (2015-2016). Admittedly, several of his leases were cut short because positions in more prestigious clubs were offered to him. Still, his three years in Donetsk (2016-2019), crowned with as many league titles, constitute his longest experience.

At Roma, his adventure ended in blood sausage. After an average second season (seventh in Serie A despite a Europa League semi-final in 2020-2021), Fonseca has turned part of his locker room on his back. His two years of contract should give him some stability in Lille, where Jocelyn Gourvennec only stayed one year.

He was stuck in kyiv at the start of the war

After leaving Rome, Paulo Fonseca returned to Ukraine, where his wife resides. He was therefore in the country on this disastrous February 24, when the capital was bombarded by Russian troops. As the airspace was closed, the couple could not leave Ukraine.

« This is the worst day of my life. I was woken up at five in the morning with five outbursts in a row. »

Paulo Fonseca

to the Portuguese media Jornal de Noticias

Initially housed by his former club, Fonseca and his wife boarded a minibus to reach Romania. They then took off for Lisbon after a long journey. « I saw Ukrainian troops passing on the road several times and heard the fighter planes »narrated the coach to Sky Sports.

During his experience on the Shakhtar bench, Fonseca had already paid the price for the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. His team has in fact never evolved in front of his public in Donetsk, located in a Donbass already invaded by Russian troops. The club was then playing in Kharkiv.

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