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Remember Lille's Title-Winning Squad From Less Than A Year Ago? They've All Jumped Ship

The cycle of an underdog team capturing an unbelievable title and then providing one of the worst title defenses ever seen is a tale as old as time. After all, winning back-to-back championships is classified as one of the most difficult exercises across sports, even when you're strapped to the teeth with finances, resources and world-class depth like Manchester City.

But for the likes of 2015-16 Leicester — a team that relied on the absolute miracle of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth playing like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for 10 straight months — demanding a repeat performance would be madness, especially after Chelsea takes N'Golo Kanté away from you. 

A similar scenario is now playing out in France just 345 days after Lille claimed a famous 2020-21 Ligue 1 triumph over the mega riches of PSG. 

Like Leicester, Lille targeted a memorable Champions League campaign after its unlikely league triumph. The team delivered on a favorable draw by topping its group, but the reward was a last-16 encounter with defending champion Chelsea, and a 4-1 aggregate defeat effectively spelled the end of Lille's current campaign in mid-March.

They'd already been eliminated from the Coupe de France in the Round of 32, and the club is now limping toward the Ligue 1 finish line having lost three of its last four to sit 10th with a goal difference of negative one. 

"It's not been a shit season," defender Sven Botman recently said. "I'm not looking for excuses. Most of all, we've lost matches stupidly. Sometimes we've been bad." 

Perhaps the most surprising part is how quickly the title-winning squad is poised to dissolve. 

If you look at Leicester, they've still got Kasper Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton after all these years. Even Ajax, a "selling club" like Lille, still has many from its celebrated 2018-19 core — Daley Blind, Dušan Tadić, André Onana, Noussair Mazraoui, Nicolás Tagliafico and others.

For Lille, this summer might spell the end of every single player who really contributed to that unlikely title. Every. Single. One. (There is one possible exception at the bottom of the list.) 

I think only the Chinese Super League's Jiangsu FC disbanded its title-winning squad quicker, and that's because the club ceased operations three months later.    

2020-21 Lille Starting Lineup: Where Are They Now? 

Manager: Christophe Galtier

Now: Resigned two days after winning the title, saying, "I simply have the deep belief that my time is up here." He was at the club for three and a half seasons. One month after leaving, he was unveiled as the new manager of Nice.

GK: Mike Maignan

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Now: Joined AC Milan for $13.7 million last summer.

RB: Zeki Çelik

Now: The 25-year-old is out of contract next summer so Lille wants to sell. Tottenham, Arsenal, Alético and Fiorentina have all been linked. 

CB: Sven Botman

Now: The 22-year-old Dutch defender said "if things go as planned, yes" he's leaving in the summer. He's reportedly on the verge of joining Milan. 

CB: José Fonte

Now: He's out of contract this summer and a return to Portugal seems imminent for the 38-year-old. 

LB: Reinildo Mandava

Now: Transferred to Atlético Madrid in the January transfer window for $10.5 million.   

RM: Jonathan Ikoné

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Now: Joined Fiorentina for $15.8 million in January. 

CM: Benjamin André

Now: The 31-year-old defensive midfielder is out of contract next summer so Lille is open to offers.  

CM: Boubakary Soumaré

Now: Joined Leicester City last summer for $21.2 million.   

LM: Jonathan Bamba

Now: The 26-year-old's contract expires next summer, so Lille is looking to cash in with an expensive transfer.

ST: Jonathan David

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Now: It's widely reported the Canadian wants to leave this summer and the club is willing to sell for around $50 million. Arsenal, Newcastle and Milan have all been heavily linked.

ST: Burak Yılmaz

Now: The 36-year-old is out of contract this summer and will either return to Turkey or try his hand in MLS. 


CM: Renato Sanches

Now: He's reportedly already agreed to join Milan this summer. 

CM: Xeka

Now: The 27-year-old's contract expires this summer so he's moving on. 

CM: Yusuf Yazıcı

Now: He joined CSKA Moscow on loan in January with an option to buy.  

RW: Luiz Araújo

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Now: He transferred and became a Designated Player for Atlanta United last summer. 

RW: Timothy Weah

Now: He could stay for another season! The American's contract runs through 2023-24 and Weah's experienced a difficult campaign with zero goals in 32 appearances across all competitions, so a transfer looks very unlikely.

Weah is now Lille's Jamie Vardy.  

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