Ligue 1

Lyon hold off challenge of six other teams to win the title - Ligue 1 in 2002/03

They became the first team in a decade to retain the championship

2:00pm on Tuesday 31st March 2020
By
Mohammed Ali

Lyon defend title ahead of SIX other teams in frantic new dawn for Ligue 1.

No side had been successful in defending the title for more than a decade, but this run was broken by Lyon who won their second ever Ligue 1 title, beating off an incredible six other teams to claim glory.

Their total of 68 points may not have been enough to claim a spot in the Champions League these days, but it was enough in the first-ever “Ligue 1” season. The LFP had chosen to implement a new makeover for the old Division 1, with Monaco (67), Marseille (65) and Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne, Auxerre (64) all harbouring veritable title hopes until the end.

CHANGES

Liverpool were the big shoppers in France in the summer of 2002, on the back of a positive World Cup for Senegal. The English side saw fit to prise Salif Diao and El Hadji Diouf to Anfield, while also picking up no-nonsense midfielder Bruno Cheyrou.

Andre Luiz was the big signing, quitting Corinthians for PSG in an 11 million euro deal, while big forward Jean Claude Darcheville moved to Bordeaux in the close season.

SEASON SUMMARY

2002-03 proved to be a very topsy turvy season for all concerned. First, no less than 10 teams occupied top spot throughout the campaign, a then-record for the French top-tier. No side, not even the future champion Lyon had occupied the lead for more than a month at a time, and even then - it was unheralded Nice who managed that feat. In fact, the southern club had reached top spot on no less than 4 occasions, but a disastrous second half of the campaign saw them finish only in 10th spot.

By the halfway point, les Aiglons were 2nd, a point behind Marseille but one clear of Monaco, Lyon and Auxerre.

No side could muster a strong challenge - and with 7 teams in the mix - including a Guingamp side inspired by Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda - it seemed that each side had been intent on taking points off every other time, with the league unable to generate a dominant champion.

In the end, it largely depended on who would stumble over the line first - and it proved to be Paul Le Guen’s Lyon, who despite winning just 50% of their matches - like Monaco, and Marseille, win the title on account of losing less games. The title was sealed with a 1-1 draw against a poor Montpellier side with one game to spare.

AWARDS

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

PAULETA

The fan favourite was named player of the season for his commanding performances up front, though Bordeaux could only muster a 4th place finish in a crowded league.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

GUY LACOMBE

The wily manager was awarded the title after steering Sochaux back into European contention - as the Montbeliard club finished just four points from the title, despite a vastly inferior budget to sides around them.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON

LIONEL MATHIS

The then 21-year-old was a surprise recipient for the award, as he proved a key component of the Auxerre side who ultimately finished 6th.

TOP GOALSCORER

SHABANI NONDA

The Congolese forward nudged ahead of Pauleta (26 to 23) to secure the award, though his goals were unfortunately not able to power Monaco to a first title in three years.

TEAM OF THE SEASON

COUPET; RADET, VAN BUYTEN, MEXES, DOS SANTOS; ESSIEN, PEDRETTI, ROTHEN; GIULY; NONDA, PAULETA

MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER

Andre Luiz

Corinthians to PSG

€11M

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

Lyon 1-0 Paris

Having fallen to defeat to Monaco weeks before this fixture, a crucial victory against the capital club put Lyon on the brink - with rivals Bordeaux, Monaco and Marseille ready to pounce. But a narrow victory meant they were just a point from the title, and it was gained against Montpellier in the next game.

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