Everton’s new manager Jean-Luc Vasseur on his debt to Gérard Houllier

When Gérard Houllier appointed Jean-Luc Vasseur coach of Lyon, the most successful women’s team on the continent, he did so in 2019 with resounding personal support. The careers of the two Frenchmen had intertwined over the years – Houllier coached Vasseur when he entered the Paris St-Germain first team in 1986, before returning to the post of technical director of Lyon and of offer his young protégé the post of manager.

“I am lucky to know him as a man and as a player,” Houllier said at the time. “I followed his career as a player, but also as a coach.

Now, after a harvest of silverware for Lyon, including the 2020 Champions League title, Vasseur has the opportunity to shine on these shores as Everton’s new manager. Speaking to Telegraph Sport just days before the first anniversary of Houllier’s death, Vasseur recalled the influence of one of football’s biggest names on his own career, as well as his hopes for success in the Women’s Super League. .

“[Gerard] was a very good manager, ”said the 52-year-old, who previously described how Houllier regularly spoke to the players in Lyon before games, demonstrating an infectious passion for women’s football. “We worked with him last season [at Lyon] before he died. I knew Gérard when he directed me to PSG.

“Then in Lyon, we worked together for the project and for the future and for the team, and I had the opportunity to work with him. Now i’m very, very sad [that he is no longer with us]. “

It was this success of Vasseur under Houllier in Lyon that made his appointment to Everton such a blow for the Merseyside club, who have the ambition to qualify for Europe and compete for the trophies. On Wednesday night, they resume their attempt for the latter in the League Cup, hosting Manchester United in their last group stage match. Manchester City teams and group managers are tied on points, but only one team is guaranteed to pass.

This tight competition is something that drew Vasseur to the English game. “The difference [from France] it’s that there are a lot of better teams in England. The match is very, very close and it’s more difficult, we don’t have the same difference as in Lyon or at PSG when sometimes you win six or seven to zero, the result is always tight.

“One of my main goals in my career was to work abroad. I think it’s the best place in the world to work with women’s teams and women’s football.

“When [Everton] contacted me and explained the project to me, it’s very interesting and ambitious, so I said “OK, let’s go. I came to Everton because I am very ambitious and passionate too, I like the challenge, the difficult challenge because it is not easy.

“When you arrive in Lyon, there is a habit of winning, of continuing to win and of keeping the team at the top. [Here] there is a lot of work to improve the club, that’s what i come to everton.

“But I know which is the best reference for the team in Europe because I come from Lyon, the best team in the world. I know the way to build a team so that we can play in the European competition and maybe in the future, I don’t know when, but to win the Champions League.

Now six weeks after arriving, Vasseur seems to be enjoying life on Merseyside, and jokes: “There is another team here but I’m not sure of the name or the color… I accepted when I got in. come. [at Everton] never, never say the color and never, never wear that color!

Understanding local accents is one of the challenges facing the former Rennes and Saint-Etienne player, but it is not the first time that he has worked with game stars from various parts of the North. ‘England. “I had Lucy Bronze [at Lyon], she comes from the North. Nikita Parris, she is from Liverpool, and Alex Greenwood who is also from Liverpool.

“Every time we spoke [in Lyon] I always said, ‘Slowly please’, ”he recalls. “But I can understand them, I understand all the players.”

And after having lived in Lyon, capital of French gastronomy, he took a liking to local cuisine, revealing: “I discovered the [baked] beans during breakfast so I think you have the best breakfast in the world. And wonderful pancakes are better than American pancakes.

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