Lille travel to London on Monday ahead of their Champions League match against Chelsea, and it’s inevitably getting big coverage in the French media.
Jose Fonte is Lille captain and has a lot of connections with London. It’s where some of his family still live, and potentially the city he’ll settle in at the end of his playing days.
The 38-year-old’s London experience began with Crystal Palace in 2007, with him initially joining from Benfica on loan, before the transfer was later turned into a permanent one.
Fonte stayed with Crystal Palace until 2010, when he left the Eagles for his lengthy stay with Southampton. He clearly took a lot of good memories with him, and a lot of those are connected to Selhurst Park, with the atmosphere created by supporters being something which stands out.
Speaking in an interview for Sunday’s edition of L’Equipe, Fonte said even the smell of Selhurst Park remains in his memory to this day.
L’Equipe quote him as saying: “It’s an old stadium. Even the smell… (Inhales.) A smell you’ll never forget. And one of the best atmospheres in England. The Crystal Palace stadium has a capacity of 27,000, and in D2, we had 25,000 supporters all the time.
“I left the pitch at halftime of my first match because Peter Taylor had put me in the middle. He never made me play my position! He was quickly replaced by Neil Warnock, with whom I had a beautiful love/hate story.
“In 2007, I have long hair, I play with a headband, I have white shoes, I try to train with gloves, pants… He was against all that. He was…traditional.”