Lucien Favre: 5 things on the Borussia Dortmund boss, the man who made Marco Reus and tamed Mario Balotelli
He brought the best out of Marco Reus, gave Marc-Andre ter Stegen his top-flight debut and steered Hertha Berlin and Borussia Mönchengladbach out of the Bundesliga backwaters and turned them into European contenders.
1) Making hay
Lucien Favre has plenty of Bundesliga pedigree and has displayed a rare flair for making his teams both good to watch and formidably successful. Borussia Dortmund fans came close to living their wildest dreams in his first campaign and could be rewarded in the coming two seasons under Favre.
"There was nothing else but football at the time," explained Favre of his upbringing on a farm in the village of St Barthelemy in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. "I sometimes helped around the farm, but I wasn't a big fan of that."
Instead of closing the barn door, he proved he could quite easily hit it as a classy attacking midfielder with Lausanne, Neuchatel Xamax and Servette, where he played with Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. He even pulled on his country's shirt, winning the first of 24 caps in a game with the Netherlands on the same 1981 day that Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit began their international careers.
Named Swiss Footballer of the Year in 1983, Favre's forward-thinking reputation extended beyond his ability to play a laser-guided through ball. "He was already far ahead of everyone," said former Stuttgart and Switzerland defender Ludovic Magnin, whose father has been friends with Favre since adolescence. "He trained according to the latest scientific knowledge and adapted his diet. He never left anything to chance, not then, not now."
Watch: How Favre transformed Dortmund!
2) Löw blow
The end of his playing career in 1991 marked the start of his new life in the dug-out…as coach of the Under-14 side of FC Echallens in Switzerland. Not that he was all that sure. "I wanted to see if it was for me," Favre said. It clearly was. Success at grassroots level took him to senior football with his former club, Servette, where a Swiss Cup was won.
3) Pain, and lots of gain
Favre's appearance makes him look as sweet as a bar of Swiss chocolate, but his players may not agree. "My players have to be ready to suffer in training," Favre once said. While his squads' muscles may scream sometimes, his record states — just as loudly — that for all the pain he gives them on a daily basis, his players respond positively.
"We tried one-on-one moves we had done in training in the match and it worked! We could hardly believe it ourselves," explained Blerim Dzemali, the Switzerland international who was youthful promise itself at Zürich. "As everyone was involved in attacking, over time that created a joy of playing and a team spirit that was unique. I hope to play Favre again someday."
4) Good enough, old enough
Dzemali is probably not the only one to wish to be reunited at a club with Favre. The former Napoli man was Zürich's back-to-back title-winning captain after being handed the armband aged just 19 by Favre, who — despite appearing to be as exciting as a Swiss banker — is not afraid of making a risky investment.
A Zürich side also featuring a fresh-faced Gökhan Inler had an average age of 21.5 years when it was crowned Swiss champion; Reus does not have Favre to thank for giving him his Bundesliga debut, but the Germany international first became the match-decider he is today under the Swiss' tactician's guiding hand. While Reus developed into Germany's Player of the Year in the 2011/12 season before he joined Dortmund, Favre's biggest leap of faith had come the campaign before.
5) The Balotelli Whisperer
Favre's sanity must have been sorely tested at Nice. His work at Hertha and with 'Borussia Barcelona', whom he returned to the UEFA Champions League for the first time in 37 years with swashbuckling football that saw them finish third in 2014/15, meant the French club were delighted to snare the Swiss to replace Claude Puel in summer 2016.
"In Lucien, I can see my husband again," Gisela Weisweiler, the widow of Gladbach and Cologne's legendary coach Hennes, had said while Favre was at Borussia Park. You have to wonder what the pair of them would have said to each other about Mario Balotelli.
The volatile Italy forward laid his beach towel down on the Cote d'Azur at the same time as Favre, and — somehow — the unlikely couple's marriage has worked. Where Jürgen Klopp, Roberto Mancini and a host of others tried — and largely failed — Favre succeeded in taming the beast in Balotelli.
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