Gerard Houllier: Liverpool, Arsenal & Man Utd legends feature in his all-time XI

Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard with former manager Gerard Houllier

On Monday, former Liverpool and France manager Gerard Houllier passed away at the age of 73.

It is a sad time for the global footballing family, but there’s no question Houllier’s legacy lives on.

As well as creating unforgettable memories for fans of Liverpool and Lyon in particular, having won multiple major trophies with both clubs, Houllier worked with some of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen and gave future legends their big breakthroughs.

In honour of Houllier, our all-time XI hopes to document how much of an impact he truly made on the sport we all love, by highlighting the successes he enjoyed himself and the glory he helped bring to those who blossomed under his tutelage.

From creating Liverpool legends to playing an underlying role in France’s 1998 World Cup triumph, Houllier’s influence on the beautiful game remains profound…

The Defence

Joel Bats – Houllier received his first taste of silverware at PSG and goalkeeper Joel Bats arrived in the same year, 1985. By the end of the season they’d won the Ligue 1 title together, while Bats continued to prove he was the best French glovesman around. He became the first goalkeeper to make 50 appearances for France and earned worldwide acclaim in 1986 for saving penalties from iconic Brazilian duo Zico and Socrates at the World Cup.

Jamie Carragher – The Anfield legend had already broken into the first-team prior to Houllier’s arrival but it was the Frenchman who helped establish Carragher as a starting XI regular, albeit often having to settle for a less favoured full-back spot. Carragher won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup under Houllier’s watch, while rising to the rank of vice-captain in the dressing room.

Cris – Not exactly a household name outside of France but a virtually ever-present member of the Lyon squad that won back-to-back Ligue 1 titles under Houllier. Nicknamed “The Policeman” for his authoritative defending and four months working for The Bill in Brazil, he made the most appearances under Houllier of any non-Liverpool player. 

Eric Abidal – Best known for his time at Barcelona, the Frenchman earned his big move to the Nou Camp after consistently impressing for Houllier’s Lyon. He’d go on to win two Champions League titles with the Spanish giants, while representing France 67 times.

Barcelona's Andres Iniesta, Seydou Keita and Eric Abidal with the Champions League trophy

The Midfield

Steven Gerrard – The Liverpool legend was handed his first-team debut by Houllier and while Rafa Benitez put the icing on the cake in making Gerrard the complete midfield package, early exposure – albeit often on the right wing – gave him the experience he needed to become one of the greatest players to ever grace Anfield. Gerrard received his first England call-up during Houllier’s era as well, while featuring prominently in the 2000/01 treble season.

Didier Deschamps – Houllier didn’t last long as France boss but during his time there, he worked with some real talents, not least including Deschamps. He would go on to captain Les Tricolores when they won the 1998 World Cup, and then manage them to the same triumph in Russia twenty years later.

Juninho Pernambucano – Considered to be the greatest free kick taker of all time, the Brazilian enjoyed some of his best years as a key part of Houllier’s Ligue 1-winning Lyon side – winning the division’s Player of the Year award in 2005/06. Only six players scored more goals under Houllier than Juninho Pernambucano, while nobody grabbed more assists. 

Eric Cantona – Houllier oversaw the France national team during one of its darkest periods and was sacked after failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, but one player who did thrive during his short-lived stint was Manchester United legend Eric Cantona. Nine caps under Houllier brought seven goals and one assist but the Selhurst Park incident in 1995 would see Cantona suspended from international football and then lose his place in the team to Zinedine Zidane.

Ashley Young – Aston Villa fans weren’t too fond of Houllier at the time but he must have done something right because they’re yet to match or better their ninth-placed finish from his only season in charge. He also knew how to get the best out of Ashley Young, who grabbed eight goals and ten assists in just 35 appearances under Houllier to secure himself a move to Manchester United in the subsequent summer. Young would spend eight-and-a-half years at Old Trafford before moving to Inter Milan in January 2019. 

Eric Cantona plays for France versus England

The Attack

Michael Owen – Houllier inherited the The Boy Wonder after Roy Evans had made the tough choice to promote him over Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen would enjoy the best years of his career with the Frenchman at the helm. In fact, Owen became the first English player since Kevin Keegan to win the Ballon d’Or in 2001, and before Houllier’s spell was over the young striker had already made it into the Premier League’s 100 club. They both left Anfield in 2004, with Owen completing a move to Real Madrid.

Thierry Henry – While Houllier’s most synonymous with a more underwhelming era of the France national team, he also played a key role in their first ever World Cup win. Two years before, he’d guided the France U18 team to the European Championship with the only goalscorer in the final – a certain Thierry Henry – going on to net three times in the 1998 World Cup on home soil. Henry’s revered as one of the greatest forwards of his generation, and Houllier played an important part in his development.

Gerard Houllier's all-time XI
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