Following his appointment as First Team Manager at Southampton, we provide an in-depth profile of Claude Puel.
Born on 2nd September 1961 in Castres, France, Claude Puel heads to Southampton ready to embark on his first spell in football away from his homeland.
At the age of nine, Puel made his first significant steps in football, joining local side FC Castres, where he spent seven years progressing through their youth system.
Just shy of his 16th birthday, Puel was scouted by AS Monaco, and following a further two years in their academy, he made his senior debut for the French outfit during the 1979/80 season, in which they lifted the Coupe de France.
Puel quickly began to show his qualities as a defensive midfielder, and in just his third season as a senior member of the squad, he helped AS Monaco to their fourth Ligue 1 title.
During his 17-year playing career with AS Monaco, Puel would win a second Ligue 1 title in 1988, as well as winning the Coupe de France in both 1985 and 1991.
After 486 games in Ligue 1 – making him the 24th most capped player in the history of the championship – Puel announced the end of his playing career following the conclusion of the 1995/96 season.
Puel would continue his association with Monaco, spending time as a fitness coach and as manager of the club’s reserve team. It was here he worked with Thierry Henry, helping the striker hone his famous finishing technique. Puel would later earn the recognition of the former Arsenal man when he scored in a 1-0 win for France against Ireland ahead of the 2006 World Cup.
In January 1999, Puel made the step up to the manager of the first team. Working with players such as David Trezeguet, Ludovic Giuly and Marco Simone, Puel guided Monaco to the Ligue 1 title in his first full season in charge, and was subsequently named Manager of the Year.
A 24-year association with Monaco came to an end in June 2001.
Following a year out of the game, Puel was named as head coach at Lille. During his six-year stay, Puel guided Lille to their highest Ligue 1 finish in over 50 years, as they finished the campaign as runners-up.
The 2005/06 season saw more success for Lille, as they finished third in the championship, with Puel named Manager of the Year for a second time in his career.
By 2008, Lyon were calling on the services of Puel, with the Frenchman appointed manager on a four-year contract. Despite being unable to continue Lyon’s impressive Ligue 1 title success, Puel guided them to three top-three finishes during his time with the club.
It was in Europe where Puel delivered his best results with Lyon, guiding them to their first ever Champions League semi-final in 2010 – beating the likes of Real Madrid on their way to the last four.
After departing at the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Puel arrived at OGC Nice a year later. In his first season in charge, Nice finished fourth – their best Ligue 1 finish since 1976.
Puel would oversee a 17th-placed finish in 2013/14 and an 11th-placed finish in 2014/15, before ending his final season with the club in fourth, thus seeing them qualify for the group stages of the 2016/17 Europa League.
But it will not be with Nice that Puel is competing in Europe next season, as he switches from one south coast to another to take charge of Saints ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.