Claude Puel’s playing career was a distinguished one. A tough-tackling defensive midfielder, he spent a total of 17 years at AS Monaco, winning two Ligue 1 titles (81/82, 87/88), the Coupe de France on three occasions (80, 85, 91) and the Trophée des Champions (85).
Puel amassed over 450 league appearances in the principality, including a seven-year spell playing under current Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger. He also lined-up alongside the likes of Jürgen Klinsmann and Youri Djorkaeff during a fabled time at the club.
Puel was promoted from reserve coach to manager at Stade Louis II in 1999. The Castres-born boss lifted the Ligue 1 title above Paris Saint-Germain and the Trophée des Champions in 2000. After reaching the final of the Coupe de la Ligue in 2001, Puel departed Monaco.
Six seasons at Lille
In July 2002, a year after ending his 24-year association with Monaco, he moved to Lille, a club where he would go on to serve for six seasons, finishing second in 2005 and earning a reputation as a coach who developed young talent and allowed them to express themselves.
Puel’s Lille also competed in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League, where they would face Benfica and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, who they defeated 1-0 in the group stage. The following season, they faced United again, losing 2-0 over two legs.
Final four of the Champions League
Puel left Stadium Lille Métropole for Lyon in the summer of 2008. He led the Les Gones to the semi-final stage of the Champions League in 2010, having defeated Real Madrid and Bordeaux in the knockout stages before eventually losing out to Bayern Munich in the final four.
Four years on the French Riviera
Puel’s next career move took him to the French Riviera to manage four-time champions OGC Nice in the summer of 2012. During his four-year tenure with Les Aiglons, Puel led them to two fourth-place finishes before leaving at the end of the 2015/16 campaign.
Moving to England
Following Ronald Koeman’s departure to join Everton, Southampton turned to Puel in June 2016. The Saints enjoyed a successful season under the Frenchman’s guidance, reaching the EFL Cup final, a clash they ultimately lost 3-2 due to Zlatan Ibrahimović’s late goal.
Despite the disappointment of that Wembley defeat, the Saints marched on to secure an eighth-place finish in the Premier League – as well as having earlier booked a memorable 2-1 victory over Italian giants Internazionale in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.
Puel left the South Coast club with a record of 20 wins and 13 draws from his 53 matches in charge at St Mary’s Stadium.