Located deep in the south of France, the town of Castres is known for a variety of things. Twinned with the English city of Wakefield, Castres is home to the Goya Museum of Spanish Painting.
In 2007, Castres marked the end of stage 12 of the Tour de France, whilst every year it plays host to a small film festival. The people of Castres love their sport but the locals prefer it to be played with an oval ball.
Rugby Union is the game of choice in Castres, and the town’s team – Castres Olympique – are four-time French top division champions.
The Foxes manager is the featured star of Issue 4 of LCFC Magazine.
Castres is the town that Foxes manager Puel calls home, having been born there and commencing his football career with the town’s lower-league side before joining AS Monaco; a club that he would enjoy a 24-year spell with as player, coach and manager.
Had it not been for a rebellious brother, he may have been more interested in Leicester Tigers than City.
“In the beginning, my parents played rugby, so I played a little with Castres, a club that was actually here in Leicester in October (for a European Champions Cup pool game at Welford Road),” smiles Puel as he reflects on his journey into the beautiful game.
“My brother played football and I decided to follow him, but Castres is very much a rugby town.
I was able to play with fantastic players such as George Weah, Jürgen Klinsmann, Youri Djorkaeff – a lot of players. It was amazing.Claude Puel
“By the age of 16, I was selected to play for the national team. I was recruited by Monaco a year earlier; when I was 15, and joined the academy there before going on to sign my first professional contract.
“When I was a child though, I never thought it would ever be a possibility to become a professional. I just enjoyed the game. I didn’t know it was possible to win this life in football.”
Puel’s journey, from humble beginnings in rugby-mad surroundings to the dugout at King Power Stadium, is nothing short of inspiring.
Puel has lost just once - to leaders Manchester City - since joining as manager.
Having joined Monaco as a boy, little would he have known that Stade Louis-II would become his home for an incredible number of seasons as a player, coach and manager.
During his playing days, where he established himself as a tenacious defensive midfielder, Puel lined up alongside some of the game’s greats.
“I spent my entire professional playing career with the club (Monaco) and that was where I also started coaching, becoming the first assistant before being named manager, where we went on to win the Ligue 1 title in 2000 with a young, but fantastic, team,” recalls the Foxes manager.
“It became my team and it was fantastic. I was able to play with fantastic players such as George Weah, Jürgen Klinsmann, Youri Djorkaeff – a lot of players. It was amazing.”
To read the nine-page interview in full, head down to the City Fanstore at King Power Stadium to buy your copy of LCFC Magazine for just £4.
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