Marco Reus, Barca's number 1 and more: the players who thrived under Celtic candidate Lucien Favre

By Euan Davidson

March 30, 2021

Lucien Favre threw his name into consideration for the Celtic job this week.

At the moment, we don’t know much. What’s clear is that Stephen McGowan [Daily Mail] has reported Favre’s interest in replacing Neil Lennon. The former Borussia Dortmund managed a better win ratio than Jürgen Klopp. Perhaps just as impressively, he was acclaimed at Nice and Borussia Mönchengladbach for returning both teams to relevance in this century.

A winner of two Swiss league titles with FC Zurich, the Swiss 63-year-old is a more than interesting candidate. Ensuring European football for Nice and Gladbach was no small feat. He also brought some incredible players to Dortmund, not least Erling Haaland from RB Salzburg.

His eye for a player is well-known. What gets brought up much less often, though, is his ability to bring young players from the academy to stardom. Here are 4 examples of Favre working his magic; something Celtic need going forward.

Germany superstar Marco Reus: a big Favre fan / (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Marco Reus: “Lucien Favre was probably the best coach I’ve ever had”

He may be getting older, and is severely injury-prone, but for quite a while Marco Reus was one of the most exciting attackers in Europe.

Reus was a Borussia Dortmund youngster who was let go by the German giants. Instead of giving up, Reus tried his luck at storied club Borussia Mönchengladbach, and his breakthrough season came under Lucien Favre. Favre had taken the job in 2011, and subsequently made it his mission to make the team competitive after flirting with relegation.

What a job he did, and what a time Reus had. Between 09-10 and his return to BVB in 12-13, Reus managed a staggering 41 goals and 28 assists in 109 outings for Gladbach. He went from obscurity to being a Germany regular, a wildly versatile attacking threat with a venomous shot and fantastic vision.

Favre would manage Reus again in 18-19, another fantastically prolific season for Reus. The winger – in the Bundesliga alone, played 27, scored 17 and assisted 11. He contributed directly to more than a goal a game, if you’re a fan of arithmetic.

Ridiculous. And Favre was central to that.

“I’ve had quite a few club coaches”, said Reus to Bundesliga’s website. “And among them [Lucien Favre] is probably the best I’ve ever had.”

Combative midfielder Granit Xhaka had to be managed carefully / (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Granit Xhaka

Granit Xhaka was a star for FC Basel, but he turned things up a notch at Borussia Mönchengladbach. Not that it got off to an easy start for the Swiss midfielder.

The 6’3″ midfield battler nearly dug his heels and found his way out of the club after a difficult spell under Favre. He was considering an approach from Lazio, but a change of attitude, largely attributed to Favre, helped him become a much better player.

Starting as a winger, he was a back-up in the squad who caused problems in the dressing room. The Bleacher Report quotes Xhaka battling with his team-mates. He cut a frustrated figure, who didn’t justify Gladbach’s outlay.

A change in attitude came under Favre. In 2013, Xhaka said [Bleach Report]:

“I have to face this situation and assert myself.

“I have to be hard on myself and show [Favre] that I belong on the pitch and not in the background.”

And what a turnaround Xhaka had. He soon became undroppable for Lucien Favre, making the Bundesliga’s Team of the Year. The coach of that year? Favre [Bundesliga]. After captaining the side, featuring in the Champions League and exhibiting his midfield dominance, passing and leadership, bigger clubs came calling. When he signed for Arsenal in 2016, it was little surprise.

Marc-André Ter Stegen: dislodged a future Celtic ‘keeper / (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Marc-André Ter Stegen

Quite funny, Ter Stegen’s emergence, because it coincides with the story of a Celtic flop. If you remember Logan Bailly’s time with the Bhoys, then you win 10 points. Nobody else can.

There was a time, though, that Logan Bailly was Borussia Mönchengladbach’s undisputed number 1. In Favre’s first first season with the club, the team were improving their results, but their goalkeeper was proving a liability. Nestled away in the reserves was gigantic shot-stopper Marc-André Ter Stegen. The rest, they say, is history.

In 127 games for the German side, Ter Stegen kept 45 clean sheets in 127 matches [Transfermarkt]. Given the team’s stature at the time as a rapidly ascending club, and Ter Stegen’s age (he’s still only 28). The German goalie has 24 caps, his first coming in 2012 while being managed by the potential Celtic candidate.

Ter Stegen went on to join Barcelona, where he’s still the number 1. He said of Favre [Tribuna]:

“I know Favre quite well, he gave me my first chance and is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had!”

Still only 22, Sarr played over 100 games for Nice / (Photo by YANN COATSALIOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Malang Sarr, a Favre discovery

He may be loaned out from Chelsea now, but Malang Sarr is still one the better central defenders in Europe. Currently at Porto, it was Sarr’s emergence at Nice under Favre that caught glances across the continent. And it was an early emergence, too; he’s only 22 now, but he made over 100 appearances for the French side.

16-17 was the warning shot to forwards across Ligue 1. Sarr played 27 times in Ligue 1, racking up over 2000 minutes for the Riviera side [Transfermarkt]. In 2018, the defender was named above Kylian Mbappé in a list of promising French talents [Huffington Post], and Nice are still counting the cost of letting him go on a free.

Chelsea, of course, were happy to oblige. A defender who can play centrally or on the right, Sarr isn’t the tallest or most physical player necessarily. However, he’s able to use his body well, has great anticipation beyond his years, and could still be a Premier League talent in time.

He was just one of the many wonderkids Favre brought to the fore. It’s the sheer speed of his ascent, and the sheer faith Favre showed in the young defender that gives most hope here.

Favre isn’t scared of throwing young players into sink-or-swim situations. More often than not, they don’t just tread water. Responsible for so many fantastic careers, Favre is an outstanding candidate when it comes to youth development.

READ MORE: A playing legend, no doubt. The next Celtic manager? Less certain.