Former Liverpool coach Gerard Houllier dies aged 73

Former Liverpool  and Aston Villa  Coach Gerard Houllier has died at the age of 73.His death has come three weeks after having aortic aneurysm surgery in Paris.

The Frenchman, who also managed Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, had a long history of medical issues, most notably a heart problem for many years and high blood pressure,but the cause of his death remains unknown

Gerrard Houllier with the FA Cup Trophy in 2001
Gerrard Houllier with the FA Cup Trophy in 2001

Gerard Houllier led Liverpool to an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001; He spent six years at Anfield between 1998 and 2004 and also managed France, Lyon and Aston Villa.

Houllier spent six years at Anfield between 1998-2004, winning four major trophies including the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup in 2001.

After two years with Lyon, Houllier returned to the Premier League in 2010, replacing Martin O’Neill as manager of Aston Villa. He stepped down from his role at Villa Park in June the following year, shortly after falling ill with heart problems.

The Frenchman spent 38 years as a manager, also taking charge of the France national team, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, where he won Ligue 1 in 1986 – the first of PSG’s nine titles.

In a statement on Monday, Liverpool said: “Liverpool FC is mourning the passing of former manager Gerard Houllier, aged 73.

Gerard Houllier with Steven Gerard at Liverpool
Gerard Houllier with Steven Gerard at Liverpool

“Houllier – who recovered from life-saving heart surgery during the 2001-02 campaign to return to the dugout – later guided Liverpool to a second League Cup triumph of his tenure in 2003 and departed the following year having overseen 307 matches and successfully re-established the club as a modern force.

A fan favourite at Anfield, Houllier suffered a life-threatening vascular problem during a Premier League match against Leeds in 2001. Later, his spell at Villa was interrupted by health problems and he never returned to day-to-day coaching.

Liverpool fans favourite Gerard Houllier
Liverpool fans favourite Gerard Houllier

French radio station RMC and sports newspaper L’Equipe reported that Houllier died after having a heart operation in Paris. According to L’Equipe journalist Vincent Duluc, Houllier underwent aortic aneurysm surgery three weeks ago and was discharged from a Paris hospital and returned home on Sunday.

He reportedly sent a text message at the weekend saying: ‘I am struggling, but I am going to come out of this.’

Liverpool paid tribute to their former manager today, saying: ‘We are mourning the passing of our treble-winning manager, Gerard Houllier.

‘The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool Football Club are with Gerard’s family and many friends.’

A post from Villa read: ‘All at Aston Villa are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gerard Houllier, our manager during the 2010/11 season.

‘Our thoughts are with Gerard’s loved ones at this incredibly difficult time.’

Liverpool legend and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher, who played under Houllier at Anfield, tweeted: ‘Absolutely devastated by the news about Gerard Houllier, I was in touch with him only last month to arrange him coming to Liverpool.

‘Loved that man to bits, he changed me as a person & as a player & got @LFC back winning trophies. RIP Boss.’

Houllier’s assistant manager at Liverpool, Phil Thompson, posted: ‘Absolutely devastated and heartbroken at the sad news of the passing of Gerard. My mate, my colleague, my boss.

‘One of the greatest moments of my life was when we come together in 1998. Just to be in his company was an absolute treat. So loyal, so passionate and extremely fierce.’

Gary Lineker posted: ‘Oh no! Gerard Houllier has passed away. One of football’s smartest, warmest and loveliest people. #RIPGerard’.

Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen tweeted: ‘Absolutely heartbroken to hear that my old boss, Gerard Houllier, has sadly passed away. A great manager and a genuinely caring man. #RIPBoss’.

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Houllier arrived at Liverpool in the summer of 1998, initially as joint-manager with Roy Evans before taking sole charge just four months later.

He oversaw a major rebuilding of the first-team squad, signing the likes of Sami Hyypia, Dietmar Hamann and Vladimir Spicer, and changed the tactical philosophy to make them a force once again.

Houllier’s methods quickly brought rewards as the Reds won a unique treble in 2000-01 of the FA Cup, UEFA Cup and League Cup, as well as a third-place finish in the Premier League.

But in October 2001, fell ill at half-time during Liverpool’s match against Leeds and was diagnosed with an aortic dissection which required 11 hours of emergency surgery and led to a five-month spell out of the dugout.

Houllier, who had suffered a heart condition known as ‘dissection of the aorta’, eventually left Liverpool in 2004.

Gerard Houllier with Micheal Owen
Gerard Houllier with Micheal Owen

After an insignificant playing career in France’s lower leagues, Houllier began coaching in 1973, earning his first big job with Lens before taking over at Paris Saint-Germain.

He became France’s assistant coach in 1988 and then manager in 1992 but had a short, unsuccessful spell in charge and resigned after failing to take the team to the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Houllier, a former English teacher, was seconds from taking France to the USA before Bulgaria grabbed a last-gasp winner at the Parc des Princes.

He described the defeat by Bulgaria as ‘the most catastrophic scenario imaginable’ and focused on youth coaching immediately after the debacle.

Houllier was largely credited with laying the foundations for the national team’s dominance of world football following the establishment of the French academy system.

Gerard Houllier quotes
Gerard Houllier quotes

Players that came through the system helped France win the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000. France won the World Cup again in 2018.

In 2002 Houllier was awarded the Legion d’Honneur – one of France’s top civil awards.

He also had success back in France with Lyon, leading them to back-to-back Ligue 1 titles.

He returned to management after taking a break in 2010 with Aston Villa but left the role the following year following further heart troubles.

More recently, he worked as head of global football for the Red Bull group which owns RB Leipzig, RB Salzburg and the New York Red Bulls, as well as advising Lyon.

Houllier’s wife, Isabelle, was instrumental in him quitting football – with her concerns about returning to the rigours of Premier League management leading to him stepping away from coaching in 2001. The couple had two sons.

Houllier added that he was extremely vulnerable to high blood pressure, admitting: ‘It seems my vessels, my arteries, are probably weaker than the ordinary man.

‘The heart is fine, strong, but the arteries are my weak point and stress can expose that weakness.’

Gérard Houllier’s Honours as a manager:


Division 1 – 1985-86


FA Cup – 2000-01

League Cup – 2000-01, 2002-03

UEFA Cup – 2000-01

FA Charity Shield – 2001

UEFA Super Cup – 2001


Ligue 1 – 2005-06, 2006-07

Trophee des Champions –  2005, 2006


Under-18 European Championships, 1996


Frank Fremer is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda

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