Gerard Houllier, the French coach who set Liverpool back on the path to Premier League and European glory, has died aged 73.
Houllier, who managed the Anfield giants from 1998 to 2004, died overnight Sunday to Monday after undergoing heart surgery.
His career was blighted by health problems and he had to take a break during his time at Liverpool to recover from heart issues.
The Frenchman, who also managed Aston Villa later in his career, guided the Reds to an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001, the highlight of his six-year spell in charge.
He won Ligue 1 titles in France with Paris-Saint Germain and Lyon and also had a spell in charge of the French national team from 1992 to 1993, when they failed to qualify for the 1994 finals in the United States.
The cerebral Houllier played an important role in shaping Liverpool after the club that had dominated English football in the 1970s and 1980s lost their way.
His affiliation with Liverpool began decades before he took charge at Anfield. He worked as a teacher in the city during the 1960s, first taking in a Reds match on the Kop in 1969.
Although he was unable to lead them to the Premier League title — that had to wait until this year under German coach Jurgen Klopp — Houllier was loved by the Anfield club’s supporters.
“We are mourning the passing of our treble-winning manager, Gerard Houllier,” Liverpool tweeted.
“The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool Football Club are with Gerard’s family and many friends. Rest in peace, Gerard Houllier 1947-2020.”
– Heart problems –
Houllier became joint team manager with Roy Evans at Anfield in 1998 but their relationship soon became strained and long-term club servant Evans resigned later that year to leave the Frenchman in sole charge.
He masterminded one of the greatest single seasons in the club’s illustrious history in 2000/01, winning three cups.
In October 2001, Houllier fell ill at half-time during Liverpool’s match against Leeds and required life-saving heart surgery.
He returned after five months as Liverpool finished second in the league to Arsenal.
Houllier guided Liverpool to a second League Cup triumph of his tenure in 2003 but left the following year after overseeing 307 matches and successfully re-establishing the club as a modern force.
In 2005 Liverpool, now with Rafael Benitez as manager, became champions of Europe for the fifth time in their history, inspired by Steven Gerrard, whose career was launched by Houllier.
Many of Liverpool’s treble-winning squad paid tribute to their former boss.
Gerrard, now manager of Rangers, wrote on Instagram: “Devastated to hear the news my former manager Gerard Houllier has passed away. I will never forget what this man did for me and my career. Rest in peace Boss.”
Former Liverpool and England forward Michael Owen tweeted that he was heartbroken, describing Houllier as a “great manager and a genuinely caring man”.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher tweeted: “Loved that man to bits, he changed me as a person & as a player & got @LFC back winning trophies. RIP Boss. ”
Houllier made his name with Lens and Paris Saint-Germain, winning Ligue 1 with PSG in 1986 and later winning the title twice more with Lyon, in 2006 and 2007.
He became Villa manager in 2010 but suffered further health problems during his spell in Birmingham. He was admitted to hospital in April 2011 after falling ill and did not return to work before stepping down by mutual consent in June that year.
The Villa job proved to be his final role in day-to-day management.
More recently, he worked as the 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.