Where Are They Now? Montpellier's Surprise Ligue 1 Title Winners From 2011/12by Ewan Murray
For the last decade, the vast fortunes of Paris Saint-Germain have dominated Ligue 1 in France. Before the arrival of the Qatar money, it was Lyon who had a stranglehold on the top flight.
Marseille, Monaco and Nantes have also enjoyed infrequent success in recent times, but, realistically, Ligue 1 has not been competitive for a long time.
When Montpellier shocked the world by winning the French first division in 2011/12, almost every football fan across Europe celebrated in the underdog story of the 21st century in France.
It's the one and only Ligue 1 title Montpellier have ever won and it's fair to say that the club have struggled to build on their success.
So, where are they now? Well, what a great question. Let's take a trip back in time and look at what happened to Montpellier's surprise superstars.
GK - Geoffrey Jourdren
Recent Montpellier legends don't come much bigger than Jourdren.
Having helped La Paillade boast the best defensive record in the division during their title win, the shot-stopper continued his journey with the club until 2017 when he joined Nancy in Ligue 2.
The 34-year-old Frenchman spent 11 years at the Stade de la Mosson making 286 appearances for Montpellier, but has now hung up his gloves after being released by Nancy, bringing a great career to a timely end.
RB - Garry Bocaly
Having spent two successful loan spells with Montpellier, the right-back joined La Paillade in 2010 from Marseille. Going on to make 130 appearances in all competitions for the Ligue 1 outfit, Bocaly eventually left the club in 2014 following a disagreement over injuries he had suffered, resulting in him dropping into Ligue 2.
Eventually, following a near-death experience as a result of appendicitis, Bocaly returned to his place of birth and is now coaching youngsters in Martinique.
CB - Hilton
Having only arrived at Montpellier in 2011, the Brazilian centre-back was crucial in the club's rise to the top, with his experience and commitment proving pivotal. Hilton's hard work was rewarded with a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year - the fourth and final time he would appear in the team.
As a result of his terrific relationship with La Paillade, the 42-year-old club captain is still somehow a Montpellier player and consistent starter - even signing a recent contract extension keeping him at the club until 2021.
CB - Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
If the name Yanga-Mbiwa sounds familiar, then it may be because the four-cap French international briefly played for Newcastle after leaving Montpellier in 2013. After a difficult period at St. James' Park, the centre-back joined Roma, spending just one season there before returning to France with Lyon.
The 31-year-old has made just 72 appearances for Lyon in just under five years, with the 2011/12 Ligue 1 title the only trophy he has ever won in his senior career.
LB - Henri Bedimo
Similarly to Hilton, Bedimo also arrived at Montpellier at the beginning of the 2011/12 season, quickly establishing himself as the starting left-back at the Stade de la Mosson. The Cameroon international earned a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year following his impressive displays on the way to the title, before eventually leaving the club in 2013.
Several years at Lyon and then Marseille eventually saw his career come to a natural end in 2018, with the left-back having only ever played club football in France.
CM - Benjamin Stambouli
Stambouli was a coveted young midfielder at the time of Montpellier's title win, eventually securing a big move to Tottenham in 2014. Despite enduring a tough year in north London, the Frenchman managed to swap Spurs for Paris Saint-Germain just one season after having joined the Lilywhites.
After one trophy-laden campaign in Paris, Schalke came calling for the midfielder, and he's still going strong for the Royal Blues today. Well, 'strong'. He hasn't played 30 league games in a season since before he joined Spurs.
CM - Jamel Saihi
Including his time in the youth setup, Saihi enjoyed a 16-year stint with La Paillade. The 19-cap Tunisian international eventually left Montpellier in 2016, spending one season with Angers before retiring.
RW - John Utaka
Having spent four years at Portsmouth, Utaka eventually left for Montpellier when the south coast side fell on hard times financially. The Nigerian winger left La Paillade a year after their famous title victory, joining Sivasspor in Turkey.
After leaving the Turkish outfit in 2015, Utaka bounced around Egyptian football before returning to France with Sedan prior to hanging up his boots.
AM - Younes Belhanda
A highly-rated youngster at the time, Belhanda actually earned a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year following Montpellier's success in 2011/12. Not only this but the Moroccan won Goal of the Year and Young Player of the Year that same season.
Belhanda's career has failed to live up to that early promise though, with the attacking midfielder having spent time at Dynamo Kyiv, Schalke, Nice and Galatasaray since leaving La Paillade in 2013. Having been tipped for the top, the 30-year-old perhaps peaked too early at Montpellier.
LW - Remy Cabella
Another young starlet within Montpellier's ranks in 2011/12, Cabella secured his big move to the Premier League in 2014 - becoming yet another failed French signing for Newcastle. Returning to his homeland shortly afterwards, the four-cap France international joined Marseille before moving to Saint-Etienne.
After joining Russian outfit Krasnodar in 2019, the winger has made just five appearances for the club. Some fall from grace for a man who went to the 2014 World Cup.
ST - Olivier Giroud
Just missing out on Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 2011/12 to future teammate Eden Hazard, Giroud did at least finish the season as the joint top scorer in the league. Providing a combined 30 goals and assists over the course of the campaign, the French forward joined Arsenal immediately after Montpellier's title win, going on to play for six years at the Emirates.
Joining London rivals Chelsea in 2018, Giroud remains one of the most underappreciated strikers in recent Premier League history, and has even become a World Cup winner with France. Among other things, Giroud has won the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and the FIFA Puskas Award.