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Louis Nicollin dies; was Montpellier football club president

Montpellier's football club president Louis Nicollin, who painted

Montpellier's football club president Louis Nicollin, who painted his hair in the colors of the club after a bet and the clubs' victory, celebrates with his players in Montpellier, southern France, in 2012. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / PASCAL GUYOT

PARIS - Montpellier president Louis Nicollin, who helped to produce one of the biggest upsets in French football when his unfashionable club won the league in 2012, has died. He was 74.

Montpellier said in a statement that Nicollin, who had been its president since 1974, died on June 29, his birthday.

Never shy of controversy, Nicollin made his fortune in waste collection and began funding the southern club after taking control. His reward after 38 years was for Montpellier to become French champions for the first time at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain.

Montpellier’s title-winning squad featured nine homegrown players, in contrast to PSG’s relentless pursuit of stars at the expense of its own youth academy. Striker Olivier Giroud, who scored 21 league goals, left for Arsenal.

A close friend of Nicollin, former France great Michel Platini mourned the death of someone “exceptional.”

“To put it simply, I loved him like a brother. A part of me has just gone,” Platini said in a statement. “Louis was my closest friend in football over the past 30 years.”

Under Nicollin, Montpellier won the second division title in 1987 and the French Cup in 1990 with a team featuring the likes of Eric Cantona, Laurent Blanc and Julio Cesar.

However, Nicollin also made the headlines for the wrong reasons, with his profanity-laced tirades landing him in trouble more than once.

In 2009, he was banned for two months for using an anti-gay term to describe Auxerre midfielder Benoit Pedretti. He later apologized to Pedretti, who did not pursue the matter.

His funeral was held Tuesday at Montpellier Cathedral in Montpellier, France. Nicollin is survived by his wife, Colette, and sons Olivier and Laurent.

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