Gérard Houllier, former Liverpool and France manager, dies aged 73

Houllier had undergone heart surgery in Paris before his death

Liverpool have paid tribute to their former manager Gérard Houllier after his death was confirmed at the age of 73.

RMC sport and the sports daily L'Equipe confirmed that he had died after having a heart operation in Paris, with Liverpool issuing a statement in recognition of the manager who led them to the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup treble in 2000-01.

“We are mourning the passing of our treble-winning manager, Gérard Houllier,” Liverpool said on Twitter. “The thoughts of everyone at Liverpool Football Club are with Gerard’s family and many friends. Rest in peace, Gérard Houllier 1947-2020.”

Jamie Carragher tweeted: "Absolutely devastated by the news about Gérard 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 had had a long history of medical problems and had heart surgery in 2001 after falling ill while managing Liverpool against Leeds United. After a spell back in his homeland with Lyon, Houllier went on to manage Aston Villa for one season before working as a consultant for Red Bull's football network.

The former Liverpool striker and record goal scorer Ian Rush was among the first to pay tribute.

“Devastated at the passing of Gérard Houllier,” he wrote on Twitter. “A true gentleman of the game, always put others first @LFC #RIP.”

Michael Owen, who was part of the Liverpool side that won the treble in 2001, added: "Absolutely heartbroken to hear that my old boss, Gérard Houllier, has sadly passed away. A great manager and a genuinely caring man."

Appointed by Liverpool in 1998 initially as joint-manager with Roy Evans, Houllier had spent a year working as an assistant at Alsop Comprehensive School while studying for an English degree and attended his first match at Anfield in September 1969. He later became a teacher in France before moving into management at the age of 26, making his name first with Lens and then at Paris Saint-Germain, the club he led to the Ligue 1 title in 1986.

Houllier was named France manager in 1992 having been an assistant to Michel Platini but left his post after Les Bleus failed to reach the 1994 World Cup finals after a shock home defeat against the eventual semi-finalists Bulgaria. He returned to coaching France's youth teams and also worked as technical director when Liverpool came calling.

Sad news

His partnership with Evans at Anfield lasted just a few months before Houllier was named sole manager. Phil Thompson served as his assistant and described his appointment as "one of the greatest moments of my life". Having finished seventh in his first season, Houllier set about rebuilding Liverpool and a steady improvement led to them coming fourth in 2000 and then third the following year, also winning the famous treble thanks to a golden goal in the thrilling 5-4 victory against the Spanish side Alavés in the Uefa Cup final.

“Absolutely devastated and heartbroken at the sad news of the passing of Gérard,” Thompson wrote on Twitter. “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.

“So many wonderful times, bringing smiles back to people’s faces. 2001 should never be forgotten. Since we finished, at the end of every conversation we had, I told him I loved him and would always be grateful for him giving a wonderful partnership. RIP Boss.”

In a club statement, Aston Villa said: “All at Aston Villa are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gérard Houllier, our manager during the 2010/11 season. Our thoughts are with Gérard’s loved ones at this incredibly difficult time.”

Alex Ferguson, who managed Manchester United while Houllier was Anfield, said he would "miss him dearly".

“The news has come as a total shock this morning,” he said. “Gérard Houllier was still a young man at the age of 73. Gérard became a really good friend during his time at Liverpool. We remained great friends after he left and he was always a great ally to have.

“He had fantastic football knowledge which he gained during his extensive and varied career. When we saw each other at Uefa meetings or other events, we would often enjoy a chat, he was always great company and I will miss him dearly. He was a true gentleman.”

– Guardian