Michel Le Milinaire, the emblematic coach of the Stade Lavallois football team, which he led to the European Cup in the 1980s, died on Friday evening at the age of 92, AFP learned on Saturday from a source close to his entourage.
Born in the Côtes-d'Armor region of France on February 7, 1931, "Mimi" had a modest amateur career alongside his job as a teacher, before successfully becoming coach of the Laval Tangos, who named him "Coach of the Century".
Initially in charge of youth management (1965-1968), he then spent nearly a quarter of a century at the helm of the team (1968-1992), combining technical qualities, humanism, pedagogy and psychology to enable the club, despite its own attachment to amateur football, to reach the first division and the professional world in 1976.
The club then experienced its finest hours, finishing 5th in the 1982/1983 season and reaching the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup the following year, defeating in the first round the formidable Dynamo Kiev (0-0, 1-0), led by centre-forward Oleg Blokhine, Ballon d'Or in 1975, before falling in style against Austria Vienna (0-2, 3-3).
'Magician' and 'sorcerer'
The know-how of the one who is alternately described as a "magician" by his supporters and a "sorcerer" by his opponents is recognized by all, France Football designating him as the best coach of the first division in 1980 and 1984.
The magic eventually evaporated at Laval, which went back down to the second division in 1989 and in the fall of 1992, "Mimi" was pushed towards the exit.
He bounced back the following season at Stade Rennais, where with a new generation of players, coming from the academy and led by Sylvain Wiltord, obtained promotion to Ligue 1 in his first season.
Reaching the age limit at the time, he left his post in 1996, but his figure and cap screwed on his bald head remained a familiar sight on the edge of western football fields.
He still occasionally advised Laval on recruitment, despite his declining health, and he succumbed to pneumonia on Friday night.
The president of Stade Lavallois, Laurent Lairy, indicated that a minute of applause will be held before the match against Grenoble, for the 16th day of Ligue 2, on Saturday, and that other tributes will be organized afterwards.