Balmont urges Lille to stop selling

Veteran midfielder Florent Balmont has urged Lille not to sell any more of their leading names after seeing several influential players leave northern France during the close season.

Lille's failure to qualify for Europe at the end of last season left the club staring at potentially huge financial losses, and they have since been forced to sell the likes of Dimitri Payet to Marseille, Aurélien Chedjou to Galatasaray and Lucas Digne to Paris Saint-Germain.

Those sales have been worth over €30 million to the 2011 champions, while only a fraction of that amount has been reinvested in new signings, with Danish defender Simon Kjaer, a €2 million recruit from Wolfsburg, the biggest arrival at the Grand Stade this summer.

And more players could yet depart before the transfer window closes, with winger Florian Thauvin known to be a target for Marseille and West Ham United having offered a reported €3.5 million for Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou. Meanwhile, midfielder Benoit Pedretti has signed for Ajaccio after the final year of his contract was rescinded.

"We know that the club has needed to reduce its wage bill," Balmont told sports daily L'Equipe on Friday. "They have sold well so far but if they sell another one or two players, things could become difficult. Lille are a big club and we don't want to only be playing for mid-table. With the squad we have today we can achieve something."

Former Lyon midfielder Balmont, now 33, is beginning his sixth season with the club. He arrived at the same time as former coach Rudi Garcia, in the summer of 2008, and was part of the team that won a historic league and cup double in 2011.

However, Lille's sixth-place finish last season was their worst performance in Balmont's time at the club and he admits that the close-season managerial change, with Garcia leaving for Roma and former Montpellier boss René Girard taking his place, has been a good thing.

"I always got on well with Garcia, even if I didn't really understand his decisions last season," he said. "(If he had stayed) I would have considered my future. The change has done the players and the club a lot of good because we had become a little bit stuck in our ways."

Lille are due to begin their campaign with a home fixture against Lorient on Saturday, August 10.