Le Mans sent down to sixth tier
Le Mans - for whom Didier Drogba, Stephane Sessegnon and Gervinho all played - have been relegated to French football's sixth tier because of their dire financial situation and could now file for bankruptcy.
The club, in Ligue 1 as recently as 2009-10, were relegated to the CFA division - France's fourth tier - by the DNCG, the body that oversees the game's finances, in February because of a €14.4 million hole in the books.
The body confirmed that decision on June 28 and, after taking their case to the DNCG Appeals Commission, Le Mans have now been excluded from all national championships and sent down to the Division Honneur - a competition in which their amateur C team featured last season.
It also means the club, who sold Gervinho to Lille for an estimated € 6.5 million in 2009 and reached the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals in three successive seasons between 2006 and 2008, lose their professional status.
Their youth academy will be closed, while the majority of the squad will be free to join another club.
Le Mans could now opt to appeal to the French Olympic Committee, accept the decision or declare themselves insolvent.
"I'm devastated," technical director Alain Pascalou told Ouest France. "We've fought right to the last. We still believed - but there you go, it's happened. It's hard."
Laurent Peyrelade, who spent three seasons as a player at Le Mans before taking a post working with the club's promising youngsters, was more forthright.
"I think it's very harsh," he said. "There were mistakes made, and we're paying dearly for them. You can't get away with things forever.
"It's a huge waste. Those who are still here must be very disappointed. Those who have left must be saying they're disappointed, but they left. Some have really taken advantage of the club's golden age."