Montpellier president Louis Nicollin has died aged 74

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 their president since 1974, died on Thursday, 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, and 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 their own youth academy. Striker Olivier Giroud, who scored 21 league goals, left for Arsenal.

Former UEFA president, ex-France coach and three-time Ballon d'Or winner Michel Platini was a close friend of Nicollin, and had contributed a number of items to the private football museum the multi-millionaire had built at his home.

"Louis was my closest friend in football over 30 years," Platini said in a statement. "We shared everything, our joy, our pain, our happy family occasions and our professional paths. Louis' simplicity was what made him noble. I loved everything about this exceptional man.

"I loved him quite simply as one loves a brother. Part of me has just died. Life is so unfair when it takes someone from you, like Louis, who makes living all the better. I would like to send all my strength and support to Colette, his wife, and his sons, Olivier and Laurent."

Giroud also paid tribute to Nicollin on Twitter, saying: "Loulou, my path as a player and a man would never have been the same without your call..."

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 apologised to Pedretti, who did not pursue the matter.

ESPN FC's France correspondent Ian Holyman contributed to this report