The Frenchman underwent an 11-hour open-heart surgery after suffering from a condition known as dissection of the aorta at half time during his side's 1-1 draw with Leeds in 2001, but he insists that he is now completely fit and healthy.
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'But I would say I'm even fitter than when I was at Lyon.' Houllier was referring to his two years, from 2005-07, at Olympique Lyonnais, who hired him to turn domestic dominance into European success after winning their fourth successive championship.
'I would say that this was very demanding,' he says, with the unuttered coda that if he had dealt with that well enough, Villa will be a walk in the park.
Houllier, who was last given a check-up in early August — he likes to meet with his specialist in Liverpool 'on a friendly basis' regularly — is understood to have hesitated from accepting the role because his wife Isabelle was worried about what a return might mean to his health.
Asked whether his family were happy, Houllier made a noise like a kettle coming to the boil. 'Good question,' he joked. 'They are happy because I'm doing what I want to do.'