Coronavirus, psychological hole, new owner.
Lyon are in 9th place in Ligue 1, 8 points before European competition. It’s hard to even dream of a Champions League with 14 points behind.
This is not an isolated failure. Lyon are at their worst in the 21st century.
Prior to the 2019/20 season, Lyon have only finished below the top 3 three times this century, finishing 4th twice and 5th once. We can talk about stagnation, because in the 2000s, Lyon took seven French championships in a row and not a single one in the 2010s, all the small relegations from the top 3 also happened in the 2010s. But for a team that did without American and Middle Eastern investments, built a stadium with money earned after success on the field, the term “stability” is much more acceptable.
Since the 2019/2020 season, Lyon have never made it to the top 3 and are at risk of missing European competition for the third time in four years.
Obvious regression. What’s happened?
Lyon are one of the main football victims of the coronavirus. The club suffered a financial blow
From 2008 to 2016, Lyon built a new stadium. The 60,000th Groupama Stadium is another historic success for Jean-Michel Aulas.
The problem is that people suddenly disappeared from the Groupama. In March 2020, Ligue 1 stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lyon froze in 7th position after 28 rounds, the championship was recognized as completed, and the team interrupted a series of 23 European campaigns in a row. To “Nice” in 5th place (a guarantee of the group stage of the Europa League) was one point short.
Olas was furious. He pushed for the resumption of the championship in the summer, as the rest of the top leagues subsequently did. He asked me to calculate the standings, taking into account past seasons, in order to form the strongest for European competitions. Convinced that due to a mediocre TV contract, the bosses of Ligue 1 are condemning clubs to economic death.
Did not help. Lyon officially finished 7th, was left without European competitions, received less money for them, did not earn money from Groupam due to coronavirus restrictions.
Because of this, the 2020/21 season turned into a financial disaster: losses increased from 36 million euros to 109 (worse in France only PSG from 125), revenue decreased from 181 to 118 (the worst figure since the 2014/15 season). ), earnings on transfers decreased from 83 to 45 (it is much more convenient to sell by showing goods in Europe). Ticket sales apparently plummeted from 36 million to 2 million. TV revenue dropped from 98 million to 69 million.
Before the pandemic, Groupama was filled on average with 47+ thousand viewers, it was the 3rd result in France after Marseille and PSG. For 1.5 years, Lyon lost seemingly constant income.
The failure with TV broadcasts added problems: Mediapro had to pay 1.2 billion euros to League 1 instead of 760 million under the old contract, but already in the first year it did not fulfill its obligations, and the agreement was terminated. As a result, the show was picked up by Canal +, agreeing on 662 million a year. That is, League 1 began to earn less. For comparison: the Premier League for the 2019/20 season earned 3.6 billion, La Liga – 2, Bundesliga – 1.4, Serie A – 1.3.
Lyon estimated the damage from the coronavirus crisis at 150 million euros.
For a team that has watched economic health for decades, this is not a death sentence. Just a very strong blow, from which one could calmly move away on the basis of successful sports management.
But he wasn’t.
Lyon invited Juninho to the post of sports director. His work is not a disaster, but it could clearly be better.
The crisis of Lyon’s results coincided with an important personnel decision in management: in May 2019, Olas delegated the post of sports director to Juninho Pernambucano with zero work experience. Olas felt that a club legend with a desire to work was a good option. And Olas himself was ready to help on a voluntary-compulsory basis.
Juninho immediately started with a very controversial choice of a coach – he invited the Brazilian Silvinho, who had never worked as a chief before, only as an assistant, for example, with Roberto Mancini at Inter and Tite with the Brazilian national team. Silvinho was fired already in October 2019, after holding out for several months. In his place, Juninho invited Rudy Garcia. Then Pernambucano said this about Garcia: “The worst character I have ever met in my entire football career.” Or: “The most evil person in my life.”
They had a serious conflict. Garcia believed that Juninho pushed the Brazilians into the base – for example, he argued that in the center of midfield, Jean Lucas, bought from Flamengo for 8 million euros, looks stronger than Maxence Cacret, a pupil of the club. The coach was also infuriated by Juninho’s impulsiveness: when Lyon at the end of the 2020/21 season lagged behind in the race for the championship and a place in the Champions League, the sports director asked Olas to remove Memphis Depay (20 + 12 for a goal + pass!), Houssem Aouar and Ryan Cherka .
In the transfer strategy, Juninho was more straightforward than in the execution of free kicks, actively buying by the Brazilians: Jean Lucas, Thiago Mendes (Lille, 22 million), Bruno Guimaraes (Atletico Paranaense, 20), Camilo (Ponte Preta, 2) , Lucas Paqueta (Milan, 23.4), Enrique (Vasco da Gama, free). Anything can be forgiven for Guimaraes and Paqueta, even Camilo and Enrique, whose existence even some Lyon fans are not aware of.
Pernambucano, along with Olas, finally got rid of Garcia. Rudy did not save the 2019/20 season after Silvinho (the same interim-final 7th place), but he pleasantly surprised in the Champions League, reaching the semi-finals and stopping Pep’s City with his experiments along the way. And yet, Garcia was removed after the 2020/21 season, when Lyon finished 4th, qualifying for European competition, but not for the Champions League.
Garcia played nice attacking football, the team did not lose points that much, just ahead were the champion Lille Christophe Galtier, PSG and the powerful Monaco Niko Kovacs. It was one of the strongest Ligue 1 seasons in 10 years.
And the most ridiculous detail – having removed Garcia, Lyon soon lost Juninho as well. In December 2021, he left on his own, explaining the decision with poor results, stress and fatigue from internal struggles in Lyon’s management.
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