Although Olympique Lyon was founded only in 1950, the club’s origins trace back to the end of the 19th century. Lyon Olympique Universitaire, a club founded in the last decade of the 19th century, was the forerunner of Lyon. In fact, it was the idea of Felix Louot, who managed Racing club de Lyon in the 1940s, which led to the formation of Olympique Lyon.
In the middle of the 1940s, the predecessor of Lyon was facing numerous problems. There were disagreements between the club’s president and the manager, manager and the players, and among the players themselves. So precarious had that situation become that Louot decided that only the formation of a new club could end the infighting.
This idea led to the formation of Olympique Lyonnais on 3 August 1950. Oscar Heisserer, a former player was named its first manager, and the club won its first-ever game by defeating CA Paris-Charenton less than a month after its birth. Lyon’s first stadium was Stade de Gerland, and it was while playing here that the club won the 2nd division of French football in 1951.
Lyon’s first season in the French top flight was a disastrous one, as the club suffered relegation back to the second division. It would take four more years for the Lyon to rebuild its squad before it could earn promotion to Ligue 1. Heisserer kept on managing the club during those turbulent years and only departed once Lyon were back in Ligue 1 in 1954.
The next four decades saw Lyon doing well in cup competitions, but the club failed to win the one trophy its first generation of fans craved the most; the Ligue 1 title. It was only at the start of the 21st century that Lyon became champions of France for the first time in their history, following which they went on to win seven Championships on the trot. The French side currently ranks at 19th in UEFA’s club rankings.
At the start of the 1987/88 season, Lyon were languishing in the 2nd division of French football. It had been fourteen years since the club last won a trophy, with its situation such that even the hardcore fans weren’t confident of the club’s fortunes seeing a turnaround anytime soon. It was under such dire circumstances that Jean Michel-Aulas, a businessman, took over the club’s ownership.
The child of school teachers, Aulas had displayed an entrepreneurial spirit since his early childhood days. News outlets in France still quote an incident from his childhood when, not happy with the over-bearing attitude of his parents, a young Aulas had appeared before a local magistrate to ask him to ‘emancipate’ him from his mother and father so he could start his own business.
It was this eagerness that Aulas carried into his ownership of Lyon. He was aware from day one that if the club was to scale unprecedented heights, it had to go back to his roots. Aulas made that possible by making sure that a lion’s share of his managers – nine out of 15 – had previously played for Lyon. Little wonder, then, that during his first two decades as club president, Lyon sacked only two managers.
With the human side of the club addressed, Aulas turned to improve it financially. He used his contacts to convince Pathé, a film company, to invest in Lyon. The money that came as a result allowed Lyon to spend €24m on Barcelona striker Sonny Anderson in 1999. That was a brave decision at that time, but one that paid its dividends within a few years’ time.
During his four seasons at the club, Anderson scored 94 goals and contributed to the launching of the golden period of Lyon in Ligue 1. The Les Gones won its first-ever Ligue 1 title in 2001/02 season, and it would be another seven years before any other team could lift “le Trophée de Ligue 1”. That sustained period of success couldn’t have been made possible without the astute ownership of Jean Michel-Aulas.
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Source: Euro Football Rumors
Ask any Lyon fan about the greatest achievements in the club’s living memory, and they’d undoubtedly point to the seven-season spell between the 2001/02 and 2007-08 seasons as the most successful era in the club’s illustrious history. During this period, the club changed four managers. More importantly, though, the seven-year spell saw Lyon winning seven successive Ligue 1 titles.
Perhaps because it was the start of something extraordinary, the first of the seven Ligue 1 titles came to Lyon in stunning fashion. With league leaders Lens dropping points in the penultimate game of the season, the final day of the Championship saw Lyon, who were one point behind the leaders, hosting Lens at their Groupama Stadium in a game whose winner would go on to lift the title.
The home side started the game just as the doctor ordered as the 7th minute Sidney Govou strike gave Lyon the early lead. Seven minutes later, Philippe Violeau made it 2-0 for Lyon as Lens, who only needed a point to win the title, came under huge pressure. They responded brilliantly and made the score 2-1 at the 27th-minute mark, though it was the only thing that would go their way during the 90 minutes that day.
With the crowd urging the team to go forward and club President Jean Michel-Aulas watching from the directors’ box, midfielder Pierre Laigle scored in the opening stages of 2nd half to put the game beyond Lens’ reach. The resulting win opened floodgates of trophies for Lyon as having failed to win a single Ligue 1 title in the last half-a-century of its existence, the Les Gones went on to win next seven on a trot.
Fast forward to October 2018, and it was the day when PSG handed Lyon one of its biggest defeats.
Having been champions of France in six of the last 7 seasons, Paris Saint-Germain had come into that game as clear favorites. To further emphasize their superiority over their guests, PSG had won eight successive games before that fixture. The history books told them that provided they beat Lyon that day, they’d break an 82-year-old record of eight consecutive wins set way back in 1936.
PSG not only shattered the record but also broke the Lyon team with it. Neymar opened the scoring for the home side in the ninth minute, but a red card to Presnel Kimpembe after the half-hour mark, with the score still at a respectable 1-0, gave Lyon hope. The mighty PSG side which had looked unbeatable before the start of the game now looked beatable with only 10-men on the pitch.
However, as they had been doing for the better part of the last decade, Lyon threw away the advantage. Lucas Tousart got himself sent off for a foolish challenge and the game was back to 10 v 10. Not needing any more invitations, PSG ripped Lyon apart as Kylian Mbappe scored four times in 13 minutes to humiliate their guests. Here’s what the final scoreline told: PSG 5 – 0 Lyon.
In May 2008, Lyon were PSG without the billions. The club had just lifted its seventh Ligue 1 title in as many seasons, and there were predictions of French football being dominated by them for years to come. Nobody would have thought back then that within a span of 11 years, the club would be enduring one of its worst starts to a Ligue 1 season.
The scene of one of Lyon’s modern history’s biggest catastrophes consisted of 141 days. This was the time in which the club hired former Arsenal defender Sylvinho as its manager, endured its worst start to a league season for over 2 decades, and salvaged the situation by firing their manager at the end of what proved to be a turbulent four-and-a-bit months’ spell in October 2019.
While it was difficult for those watching from outside why the marriage had ended so badly so soon, those associated with the club had seen the nightmare unfold in episodes. The warning signs were there when, during the pre-season, Lyon lost to Swiss Super League side Servette. That defeat was followed by another one, with the Italian minnows Genoa getting the better of Sylvinho’s men this time around.
As those working with the club were aware, it were the questionable tactics that Sylvinho employed that led his team to be embarrassed in the pre-season. At a time when the likes of Pep Guardiola were reinventing football with his attacking tactics, Sylvinho was telling his full-backs to not cross the half-way line. His tactics were more 20th century than 21st.
Still, despite him adopting questionable tactics, Lyon started the season with 2 consecutive wins. It was only after they were defeated at Montpellier that Sylvinho panicked with his team-selection. The French manager decided to drop either Memphis Depay or Dembele for every game his side played, with the result that after just 11 games as manager of Lyon, Sylvinho was relieved of his duties.
Here are some of the fun facts you might not know about Lyon FC:
“Best Women team in the world”: Despite coming into being more than half a century after its men’s counterpart, Olympique Lyonnais Feminin have won more Champions League (6) and Ligue 1 titles (17) than the Lyon’s men’s team.
“Plus 957 goal difference”: Over the course of the last nine seasons, Olympique Lyonnais Feminin enjoyed a scarcely believable goal difference of +957.
“Winners aren’t popular in France”: Explaining why, despite leading Lyon to new heights, he wasn’t popular among the French media, here’s what club President Jean Michel Aulas had to say: “In France, there is a cultural problem,” he bemoaned. “Winners are not popular.”
“I love my girlfriend”: Memphis Depay, one of Lyon’s most exciting players of the recent era, once showed his loving side by wearing a jacket that had his girlfriend’s face painted on the back.
“Scoring from halfway line”: With his team already leading by 3-0 against Toulouse in March 2017, Memphis Depay chose to go for the outrageous and put the ball into the back of the net from the halfway line.
“The Little Bike”: Since he is only 5’6’’ – a short height by football standards, former Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena is nicknamed ‘Le Petit Velo’ which translates to ‘the little bike’ in English.
“2 sackings in 20 years”: In his first two decades as president of Lyon, Jean Michel Aulas was on such good terms with his managers that he sacked only two of them during that era, with the other who left the club did so by mutual consent.
“Please come to Lyon”: Before she eventually joined Lyon’s women team in 2019, Alex Morgan, the legendary US Women’s National Soccer team player, was the subject of more than two years of tweets by Lyon president Jean Michel Aulas, who is currently in charge of Lyon’s ladies team, literally begged Morgan to sign for his side.
Details are provided on the age of players, games played, minutes played, goals conceded, games conceded with no goals, yellow cards, red cards, yellow cards.
Official website of Lyon
Wikipedia profile of Lyon
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