Lyon going back to basics with rebuild thanks to Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso summer homecomings
Written by Jonathan Johnson on July 6, 2022
Olympique Lyonnais’ early summer moves have been impressive with Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso both returning to the club on free transfers. Lacazette, now 31, spent five years with Arsenal before rejoining his formative club while Tolisso, just 27, also spent the same amount of time away with Bayern Munich albeit with regular injury issues.
There has been speculation that Lacazette and Tolisso might not be the only ex-Gones returning home this summer with Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic and Maxime Gonalons also linked with Groupama Stadium homecomings. However, Gonalons has since joined Ligue 1 rivals Clermont Foot 63 and Umtiti is expected to sign for Stade Rennais under former OL boss Bruno Genesio instead of joining the Lyon revolution.
Other big news this summer was the arrival of U.S. investor John Textor after buying up a stake of around 40% from former minority shareholders Pathe and IDG Capital as part of a deal which will see a gradual takeover from President Jean-Michel Aulas’ Holnest group. The Frenchman, in charge of the seven-time French champions since 1987, turned the club into a domestic and European powerhouse which has fallen on lean times in recent seasons, and he is expected to oversee the next three years or so of OL’s latest project.
“We want to do something unique,” said Textor. “I am leaving Jean-Michel a lot of freedom because he is very knowledgeable about football and the French market, he knows the business well. I do not like projects like PSG’s. If we continue to do what Jean-Michel has for several years and that we bring in entertainment and technology, we will be able to earn more money than with a Qatari investor.”
This new direction will see the club go back to basics which is why players like Lacazette and Tolisso have been targeted and more could follow with the fertile youth academy which has produced greats like Karim Benzema central to the future. Peter Bosz will stay on as coach despite a disappointing debut season on the bench with the Lyon hierarchy recognizing that many of the problems were out of his control with club legend Juninho Pernambucano leaving his sporting director role mid-season at the height of the turmoil.
Failure to qualify for Europe this coming season for the second time in the past three years has been a setback which helped to trigger these changes, but the hope now is that Lyon can return to being a domestic and continental force with their homegrown talents at the fore. OL reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League as recently as 2020 and the ambition is to get back to that sort of stage regularly despite failing to reach last term’s UEFA Europa League final.
Lacazette and Tolisso alone will not guarantee a return to form for Lyon, but their desire to go back to their roots aligns with the club’s core values and should help them to attract some of the best domestic talent as they bring through another generation of gems such as Castello Lukeba, Malo Gusto and Rayan Cherki. Johann Lepenant has already arrived from Stade Malherbe Caen while Maxence Caqueret has also extended his contract along with Anthony Lopes and Houssem Aouar could yet stay.
The revolution does not simply extend to the pitch either with recognizable figures from the past such as Ludovic Giuly signing up to be a part of the project moving forward within the coaching staff. There has also been an image change too with an adjusted logo unveiled recently which signals this new dawn.
The past few seasons have fallen short of expectations but there is undoubtedly the talent in the current crop to do much better, especially when you consider non-French talents such as Brazilians Lucas Paqueta and Tetê. Bosz has the faith of the club for now but must build on last season’s experience and make a fast start this time around in Ligue 1 to ensure a swift return to Europe and the likes of Lacazette and Tolisso will help him to do that as a new era begins for the Auvergne Rhone Alpes giants.