During my youth everything was about the French giants Olympique Lyonnais, they were the team of the millennium. From the 2001-02 season Lyon won seven French Ligue 1 titles in a row, as well as eight cup competitions. This was a team very much on the level of Real Madrid.
The likes of Jacques Santini, Gérard Houllier and Alain Perrin were the managers responsible for these great successes on the pitch while prudent ownership from Jean-Michel Aulas saw the team always remain grounded.
Lyon were a team full of fantastically talented players. Throughout this period superstars such as Karim Benzema, Lisandro Lopez, Florent Malouda, Juninho, Michael Essien, John Carew, Sidney Govou, and Gregory Coupet all played a part in Lyon’s dominance.
Lyon very quickly became the heartthrob of French football. Believe it or not during this time Lyon were the richest club in the league, crushing their rivals PSG and Marseille whilst ruffling the feathers of neighbours Saint-Etienne.
Despite Lyon’s money they were nowhere near the mega rich teams of today such as PSG, Monaco and Manchester City. When PSG were taken over by rich Qatari owners in 2011, the league became a lot less even playing field. Monaco then followed suit and the likes of Lyon and Marseille were left in the lurch.
The last few years has seen Lyon and the French Ligue 1 fall into mediocrity. The obvious battle of PSG versus Monaco in a big money shoot out for the league has become very dull. The 2014-15 season however seems to have injected a considerable amount of life back into the league.
The Premier League, La liga and the Bundesliga are considered to be the best in the world but Ligue 1 gives the impression of a league very much back to form.
As we enter the festive period there appears to be a scrumptious competition between Marseille, PSG and Lyon for this season’s crown. The added rivalry within the league this season has opened the door for more points to be dropped and allow old favourites like Lyon to return to the fold.
Seasons of disappointment along with failure to qualify for Europe seem to be at an end, and Lyon have a squad that appears to have buckets full of confidence plus one particular player who is ripping up the Ligue 1 with his goals in Alexandre Lacazette. The young French striker was overlooked by many during the summer, wrongfully, considering the problems teams such as Liverpool and Arsenal are having without killer instinct up front. Maybe this pacey master who has scored 11 goals in 13 games so far this season may have been worth a punt.
Having said that, Lyon have benefited from holding on to their prize asset, and along with talents such as Gourcuff, Gonalons, Grenier and Nabil Fekir, it’s not surprising to see Lyon back to where they belong.
The reliance and confidence of Lyon to trust in their fabulous youth system, something that has served them well throughout the years, potentially will reap rewards. Big signings can give you instant success but Lyon play the long game and these young players have the ability to prove both manager and chairman right for showing faith.
So with an exciting game of cat and mouse afoot in the early stages of this French season, Lyon fans have a lot to be optimistic about. If they can keep their key players fit and the belief in the squad there is no reason why they cannot push ‘til the end of the season to once again be crowned champions of France.