Jean-Michel Aulas is a polarizing man. The 73-year-old president of Olympique Lyon is often compared to Uli Hoeneß, he fights with all means for the well-being of his club, which he has presided over since 1987 and has since won the French championship seven times – in a row, between 2002 and 2008 he sometimes overshoots the mark rhetorically; via Twitter, Aulas polemicized against other clubs, player advisors, the association, and above all against the referees. Like last November, after the game against Marseille was abandoned after he threw a bottle at Dimitri Payet – without calling his own fans to task – he declared that Payet could have continued playing. The hit wasn’t that hard after all.
And despite his advanced age, Aulas is far from having enough. He regularly stresses that he does not want to resign until the Lyonnais have won a European Cup. The men’s team, mind you, because OL recently won the women’s Champions League for the eighth time in the past twelve years. The chances that Aulas will still achieve his big goal and thus get a reason to give up his office have improved in the past few days.
A rich uncle from America has joined the Rhône Club: John Textor from Missouri, a former freestyle skateboarder and now a successful businessman. The 56-year-old already has a 40 percent stake in the English club Crystal Palace, 80 percent in the Belgian second division club Molenbeek and 90 percent in the traditional Brazilian club Botafogo. Now he’s secured a 66 percent stake in Olympique and is pumping, according to the magazine Forbes more than 800 million euros in the club. Of this, 90 million are to be invested in the squad this summer.
Boateng’s sometimes listless performances were accompanied by fierce controversy with fellow players
It wasn’t long before the new strong man declared war on the national and continental competition. At a press conference with Aulas, who still holds around 28 percent of the club’s shares and will continue as president for the next three years, Textor set the line on Tuesday: “Jean-Michel wants to return to the European stage and I want to win the Champions League . I hope we can dream about it.” Speaking towards the big competition from Paris Saint-Germain, the American said: “I don’t like the PSG model. I hope we can beat them next season.”
So far, it has been questionable who should be responsible for the possible renaissance of orienteering. Under coach Peter Bosz, the club clearly missed out on international places last season and finished eighth in Ligue 1, a whopping 25 points behind champions Paris. After all, the Dutchman advanced with his selection to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, where they failed after an indisputable performance in the second leg at West Ham United, in front of their own audience. While investor Textor now wants to leave all sporting decisions to his partner Aulas, he seems determined to continue to rely on the former Dortmund and Leverkusen coach. Bosz will “be there again in the new season,” Aulas explained.
It should also be clear that former national player Jérôme Boateng, 33, has no future in the club after a bad season, despite a contract until 2023 – because the relationship between the former Bayern defender and Bosz is considered to be heavily strained. Boateng was in the top eleven 18 times in the league, only nine times he played the full distance, three times he stayed 90 minutes on the bench, and a few times he wasn’t even part of the squad for performance reasons. His sometimes listless performances and obvious physical deficits were accompanied by fierce controversies with teammates, some of which were fought on the pitch. Boateng’s advisor Tolga Dirican recently denied any contact with the Turkish champions Trabzonspor, who had expressed an interest in Boateng.
So despite the puzzling situation of Boateng and playmaker Lucas Paquetá, who has been linked with Newcastle United, Lyon are now gearing up thanks to the US cash injection. The spectacular return of former Arsenal captain Alexandre Lacazette, 31, has already been confirmed. Corentin Tolisso (most recently FC Bayern) and Samuel Umtiti (FC Barcelona) are said to be two other ex-Lyonnais on the club’s wish list.
And their own talents are also very important at Olympique, where Karim Benzema’s career began, among others. That’s why they are particularly proud to have extended the contract with midfielder Maxence Caqueret, 22, even though AC Milan knocked. Top talent Rayan Cherki, 18, should definitely be kept – the necessary financial resources can undoubtedly flow now.