Speaking in an interview with L’Équipe, Lyon Sporting Director Juninho publicly challenged French youth international attacking midfielder Jeff Reine-Adélaide’s public announcement made through interviews with RMC and L’Équipe that he wanted to depart from OL this summer owing to what the ex-Arsenal man feels are broken promises.
“I am going to respond with the same thing that I said to Jeff: I believe in him, in his talent. I have no doubt in that. He has all the qualities to become a truly great player. Aside from that, I think he is a bit anxious about the idea of rediscovering his level and his place in the squad that he had before his injury (ACL in December 2019). After an ACL injury, you need a bit of time. At one moment or another, it will come back, it just needs to click. He will recover his confidence and his place in the 11. I know that he is frustrated, that his transfer was big and that he wants to come back to a level that matches the fee.”
Is it the case that he is not a player for Lyon’s future, as he suggests, following conversations with yourself and Rudi Garcia?
I think that he put that in his own head. He says that like that because he is annoyed. When we spoke together, I said to him: “Calm, have a bit of patience, you are going to regain your place naturally.” After his injury, how many official matches has he played in? (5 in all comps) It is true that he did not come on in the Coupe de la Ligue final. Against Juventus and Manchester City, he made a good impact off the bench, each time they were good. It is true that makes a player want to start matches, like against Dijon. I understand him.
In the interview, he explains that this frustration dates to before his injury…
When I read the article, I did not understand that… Before his injury, Rudi played a 4-4-2 with Jeff on one wing. For me, the team had started to become balanced and Jeff performed well. Afterwards, there was this injury, COVID… In a career, for all players, it takes a bit of time before becoming a key piece, that is natural. He played for just 4 months, between his arrival and his injury. He was annoyed, disappointed, and that plays on the conscience.
How do you intend to position yourself now that you know he wants to leave the club?
I am fairly open. He should come to my office and we should talk. It is true that he works very, very hard. If all the players work and respect the shirt, it does not annoy me at all if they speak (in the press). I would have preferred for us to speak in my office. He preferred to do this publicly, but that does not annoy me at all.
Do you think that there should have been more of a dialogue with him, you and Rudi Garcia?
Maybe more than I thought, but I already speak with him a lot. We have a squad with 28 players, and maybe we are not going to have the same dialogue with them all. I already spoke with him and I notably said to him that versatility is a huge bonus in football. I think that he has put a big amount of pressure on himself, which he shouldn’t have done. I can understand because I was like that when I was a player. I have my role, I can ask a manager why he has made this decision and give my opinion, but Rudi decides the best XI. That is how it works.
Is a departure possible?
Today, we have discussions for two or three players at the moment, but maybe more will come for us, there is still 1 month left of the window. But for Jeff, we invested €25m in him and we are counting on him. He is going to help us a lot. He has not been playing even a year for us, how can we now think about a transfer? There is something important to stay: Jeff thinks he is too nice, but that is the best thing to be, to be nice with people! Maybe he did this to show that his niceness has its limits. He is someone who has been well brought up but sometimes you don’t have experience and you want to say things. We have a right to speak in life, it is like that.