Feature | Rejection the flavour of the month at Lyon during farcical window

Olympique Lyonnais’ January transfer window will be defined by failure and rejection. The club, a former giant of the French game, have seen their standing amongst professional players slump – a fact was emphatically highlighted last month. 

The club’s head of recruitment made a thinly veiled dig at fierce rivals Olympique de Marseille in the summer, boasting about Lyon’s recruitment. Whilst the club employed a ‘bringing the band back together’ transfer policy, repatriating players like Alexander Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, down the road in Marseille, Jorge Sampaoli’s frustration at the club’s window grew to the point of divorce. 

However, Cheyrou’s remarks haven’t aged well. Marseille are second in the league, whilst Lyon languish 17 points behind in 10th and have since changed manager themselves. Their January window began with a continuation of their summer policy – nostalgia is clearly the order of the year at a club trying to vicariously live their glory days through the return of their aged stars. 

Dejan Lovren, off the back of a solid World Cup, returned to the Groupama stadium. Tempting players to join the club for the first time wasn’t such an easy task. Lyon simply don’t currently have the allure that they once had. The João Gomes fiasco attests to that. Les Gones made their move for the Brazil U20 international after he had already decided to join Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite his club, Flamengo, preferring Lyon’s offer and pushing him in that direction, Gomes’ mind could not be changed. He ultimately preferred to join Wolves’ relegation battle than Lyon, despite Cheyrou’s trip to Brazil to convince him otherwise. 

The days passed and the rejections and failed coups multiplied. Ellyes Skhiri, currently embroiled in a relegation battle at Bundesliga side FC Köln couldn’t be tempted to join, nor could Ajax’s Florian Grillitsch. Wilson Isidor, who Foot Mercato reported was set on a move to Lorient finally agreed to move to Lyon, but then failed his medical, and therefore remained with Lokomotiv Moscow. Lorient weren’t even a Ligue 1 side a few years back, never mind a rival, but in the minds of some players and certainly that of Isidor, they have become a preference over this fallen giant of French football. 

As the minutes ticked away, Les Gones began to scramble around, but to no avail. The club had been long since looking for a number six and had wasted weeks on multiple failed pistes. New ones were explored as the deadline approached. Negotiations for Sevilla’s Fernando, Chelsea’s Tiémoué Bakayoko, Rayo Vallecano’s Pathé Ciss, Hertha Berlin’s Dodi Lukebakio and Charleroi’s Adem Zorgane all failed. 

The club did complete a deal for Amin Sarr from Heerveneen, whilst the club understandably had little trouble tempting Jeffinho to join from one of new Lyon owner John Textor’s other teams, Botafogo. However, given the departures of Romain Faivre, Karl Toko-Ekambi, Jeff Reine-Adelaïde and Tetê, it is hard to argue that Lyon finish the window in a better position than they started, despite the reported €57m that Textor had promised to inject into Lyon’s recruitment in January. 

A saving grace is that the club have kept hold of Malo Gusto… for now. The wing-back will remain at the club on loan from Chelsea until the end of the season, before departing for England in the summer. Despite his undoubted ability, he alone, nor Lyon as a collective after this window, look like challenging for Europe in the second half of this season. The club’s shortcomings both on and off the pitch are bare for all to see; January’s window won’t alter Lyon’s negative spiral.

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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