Lyon’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles: ‘I’m happy playing football again.’

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (26) has said that he has rediscovered his love for football since joining Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyonnais side in the summer. 

Collectively and individually, Lyon had a dreadful start to the campaign. By December, OL were bottom of Ligue 1 and even as recently as February, the club were in the relegation play-off places. Having missed the pre-season with Lyon, following his move on a free transfer after his Arsenal contract expired, Maitland-Niles was failing to find his feet and under Laurent Blanc and then Fabio Grosso, he was not guaranteed a starting spot. 

Maitland-Niles on Grosso – ‘He didn’t even know me’

He was particularly critical of the latter. “[Not playing] wasn’t new for me. He didn’t even know me as a person. He never asked me how I felt, or what I wanted. I stayed calm and I worked. He left before we even had a conversation,” said the former Arsenal man.

However, the England international has featured much more prominently under Pierre Sage, who has sparked a revival at the club. In what is undoubtedly the highlight of his career with Les Gones so far, Maitland-Niles netted a 106th-minute penalty to secure a 4-3 victory over Stade Brestois on Sunday, which lifts Lyon into seventh and a European place.

Prior to Sunday’s match, Maitland-Niles spoke to L’Équipe about rediscovering his joy of football at the Groupama Stadium. “Since the manager (Sage) arrived, I’m happy playing football again and get up in the morning thinking, ‘Cool, I have training’,” he said. 

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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