What caused Karim Benzema's downfall

Olympique Lyon: From Goliath to David

Jean-Michel Aulas jumped jubilantly from his box seat in the heart of the Santiago Bernabeu. The ambitious and otherwise so controlled President of Olympique Lyon clenched his fists in the direction of the green lawn deep below him. It was on this pitch that Miralem Pjanic had just scored the 1-1 equalizer for Lyon against Real Madrid. The goal was enough to advance due to the 1-0 first leg success, the French eliminated the star squad around Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, which had been souped up with millions in the summer, and made it to the quarter-finals.

Back then, in March 2010, Aulas believed that he had reached the goal of his dreams. “We won against the best team in the world,” he said after the triumph, drunk with joy, “now anything is possible”.

The now 66-year-old took over Lyon as a young visionary in 1987 and pursued visions from the start. First he led the club as president in the first division and finally nationally to a great power, which celebrated a unique hegemony at the beginning of the new millennium and was French champions seven times in a row. France was not enough for Aulas, he was aiming for a club with full coffers, big, worldwide advertising deals and, above all, great success in Europe. Prototype: Nobody less than Real Madrid.

Like Icarus once did: Aulas' dream collapsed

Today, five years later, there is not much left of his idea. Million transfers like Essien, Frau, Abidal, Fred, Tiago, Carew, Källström, Grosso, Keita, Ederson, Makoun, Lisandro Lopez, Bastos and Gourcouff should gradually make Lyon the shining star of the royal class hemisphere - instead, a mountain of debt accumulated which finally caused a crash in 2012. Like Icarus, who in Greek mythology came too close to the sun and burned it, Aula's dream collapsed, which as his architect he wanted to turn into reality too quickly.

A dilapidated squad, whose salary structure was wrong back and forth, missed the title in Ligue 1 from 2008 to 2012 - the creeping decline could no longer be stopped with money. Aulas had to bury his vision. With Remi Garde, a trainer was installed who knew Lyon very well. He should give the club a new identity and above all establish a new philosophy. Youth researches instead of glitz and glamor, was the new motto, which reached its preliminary climax in 2015.

The young and wild ones annoy PSG

Lyon are second in the league, just three points behind Sheikh Club Paris St. Germain. For a long time they were first and annoyed with fresh and fast football, the industry leader PSG. Before the season, only 3.4 million euros were spent. For comparison: in 2009/10 there were 81.7 million! The big business club, hated by the rest of the league, has become a down-to-earth and sustainability-minded club, whose trademark and center of its new strength is the outstanding youth work.

15 players from their own youth academy are currently in the squad. The ranks of the homegrown are led by Captain Maxime Gonalons and Alexandre Lacazette. Both are very popular with top European clubs. The latter in particular is considered to be the upcoming superstar. The 23-year-old has already scored 27 goals and will secure the top scorer's crown. He inherits the superstars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Karim Benzema - Lacazette wants to start a career as great as his two predecessors.

Cradle of the Equipe Tricolore

Hubert Founier is now the coach of the young and wild, who are on average just 24.07 years old. Before Lyon he established underdog Reims despite the mini budget in the first division. He is someone who makes a lot out of a little. “Our greatest asset is the youth,” he said Le Monde. And he is right, because behind the already established talents like Grenier, Umiti, Fekir or Tolisso there are other highly talented players, most of them French youth international players.

Yassine Benzia, Maxel Cornet, Mouctar Diakhaby, Louis Nganioni or Thimote Cognat are names that you have to remember. "As the cradle of the Equipe Tricolore" L'Equipe the inexhaustible supply of Olympique jewels. Because in the future Lyon's youth work should also stimulate the national team and lead back to its former glory.

Is Aulas making the same mistake again?

Lyon are currently second in the table and will play again in the coming season where Aulas understands that they belong: in the Champions League. Financially you are in good shape and you can look forward to a golden future. Because Lacazette, Grenier, Gonalons or Cornet will wash millions into the coffers. Millions that can be put into the infrastructure, into the worldwide scouting network, in order to push the possibilities even further.

But it is also a fact that with the return of sporting success, the demands quickly increase again. Aulas has not forgotten his dream of rebuilding the Galactic. A Real 2.0 on French soil. The alarm bells should ring when Aulas says sentences like: “Our journey is not over yet. We have big plans, soon. ”Phrases like these heralded the decline of a top European club once before. Wanting to go up too fast and then get burned. Isn't an Icarus experience enough for Aulas?

"We'll do whatever it takes to keep them," said Aulas about the possible departures of Lacazette and Fekir Telefoot. He has to be careful. Excessively endowed working papers for the pillars of the team instead of collecting the millions that a change would have brought in and overpriced newcomers that messed up the tactical structure - all of this has existed before.

A power struggle threatens

Coach Founier does not want to know anything about bold plans. “Nobody is indispensable. Football is a team sport, ”he said in an interview Le Parisien clear. “There are no stars with me.” The sensible team player Founier and the insatiable Aulas, for whom no goal seems too ambitious. A constellation bedded on a mountain of dynamite. One spark could be enough to detonate them. And in Lyon they all know how power struggles between a football teacher and Aulas end. He has been in charge of the company's fortunes for almost 30 years. He saw 13 coaches come and go.

Lyon went through a beneficial development from Goliath to David. Transfers of millions seem to have been shelved. Jean-Michel Aulas, however, has never forgotten how Lyon threw the royal family out of Madrid - and suddenly became a Goliath himself. One can only wish Lyon that he does not want too much a second time like Icarus, but is satisfied with the status of the elite club hunter with players from his own offspring. Because Lyon would not be able to cope with a second financial and sporting bankruptcy. Youth work or not.