Lyon have announced that they have mutually agreed to terminate the contract of head coach Laurent Blanc, who leaves the club after less than a year in charge. The former France and Paris Saint-Germain manager failed to improve the team’s performance and results, leaving them at the bottom of the Ligue 1 table with only one point from four games.
Blanc’s disappointing tenure at Lyon
Blanc took over Lyon in October 2020, replacing Peter Bosz, who had resigned after a poor start to the season. Blanc inherited a squad that had finished second in Ligue 1 in 2019-20 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. However, he was unable to replicate that success and led the team to a seventh-place finish last season, missing out on European qualification for the first time since 1997.
Blanc’s style of play was also criticized by the fans and the media, as he favored a conservative and possession-based approach that lacked creativity and intensity. His tactics were often exposed by more dynamic and aggressive opponents, such as Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain, who both thrashed Lyon 4-1 at their home stadium this season.
Blanc’s last game in charge of Lyon was on Sunday, when they faced PSG at the Parc OL. Despite taking an early lead through Lucas Paqueta, Lyon collapsed in the second half and conceded four goals, including a hat-trick by Kylian Mbappe. The defeat left Lyon in 18th place, with the worst goal difference in the league.
Gattuso linked with Lyon job
Following Blanc’s departure, Lyon have appointed their technical director Jean-Francois Vulliez as the interim manager. Vulliez is responsible for overseeing Lyon’s renowned academy, which has produced many talented players such as Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fekir and Houssem Aouar.
However, Vulliez is not expected to be a long-term solution and Lyon are reportedly looking for a more experienced and charismatic coach to take over. According to French media, one of the leading candidates is Gennaro Gattuso, who is currently out of work after leaving Valencia in January.
Gattuso is known for his fiery personality and his demanding and passionate style of management. He has previously coached Milan and Napoli in Italy, where he won the Coppa Italia with the latter in 2020. He also has a connection with Lyon’s president John Textor, who is also a shareholder of Crystal Palace, where Gattuso played briefly in 1997.
Gattuso could be a good fit for Lyon, as he could inject some energy and motivation into the team and make them more competitive and resilient. He could also help improve the defensive solidity and the physicality of the team, which have been lacking under Blanc.
Lyon face boardroom turmoil amid Textor-Aulas feud
Lyon’s problems are not only on the pitch, but also off it. The club is going through a turbulent period of transition, as they have recently changed their ownership and leadership structure. In May 2021, American businessman John Textor completed his takeover of Lyon, buying 66% of the shares from former president Jean-Michel Aulas.
Aulas had been the president of Lyon since 1987 and had transformed them into one of the most successful clubs in France, winning seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles between 2002 and 2008. He had also overseen the construction of their new stadium, which opened in 2016.
However, Aulas did not step down completely after selling his shares to Textor. He remained as an honorary chairman and retained some influence over the club’s affairs. This has created a conflict between him and Textor, who have different visions and strategies for Lyon’s future.
The feud between Textor and Aulas reached a new low in August, when a commercial tribunal ordered the club to freeze €14.5m of their funds, corresponding to part of the money owed to Aulas for his shares. Textor accused Aulas of initiating a “violent and illegitimate attack” on Lyon and threatened to sue him for damages.
The boardroom battle has also affected Lyon’s transfer activities, as they have been under close scrutiny by French football’s financial watchdog. They have been forced to sell some of their key players, such as Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele and Joachim Andersen, while being unable to sign any high-profile replacements.
Lyon are facing a difficult situation both on and off the field. They need to find a new coach who can revive their fortunes and restore their pride. They also need to resolve their internal disputes and find some stability and harmony within their organization. Otherwise, they risk falling further behind their rivals and losing their status as one of France’s top clubs.