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Jean-Michel Aulas: “The Olympique Lyonnais model is made to withstand sporting hazards”


President of Olympique Lyonnais since 1987, Jean-Michel Aulas, 73, is going through a difficult period at the head of his club (9e of Ligue 1 after 19 days), the ownership of which he sold in December 2022 to the American John Textor, boss of the Eagle holding company. Despite the criticism, Mr. Aulas is offensive, especially towards his former sports director, the Brazilian Juninho, and believes in his future success.

Do you share the observation of a progressive sporting downgrading of your club for ten years? Your last title dates from 2012.

If we look at the average ranking of the last twenty years in Ligue 1, OL are in the lead, ahead of PSG and Marseille. This means that the other clubs have experienced periods like the one we have been going through for two or three years. The arrival of the Qatari almighty at PSG has also changed things considerably.

You often calibrate your results over a period of twenty years, but, since 2012, Lyon has gradually moved from the fight for the title each season, then to the race for qualification in the Champions League, to finish outside the European places.

I do not share your analysis. I have the statistics in front of me: in the post-stadium years [la nouvelle enceinte de l’OL a été inaugurée en 2016] we score 67 points (4ein 2017), 78 (3ein 2018) and 72 (3ein 2019) and we are fighting for the title.

In 2020, you are 7ethen 4e in 2021, 8e in 2022 and 9e this season after 19 days. Doesn’t it erode?

No, it’s mostly the last two years. And I remind you that in 2020, we reach a Champions League semi-final and, in 2021, we are 4e of Ligue 1, with 76 points. We cannot say that it is a decline. There is also the premature end of the championship because of the Covid-19 in 2020, abnormal in my opinion. This is the first year where we missed the European qualification. “The sporting decline”, if we talk about the last three years, is on the way to being completely regulated. In the same way as Arsenal [en tête de la Premier League] can be champion this year after also following a model of construction of its stadium, I think that we also have very good seasons to come. We had a slump, but the momentum is picking up.

You recall the stoppage of the championship due to Covid-19, which disadvantaged you, but did this period not contribute to your career as a semi-finalist, with a particular tournament format in dry matches, the Final 8?

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