Jean-Michel Aulas and Olympique Lyonnais, thirty-five years of history in five dates

► 1987: takeover of a club awash in debt

It was through Bernard Tapie that Jean-Michel Aulas became, in 1987, president of Olympique Lyonnais (OL) “to serve”. The club is overwhelmed by debts and the sporting results are more than disappointing. For four seasons, Les Gones have played in the second division.

The new president of OL has set an extremely ambitious goal for his club: European qualification from the third season. It will almost be done. Two years after being appointed head of the Rhone club, OL regained the championship in the first division. In 1991, the Lyon team qualified for the UEFA Cup.

► 2002: first title

With the club’s finances cleaned up, Jean-Michel Aulas is committed to making Lyon a reference in terms of management and is developing its training center, from which several international players will emerge, such as Hatem Ben Arfa, Sidney Govou, Karim Benzem, etc.

An investment from Pathé then allowed him to generate more profits, which he used to recruit star striker Sonny Anderson. The Lyon club won the title of champion of France in 2002, the first of a long series.

► Until 2008: the golden age

For seven years, OL reigned supreme over French football. Thanks to a solid squad made up of players such as Juninho, Cris, Éric Abidal, Florent Malouda, Sylvain Wiltord and Grégory Coupet, Lyon does not leave a crumb to its opponents. Les Gones have won seven consecutive titles, a record that even the Qatari version of PSG has failed to match. Jean-Michel Aulas does not however manage to cross the European course: Lyon never exceeds the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

► 2011: consecration for the women’s team

After the 2007-2008 season, several regular players left the club, like Juninho and Karim Benzema. The following season marked the beginning of OL’s decline: Lyon ended the 2008-2009 financial year without any title added to the list, a first for almost ten years. Without being bad, the following seasons saw the Rhone club regularly stagnate at the foot of the podium. Only ray of sunshine, a qualification in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2010, after eliminating Real Madrid.

However, the club president finds success through the women’s team. Created in 2004, the success of the Lyon team owes a lot to Jean-Michel Aulas. “Initially, it was not a financial investment. It was more of a social investment.”, he says today. In 2011, his team managed to climb to the top of Europe by lifting the Champions League trophy. Since then, the Lyonnaises have won the trophy on seven other occasions.

► 2022: Takeover by the American John Textor

In 2022, the club is bought by American billionaire John Textor, who has already invested in several football teams in Brazil, England and Belgium. The objective of the latter is to invest more in Olympique Lyonnais to attract better players on the transfer market, thus putting an end to the strategy employed for several years by betting on the training center. Once the sale has taken place, Jean-Michel Aulas should remain at the head of OL for another three years, before finally handing over control.


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