Olympique Lyonnais fans

All you need to know: Olympique Lyonnais

Publish on 05/02/2020 at 09h35 - I. HOLYMAN


Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette and Samuel Umtiti are among Olympique Lyonnais' weighty list of youth academy successes, and they have a silverware-stacked trophy cabinet to match — ligue1.com gives you the lowdown on OL.


There has been a football club in Lyon since 1899 when Lyon olympique — initially a rugby club — added a round ball XI to their oval ball XV. The pair split acrimoniously in 1950, and Olympique Lyonnais, or OL for short, was born. 


The start was inauspicious: they were relegated in their first season, but a decade later — largely thanks to the goals of star centre-forward Fleury Di Nallo — they finished fifth in Ligue 1 in 1963 and fourth a year later before beating Girondins de Bordeaux in the 1963/64 Coupe de France final to claim the club's first major piece of silverware.


Another Coupe de France followed three years later before the 70s — with Raymond Domenech and Bernard Lacombe (below, left) in the side — saw them finish on the Ligue 1 Conforama podium for the first time. The decade, however, belonged to their arch-rivals and record French champions AS Saint-Étienne, and come the end of the 70s, financial problems were undermining the club.


After 29 seasons, Lyon lost their top-flight place in 1983, a temporary setback which unarguably was a blessing in disguise. The year 1987 is one that saw the beginning of a transformation of OL into a French and European powerhouse. Why? Jean-Michel Aulas (below, right) became club president.


Jean-Michel Aulas, Bernard Lacombe, Olympique Lyonnais


This businessman, who was recommended by then-Marseille president Bernard Tapie, applied the same methods that had made him a commercial success to the football club, and boldly announced he would take Lyon from second division football to European competition within three years.


"We thought he was a little bit mad," then-Lyon player and future coach Bruno Genesio admitted, but Aulas was as good as his word. Though the road was not always smooth, he — assisted by centre-forward-turned-advisor Lacombe — built OL into THE dominant club of the noughties. The Coupe de la Ligue win and their runners-up finish in the league of 2000/01 was the prelude to an unprecedented seven consecutive league titles with successive coaches Jacques Santini, Paul Le Guen, Gérard Houllier and Alain Perrin all steering the club to the Ligue 1 summit.


Corentin Tolisso, Olympique Lyonnais


Significant European success eluded them, despite the likes of Michael Essien, Juninho Pernambucano, Karim Benzema, Eric Abidal and Florent Malouda all starring for OL throughout the decade. They did reach the UEFA Champions League semi-final in 2009/10 under Claude Puel, but by that stage, they were no longer potential title-winners at home.


Financial struggles meant the club's youth academy came to the fore, and boy oh boy did it produce with Alexandre Lacazette, Maxime Gonalons, Samuel Umtiti, Corentin Tolisso (above) and Nabil Fekir the star names among a clutch of bona fide first-teamers to emerge from its ranks to bring OL back into the hunt as regular contenders for a top-three finish.


WATCH: Lyon christen the Groupama Stadium in style


Club colours

The shirt has always been predominantly white with red and blue — the colours of the city of Lyon — incorporated into it, frequently in the shape of a V across the chest. Between the mid-1970s and 1990, the team wore an all-red shirt before white became all the rage again. The club's badge, which features a lion, is inspired by the city's own emblem. 


Club icon: Juninho Pernambucano


When he moved to Lyon from Vasco da Gama in 2001, fans frequently confused him with the 'other' Juninho, who played for Middlesbrough in England. When he left the club in 2009 with seven league winner's medals for company, Juninho had made a name for himself in French and European football.


Juninho Pernambucano, Olympique Lyonnais


One of the main reasons for that was his uncanny ability to score from free-kicks. His unique and highly effective technique in dead-ball situations led to him netting 44 from a total of 100 goals scored for OL, and to say he was central to making the club a heavyweight to be reckoned with is an understatement: he was involved in 40 per cent of Lyon's goals in all competitions during his time at the club.


After an emotional farewell to the club, he played in Qatar, but admitted in November 2009, "I must admit I'm missing Lyon a bit. For the last two or three months I've been asking myself if I shouldn't have had another season". He went on to play for Vasco again and New York Red Bulls before retiring in January 2014, though he did return to Lyon — in summer 2019 — to take on his first-ever sporting director role.


Stadium: Groupama Stadium

Capacity: 59,186


Olympique Lyonnais, Groupama Stadium


OL played at the Stade de Gerland in the south of Lyon from 1926, but the vision and ambition of Aulas led to them moving into a state-of-the-art new home in the eastern suburb of Decines in 2016. The third-largest football stadium in France after the Stade de France and Olympique de Marseille's Stade Vélodrome, the Groupama Stadium — named after its French insurance company sponsor — hosted its first football match on 9 January, 2016, as Lyon beat Troyes 4-1. It also staged six games at UEFA EURO 2016, including the semi-final won 2-0 by eventual champions Portugal against Wales, and both semi-finals and the final of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. 


Famous former players

Eric Abidal (2004-07), Sonny Anderson (1999-2003), Karim Benzema (1997-2009), Serge Chiesa (1969-83), Grégory Coupet (1997-2008), Fleury Di Nallo (1960-74), Michael Essien (2003-05), Nabil Fekir (2011-19), Bafétimbi Gomis (2009-14), Alexandre Lacazette (2010-17), Bernard Lacombe (1969-78), Lisandro Lopez (2009-13), Florent Malouda (2003-07), Juninho Pernambucano (2001-09), Corentin Tolisso (2007-17), Samuel Umtiti (2002-16)


Did you know?

In 2017, Lyon were named third in the list of club's having produced the most players featuring in one of Europe's top five leagues. They were beaten only by Real Madrid and Barcelona.


>> CLUB PROFILE: Olympique Lyonnais