Champions League: Lyon returns empty-handed with prospect of losing key players

The French club finished seventh in Ligue 1 in 2019-20, thereby missing out on the Europa League as well for the next season.

Lyon’s Houssem Aouar dribbles ahead of Thiago during the Champions League contest on Wednesday night. The midfielder but may not be around for Lyon next season.   -  REUTERS

Had Olympique Lyonnais’ Memphis Depay and Karl Toko Ekambi found the back of the net in the opening 16 minutes against Bayern Munich on Wednesday, the Champions League may have had its first ever all-French final.

Instead, Paris St Germain will now face the German champion while Lyon returns home empty-handed and without the opportunity of righting those wrongs next season after it failed to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition.

Ligue 1 was the only top-flight league from the ‘Big Five’ to prematurely end its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Lyon in seventh place on a points-per-game basis - thereby missing out on the Europa League as well.

 

The 3-0 scoreline flatters Bayern as Lyon had its chances but playing in only its second semifinal on the big stage, its inexperience cost it dearly while its German opponent was clinical thanks to a Serge Gnabry masterclass.

Departures

Lyon’s players have learned a valuable lesson but whether they will be around next season to put those into practice for the French club remains doubtful with certain performances catching the eye of bigger European sides. Midfielder Houssem Aouar was one of the standout performers for Lyon in this campaign but he may have played his last game for the club with French media reporting Arsenal is interested in signing the talented 22-year-old.

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Lyon’s top scorer Moussa Dembele, who scored 24 goals this season, may move on, too, with Lyon sporting director Juninho not mincing his words when talking about their futures.

“There will be departures but I’m not worried,” Juninho said. “When you have players who play very well in a competition like this, like Moussa and Houssem... We will have to show the same spirit to be back in the Champions League next season. The aim now is to continue working immediately with Ligue 1... We will have to work. If we continue like this, we will be back in this competition.”

Lyon's coach Rudi Garcia gestures from the sidelines during Wednesday's Champions League contest. - AP

 

Lyon has no time to dwell on the loss with Ligue 1 restarting its season this weekend.

Rudi Garcia’s side plays its first match next week and the Frenchman is aware the semifinal exit may have taken a mental toll on the players. “We have some psychological work to do with the players to quickly refocus on the league because we can’t afford a bad start,” Garcia said, adding that the futures of key players was not in his hands but the club president Jean-Michel Aulas.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen... But when we look at the team, I didn’t have to make it to the Champions League semifinals to know how good my players are.”

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