The American owner of Lyon, John Textor’s Eagle Football Group, is planning a considerable overhaul of the Ligue 1 club’s sporting structure, to occur in the coming weeks, according to L’Équipe.
Textor has been thinking for several weeks about a major restructure within the club. The club’s elimination on Wednesday vs Nantes in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France will likely accelerate his intended restructure, which historic president Jean-Michel Aulas may be forced to accept.
Since December 19th, OL has belonged to the American group Eagle Football, run by John Textor. It’s a profound change in the history of this club, but no one has yet felt the impact, as it has so far been business as usual at Lyon. Same board, same sporting staff and almost the same players: the future seemed to be written under the seal of continuity.
But Textor is not a distant and disinterested owner, despite some fans being worried about the silence and the inaction of the American businessman. From his residences in Miami or Rio de Janeiro, he has been observing the management of his flagship club. And for the past few weeks, his observations have turned into convictions: Textor feels that he has identified the problems, and he has decided to initiate significant changes on the sporting structure side.
In this intended restructure, Textor and his associates will have to deal with Jean-Michel Aulas. The Lyon president, who signed a three-year governance contract when the club was sold, remains convinced that he can continue to decide OL’s sports policy, as has been the case for 35 years.
When asked if Eagle do not have the same opinion on a sporting issue as him, Aulas explained to Le Monde recently: “Anything is possible, but at that point, you’d have to go through the legal aspects associated with their takeover with guarantees that have been given to the seller. But I have no concern, no worries, about my relationship with John.”
The two men speak very regularly, without always having the same opinions, and certain members of their respective entourages evoke a few moments of friction, without a real blow-up:
“I read things, everyone thinks they know the truth. But I have no doubt today about being the key figure in OL’s strategy over the next three years.”
Aulas’ relationship with Eagle will, however, depend on his ability to accept the restriction of his sporting power quite considerably in the coming months. Wherever he took control prior to Lyon, Textor made on the spot decision: he fired the coach and the Sporting Director in Botafogo (Brazil), before restructuring the recruitment department. In Molenbeek (Belgium), he acted in the same way by removing the Sporting Director, before hiring three scouts and analysts: significant upheavals for such a small club.
“So it’s ridiculous to think he’s going to sit idly by and do nothing in his larger club,” a lawyer close to Eagle said. The American group does not wish to remain passive and has a fairly precise idea of the organisation chart to be put in place. It would revolve around a technical director overseeing the entire football portion of the club. This person would be helped in this by a Chief Scout supervising a reinforced department of at least three scouts and data specialists, in order to modernise the club. A sporting coordinator could complete the structure, who would sit between the coach and the Sporting Director.
The Americans want to install their own men, starting with the Technical Director, and this should cost Bruno Cheyrou, current Head of Recruitment, his job. This will cause issues, as Aulas had announced that Cheyrou would be the future Sporting Director 2 months ago in the same Le Monde interview.
Would the president agree to no longer work with his protege, if Textor asked him to? “No. If they come and impose things on me about the sports structure, there is little chance that I will accept it.” The next Eagle board meeting, which Jean Michel Aulas will participate in and will take place in Lyon, on April 23rd, and is likely to be intense…
The owners know that if they want to dismiss the historic president before the end of his contract, they will have to pay €10m in compensation, as revealed by L’Équipe this winter. “But we realise that this is a real crisis and we will not accept old answers to very current problems,” affirms an adviser to a member of the Eagle board.
To improve the club’s results, the Americans have already looked at a few profiles. Among them, there is Frenchman Geoffrey Moncada, who is currently the chief scout at AC Milan. Iain Moody, who is currently an advisor to Ineos and who as a friends with Textor, as well as being a consultant for Crystal Palace, where Eagle owns 46% of the capital, is also a name being discussed.
James Thorpe | GFFN