View from Lyons: French press hails revolution as clubs finally challenge elite

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The Independent Online

"La France qui monte" (France is on the up) proclaimed the nation's leading football magazine, France Football, yesterday, capturing the heady view in the country that, on recent evidence, its clubs are capable of overcoming all that the rest of Europe has to throw at them. Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Zurich were defeated two weeks ago by Lyons, Bordeaux and Marseilles respectively and the same clubs are up against the French again this week in the Champions League.

But no city is salivating over the prospect of another kill more than Lyons. Their team's nickname might be Les Gones (The Kids) but they have moved on from their traditional route of developing youngsters, such as Karim Benzema, Florent Malouda and Michael Essien, and selling them on for a profit. This summer they bought bigger than ever to bring Lisandro Lopez, the Argentine striker, from Porto for €24m (£21m), and they have settled on the idea that pragmatism is as essential as Gallic flair if they are to succeed beyond French shores, where they have dominated for much of the past decade.

France Football also yesterday identified a player from each of the French Champions League sides who make up for in work what they might lack in flair. Lyons' is Jérémy Toulalan, a player not born with "la cuillère d'argent dans la bouche" (a silver spoon in his mouth). His switch from midfield to deputise in central defence where Lyons are as injury-ravaged as Liverpool – Jean-Alain Boumsong, Mathieu Bodmer and Cléber Anderson are all missing – is not ideal for manager Claude Puel but he certainly kept the Premier League side quiet at Anfield.

Lyons started the season with six victories and two draws in Ligue 1 and two victories in the Champions League. Three early goals from €15m acquisition Bafétimbi Gomis proved the value of spending.

Since then, though, they have hit a plateau. They only narrowly beat neighbours Saint Etienne on Saturday and were defeated 4-1 at Nice before that. They have also stripped Sidney Govou of the captaincy after a drunken night at the Lyons Grand Prix tennis tournament last week – the Brazilian defender Cris now has the armband.

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