Tension at the Tail-end – The Crazy Conclusion to the 2001/02 European Football Season
The European football season is long and hard. Away days in December in freezing cold temperatures, Saturday midday kick-offs away at stadiums with notoriously intimidating atmospheres, home derby matches against a well-matched opponent and finally the delight or despair of your side scoring or conceding a last-minute decisive goal. All emotions are experienced and lived by all clubs’ supporters throughout nine long months of action.
Despite the glamour of winning the modern-day Champions League, winning your own country’s domestic title is the toughest ultimate challenge.
A title win is the measure of a truly great side, it tests the ability & mental strength of players and coaches in adversity throughout a bad run of form or holding their nerve when being chased down at the top of the standings by a relentless opponent.
In August 2004, the late Brian Clough when honouring Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal on their breaking of Nottingham Forest’s 42 league match unbeaten run in the English top division set under Clough’s management acknowledged league success over cup competition success with the following quote. “I admire myself for the 42 undefeated games much more than the European Cup.”
May is always when the prizes are handed out at the end of a long and gruelling campaign. The final few weeks always see tension at the tail-end. Opponents that should be easily swept aside on paper en-route to lifting the championship trophy become a title-challenging team’s hardest season-long adversaries in an instant.
The 2001/02 season in the Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 encapsulated the aforementioned tension perfectly. As European football now takes its summer break, we now take a trip down memory lane twenty years ago to arguably the finest end-of-season finale across Europe’s major leagues.
Italian Serie A: Nerazzurri Unite an Entire Stadium of Supporters Behind Them, Yet Crash & Burn in Classical Pazza Inter Style
Going into the 2001/02 season, Italy’s Serie A and its traditional “Big Three” of Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan had been truly knocked off their perch at the head of Italian football by Roman giants SS Lazio and AS Roma.
Lazio in 1999/00 under the stewardship of Swedish manager Sven Goran Eriksson and Roma under Fabio Capello the following season ensured that Italian football’s most prized possession, the Serie A trophy remained under capital control. The 2001/02 Serie A campaign was one where for whom the winners could take home a unique triumph, given it was the 100th season of top division football in Italy.
One side optimistic ahead of the new campaign were Inter. Nerazzurri went into the season looking to snap a 13-year title drought, with their last Scudetto triumph coming in 1988/89 under the management of the legendary Giovanni Trappatoni.
As the 1990’s arrived, Serie A became the place to be for all elite footballers as the league cemented its place as the world’s best. There was even a phrase “Seven Sisters” used to highlight seven teams (Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Roma, Lazio, Fiorentina and Parma), who at the start of every season targeted a Scudetto victory.
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Despite their status as one of the so-called “Seven Sisters” it’s fair to classify Inter in the 1990’s as rather crazy. Between 1989/90 and 1999/00, Neazzurri recorded final Serie A classifications as varied as 2nd in 1992/93 & 1997/98, 8th in both 1991/92 & 1998/99 and even a staggering 13th in 1993/94, the club’s lowest ever finish.
In 1993/94, Inter were just one point away from 15th placed Reggina, a position which would have meant a first-ever relegation from Italy’s top flight. The 1993/94 season also played on the crazy narrative at Inter perfectly as they won the 1993/94 UEFA Cup/Europa League, their European form making a mockery of their awful domestic results.
The aforementioned Trappatoni’s departure from the managerial position at Inter ahead of the 1991/92 season also started a period at the club of great managerial instability. Between the start of this campaign and the beginning of the 2001/02 season, there were 14 managerial changes at Inter, including two spells in charge for Luis Suarez, Roy Hodgson and Luciano Castellini.
However, even with these managerial changes galore and a lack of a Serie A title, Inter still racked up three UEFA Cup/Europa League titles in 1990/91, 1993/94 and 1997/98. This crazy era at Inter, inspired the creation of the famous club song, “Pazza Inter” or “Crazy Inter”, which was released at the start of the 2003/04 season after being recorded by Inter’s own players.
Despite the crazy 1990’s, the summer of 2001 saw the arrival of Hector Cuper as new Inter manager. Cuper was one of world football’s most sought-after coaches that summer. The Argentine first shot to the attention of audiences after being hired as manager of Real Mallorca of La Liga four years earlier.
Cuper’s two seasons at Mallorca were majestic, a 5th place finish with the modest Balearic Island outfit and finishing runners up in the Copa del Rey in 1997/98 was followed by a 3rd place finish in the 1998/99 La Liga combined with finishing as runners-up in the final edition of the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
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His work at Mallorca caught the eye of Valencia who hired the Argentine for 1999/00. In Cuper’s first season, he led Los Che to a 3rd placed La Liga finish and the Champions League final, which Valencia lost 3-0 to Real Madrid. 2000/01 saw a drop down to 5th in La Liga, however, Valencia reached their second Champions League final in a row, this time losing on penalties to Bayern Munich after a 1-1 draw after extra time.
By now, despite the lack of trophies, Cuper was seen as an elite-level coach in the making, his results over the past four seasons had won him admirers across Europe and it was seen as only a matter of time before trophies would arrive. Everyone of a Neazzurri allegiance was hoping it would be at Inter where the trophies would flow and Cuper would be the coach to lead Inter back to glory.
The Nerazzurri made some statement moves in the transfer market to give Cuper the tools to craft a first Scudetto triumph in 13 years. In came goalkeeper Francesco Toldo from Fiorentina, right winger Sergio Conceicao from Parma, striker Mohamed Kallon from Vicenza, central midfielders Cristiano Zanetti & Emre Belozoglu from Roma & Galatasaray respectively and finally central defender Marco Materazzi from Perugia. A combined EUR 80 million was spent on these signings as chairman Massimo Moratti backed his new manager financially.
A 4-1 home victory over Perugia on the opening day of the campaign at San Siro set the Cuper era off to a successful start. Inter reached the top of Serie A after a 1-0 home victory over Bologna courtesy of a Giorgios Georgatos goal at the end of Matchday Five.
It proved to be the first of fifteen matchday conclusions that Neazzurri would spend at the top of Serie A, more than any other team that campaign. A campaign which quickly developed into a three-way title fight between Inter, defending champions Roma and Juventus.
It had looked like Inter were on for a double triumph heading into early-April as they lead Serie A. Predictably though, that moment in a campaign when Crazy Inter syndrome strikes looked set to happen once again as in the space of 11 days, Inter lost over two legs of their UEFA Cup/Europa League semi-final 3-2 on aggregate to eventual winners Feyenoord.
In-between this cup defeat came a damaging 2-1 home loss against Atalanta. A result which allowed both Roma and Juventus to close the gap at the top to just two & three points respectively. However, rather than letting their crazy side take them over, Inter rallied, two victories in their next three matches against Brescia and Piacenza saw Inter go into the final matchday top of the league.
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Therefore, the scene was set for Cuper and Inter to end 13 years of hurt. Going into Matchday 34, Inter led the table on 69 points, Juventus being 2nd with 68 points and Roma being in 3rd on 67 points. A three-way title shootout which Inter had in their own hands.
So long as they defeated Lazio at Stadio Olimpico, they would be champions irrespective of results elsewhere in Juventus & Roma’s matches against Udinese and Torino respectively. The interesting subplot prior to Inter’s final game is that their opponents Lazio were fierce rivals of Roma, who still had a chance of winning the title, something Laziale would not want to see.
In addition, Lazio ultras had long-shared a friendship with Inter’s ultras and like Inter, a fierce dislike of Juventus, who were also going for the title on the final day. It was no secret pre-kick off that many home Lazio supporters inside the Stadio Olimpico that Sunday afternoon in May were openly cheering on Inter. Surely Inter were not going to blow the championship? What followed was one of the most remarkable finishes to a Serie A season.
After a confident start to the game, Inter took the lead on 12 minutes. A corner was whipped in which Lazio goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi fumbled and couldn’t hold, the ball dropped right into the patch of Cristian Vieri and the Italian international striker stabbed home from short distance.
On 20 minutes, against the run of play, Lazio equalised, Dejan Stankovic played a ball through to the left flank, which was picked up by Stefano Fiore who cut it back across the box and Karel Poborsky ghosted into the box between three Inter defenders to hammer the ball home.
Just four minutes later though, Inter who had not panicked after conceding an equaliser took the lead again from a corner whipped into the box from Alvaro Recoba, defensive midfielder Luigi di Biagio connected with the ball in a near-post glancing header to beat Peruzzi in Lazio’s goal.
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Just a minute before half time came a Lazio equaliser. Stankovic played a floated cross into the penalty box, Inter’s central defender Ivan Cordoba made a scuffed headed clearance which was dropping into the pathway of Inter’s left fullback Vratislav Gresko.
The Slovak chested it back way too short for goalkeeper Francesco Toldo to gather and in came Porborsky once again showing great anticipation to stab the ball home. On 56 minutes came what many believed a killer blow for Inter, a Lazio free kick from the right side was whipped into the box and Diego Simeone, once of Inter of course headed home with Toldo rooted to the spot.
At 3-2, Lazio were not done, the 70th minute saw Lazio’s Brazilian left winger, Cesar, a second half substitute display excellent footwork to beat Inter right back Javier Zanetti before whipping in a cross for Simone Inzaghi, ironically now Inter’s manager to head past Toldo and make it 4-2, which is how the match concluded.
Whilst many Lazio fans in the stands on Sunday 5th May 2002 at the Stadio Olimpico were rooting for the opposing Inter players, to the credit of Lazio’s players, all of them played professionally throughout. There was a reason for this, given Lazio were involved in a remarkable four-way fight on the final day of the Serie A season for 4th place and Champions League qualification for 2002/03 with AC Milan, Bologna and Chievo Verona.
Lazio with their victory on final day eventually finished 6th, qualifying only for the UEFA Cup/Europa League. Nonetheless, irrespective of this permutation, this was still a team containing quality players such as Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta, Fernando Couto, Diego Simeone, Stefano Fiore, Dejan Stankovic and Simone Inzaghi.
Even despite conceding the first equaliser, it must be stressed that Inter had not played with nerves throughout the first half. However, the cliché “goals change games” was never truer when Poborsky equalised for Lazio a second time just before half time by pouncing on Gresko’s dreadful misjudgement. From that moment, Inter tightened up, got tense and never recovered.
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Lazio dominated after the break. The eerie silence both in the stands and on the pitch when Simeone, who refused to celebrate against his former club scored Lazio’s third goal was noteworthy. It was the Argentine’s final act in a Lazio shirt as he left to re-sign for past employers Atletico de Madrid that summer.
This shock loss left Inter in need of a favour from both Udinese against Juventus and Torino against Roma to capture the title. Neither came, Roma defeated Torino 1-0 whereas Juventus scored two early first half goals courtesy of David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero to win 2-0 in Udine and take the title.
Inter, at the end of a drama-packed final day, only ended up finishing 3rd. Gresko’s dreadful error had repercussions for the rest of his career which went on a gradual decline afterwards following short unsuccessful spells at Parma and Blackburn Rovers in future seasons.
This choke on the final day also saw Cuper given the title “Mr Second Place” by many media outlets. A title sadly reinforced the following season when Inter finished 2nd in Serie A behind Juventus once again and lost in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League to AC Milan on the away goals rule.
German Bundesliga: Three Years on From Manchester United’s 1999 Treble Triumph, Bayer 04 Leverkusen Experience a Treble Horror
The final day drama was not just consigned to Italy in 2001/02, Germany also got in on the act and just like in Serie A, the final matchday of the German Bundesliga that season saw a three-way fight for the championship.
The main focus in Germany’s title race is not necessarily just the result which happened on the final day like in Italy, however, it focuses as a collective on one of the teams involved in the title fight, Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Die Werkself (The Company’s Eleven) as they are commonly known as first won promotion to the 1. Bundesliga in time for the 1979/80 season and they have remained in the top flight of German football ever since.
Leverkusen’s current unbroken 1. Bundesliga 42-year streak is the 3rd longest amongst current 1. Bundesliga teams with only Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich having been 1. Bundesliga clubs longer.
They first made headlines in the 1987/88 season when they won the UEFA Cup/Europa League defeating Espanyol in the final, which was then a two-legged affair. In 1992/93, the club won its first and so-far only German DFB Pokal domestic cup.
The victory was achieved in unusual fashion courtesy of a 1-0 victory against Hertha BSC Berlin’s reserve side in the final at a time when reserve sides were allowed to enter Germany’s domestic cup competition. Ulf Kirsten scored the winner against Hertha’s reserve side, who that day had future Leverkusen hero Carsten Ramelow playing for them.
In 1996/97 under the management of Christoph Daum, Leverkusen emerged as a serious Bundesliga title threat with a second-placed finish behind Bayern Munich. They repeated this feat in 1998/99, again, finishing as runners-up to Bayern.
A third Bundesliga runners-up finish was achieved the following season in 1999/00, however, this third runners-up placing of the Daum era proved the difficult one for Leverkusen fans to accept.
Going into the final day of the season, Leverkusen needed only a point away against SpVgg Unterhaching to claim a first-ever Bundesliga title. However, Leverkusen lost 2-0 and Bayern, yes you guessed it, who else, won 3-1 on the final day to pip Werkself to the title on goal difference.
Come the start of the 2001/02 season, Leverkusen had a new manager in charge in Klaus Toppmoller and a squad capable of going for a first ever German title. Amongst the roster’s most famous names included goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt, defenders Lucio, Jens Nowotny & Diego Placente, midfielders Michael Ballack, Ze Roberto, Carsten Ramelow, Yildiray Basturk & Bernd Schneider and attackers Ulf Kirsten, Olivier Neuville & Dimitar Berbatov.
After a 1-1 away draw against Hamburg on Matchday 31, Leverkusen sat atop of the Bundesliga standings with 66 points, five clear of 2nd placed Borussia Dortmund and seven clear of 3rd placed Bayern Munich with just three games left to play. Surely this was Leverkusen’s championship?
On the final day of the season at a full-to-capacity BayArena, Leverkusen squared off against Hertha BSC. 10 minutes into the contest, Bayer had the lead courtesy of a Michael Ballack free-kick. On 51 minutes, Bayer doubled their lead courtesy of Ballack once again.
Stefan Beinlich grabbed a late consolation goal for Hertha, yet the final whistle went and Werkself had the 2-1 victory. Victory on the final day for a title-chasing side, surely that should have meant celebrations on the pitch followed by a trophy presentation?
In reality, however, there was no such event, on that very same final day, a 74th minute Ewerthon goal for Dortmund sealed a 2-1 home win against Werder Bremen for Schwarzgelben and with it a 3rd German Bundesliga triumph for Matthias Sammer’s team.
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Yes, Leverkusen had gone from a five-point advantage with three games remaining to losing the title by a solitary point on the final game of the season. The costly results for Leverkusen were from the games sandwiched in-between the aforementioned 1-1 draw against Hamburg and the final day victory against Hertha.
On Matchday 32, Bayer took on Werder Bremen at home knowing a win would put them in a position to all but seal the title. However, Werkself got a shock on 5 minutes when Bremen’s Krisztian Lisztes hit a long range shot straight into the top right corner of Leverkusen’s goal.
Trailing 1-0, Leverkusen rallied before half time equalising courtesy of Ze Roberto on 31 minutes. Then on minute 40, came arguably the decisive moment of the entire Bundesliga title race in 2001/02, Ballack was fouled in the penalty box and Leverkusen were awarded a penalty kick.
The penalty taker for Leverkusen was none other than the aforementioned keeper Hans-Jorg Butt who had scored 21 of his last 23 penalties for Bayer. However, this time he hit a tame, low-powered shot just to the right of Bremen keeper Frank Rost who saved easily. Momentum swung, on 61 minutes, Brazilian centre forward Ailton scored to give Bremen a 2-1 lead which they would not relinquish.
This result coupled with an 89th minute winner for Borussia Dortmund against Koln cut Leverkusen’s lead down to two points going into their penultimate Matchday 33 away trip to 1 FC Nurnberg. Leverkusen’s Bavarian opponents were fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Bundesliga and they dealt another blow to Werkself’s title chances by winning the match 1-0 courtesy of a Marek Nikl headed goal.
Dortmund sensed blood and made the most of Leverkusen’s slip up by winning 4-3 away at Hamburg thanks to goals from Marcio Amoruso, Tomas Rosicky and Jan Koller. These results meant that Dortmund had a one-point lead over Leverkusen going into the final matchday and thus the title race in their own hands.
A variety of reasons were given for Leverkusen’s collapse late in the 2001/02 season. Such examples include the psychological trauma of missing out on the title on the final day in 1999/00, their squad feeling tired after a gruelling campaign fighting for three trophies and the costly losses against Bremen and Nurnberg being sandwiched in-between a tight Champions League semi final against Manchester United, which Leverkusen won on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate score.
However, if losing the title from such a strong position was bad enough, worse was to follow, Werkself then went on to lose the 2002 DFB Pokal final 4-2 to Schalke 04 and then four days after that, the UEFA Champions League final 2-1 to Real Madrid at Hampden Park, Glasgow.
This late-season collapse, which is still commonly referred to in Germany even today as the “Treble Horror” led Leverkusen to be cruelly dubbed “Neverkusen” by English-language media. However, the nickname “Vizekusen” which translated into English reads “Second-placed Kusen” is more commonly used as a nickname in Germany.
The 2001/02 Bayer Leverkusen side take the definition “Almost Famous” when describing a good-nearly team in sport to a whole new level. Sadly, Leverkusen have never come close to repeating the near-treble feat of this campaign ever since.
French Ligue 1: A Final Day Title Decider, a New Dynasty and the Start of a Still to Be Surpassed Consecutive Run of League Titles in France
The final matchday in European football in the 2001/02 season had seen more than its fair share of drama in both Italy and Germany as aforementioned, however, the script continued to be written in a third league this campaign, that championship being France’s Ligue 1.
Founded in 1932, Ligue 1, France’s highest professional football league was amongst Europe’s “Big Five” leagues the second youngest to begin play in a round-robin format. By contrast, the English First Division which morphed into the Premier League commenced play in a round-robin format in 1888/89.
At the start of the millennium, in football terms the 2000/01 season, in such a contrast to today’s domination by Paris Saint-Germain, France’s richest club, Ligue 1 was one of the most unpredictable leagues in the entirety of European football when it came to producing most different winners.
Between its first round-robin championship in 1932/33 and the 2000/01 season, Ligue 1 produced fifteen different league winners. Compare and contrast this number of different winners up until 2000/01 that Germany (nine), Spain (nine) and Italy (eleven) had produced in a round-robin league format.
Only England, helped by the fact their championship had started much earlier had produced more different league champions in a round-robin format amongst Europe’s big five leagues, with 23 different winners at that point.
Come the start of the 2001/02 Ligue 1 season, one club yet to win a round-robin format league championship in France was Olympique de Lyonnais, more commonly known as “Lyon” or “OL”.
The origins of the modern club Olympique Lyonnais came when the city of Lyon was represented in the sport of football in 1896 courtesy of Lyon Olympique Universitaire (LOU), a multi-sports club which still has a thriving rugby union club that currently plays in the Top 14, France’s highest-level rugby union championship.
Post-World War Two, Lyon Olympique Universitaire were reportedly beginning to experience difficulties regarding the co-existence of professionals and amateurs within the multi-sport club.
Felix Louot, manager of the football branch of LOU at this time had plans to form their own professional football club separate of LOU and in August 1950, succeeded in this aim with the foundation of the modern-day Olympique Lyonnais.
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Going into the 2001/02 Ligue 1 season, Lyon had won every trophy possible to win in French football (Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, Trophee des Champions) with the exception of the big one, the Ligue 1 title.
The closest Lyon had come to a Ligue 1 title was finishing runners-up to Nantes in the 1994/95 season and another second-place finish in 2000/01, with once again, Nantes, their old nemesis from six seasons earlier denying Les Gones a title.
Coming off back-to-back third-placed finishes in 1998/99 & 1999/00 in addition to the aforementioned 2nd place finish in 2000/01, Lyon went into the 2001/02 campaign seeking a first French Ligue 1 title.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas backed then manager Jacques Santini with nearly EUR 30 million of summer signings which included midfielder Eric Carriere, strikers Frederic Nee & Peguy Luyindula and Brazilian central defender Claudio Cacapa.
These new recruits reinforced an already strong squad which contained goalkeeper Gregory Coupet, Brazilian trio Sonny Anderson, Juninho Pernambucano & Edmilson, Swiss central defender Partick Muller and homegrown attacking academy product Sidney Govou.
Highlights of Les Gones’ campaign included a memorable 4-0 home victory over Olympique de Marseille in the Choc des Olympiques rivalry and a 3-0 home victory over Paris St Germain on Matchdays 22 and 26 respectively.
After a narrow 1-0 away victory on the penultimate Matchday 33 of the campaign against Girondins de Bordeaux, Lyon headed into their final match of the season in 2nd place with 63 points. Their final game of the season saw them face off against league leaders RC Lens at their home Stade Gerland stadium.
A classic first vs second championship decider against an opponent going for only their second-ever championship having narrowly beat Metz to the 1997/98 Ligue 1 title. 39,691 spectators packed out Lyon’s Stade Gerland for the championship title decider creating a feverish & passionate atmosphere.
Immediately from kick-off, Lyon, with the title in their own hands and roared on by their home crowd get stuck into Lens. The first ten minutes of the match see the Northern French visitors mercilessly penned in their own penalty box due to Lyon’s attacking play and out-of-possession pressing.
It was to no-one surprise that Lyon on 7 minutes took the lead, combination play between Jeremie Brechet and David Linares saw the ball eventually played into Sidney Govou. The attacker after rolling his marking defender with good footwork embarked on a long dribbling run and blasted a shot into the bottom corner of goalkeeper Guillaume Warmuz’s net.
Lyon’s domination didn’t subside and on 14 minutes, Les Gones doubled their lead. Combination play between Govou and fellow forward Sonny Anderson saw the ball played out to Lyon’s left flank where left winger Pierre Laigle sent in a cross to the back post where central midfielder Phillipe Violeau smashed home a shot which beat Warmuz at his near post.
If the first 15 minutes of the contest were a strictly Lyon controlled affair, Lens finally got into the game two goals down and between minutes 16 and 30 were firmly on top.
This strong riposte from the visitors yielded a positive result when on 27 minutes, a Lens free kick was swung into the Lyon penalty area was headed down by defender Ferdinand Coly to the edge of the penalty box where fellow Lens defender Jacek Bak smashed a low drive past Gregory Coupet in the Lyon goal.
It must be stressed that despite being beaten by Bak’s powerful low drive, Coupet made several key saves between the 16th and 30th minute of the match to preserve Lyon’s lead. If both sides had their dominant periods in the first half an hour of the game, the next 15 minutes saw the contest decent into a midfield tactical battle with few chances before half time. At the break, the title race was delicately poised and an equalising goal was all Lens needed to put themselves back in the driving seat.
Early in the second half though came the decisive intervention, Lyon’s brilliant Brazilian midfielder Juninho embarked on a superb dribbling run in midfield, before spotting Pierre Laigle free on the left flank, the pass was released into the space, Laigle’s shot then took a deflection off a Lens defender, looped over the head of Warmuz to restore Lyon’s two-goal lead and all but seal Les Gones’ first ever French title.
Whilst Laigle’s goal gets credit, at the other end just minutes earlier, the aforementioned Jeremie Brechet had stopped a certain Lens equaliser with a brilliant defensive intervention. Upon the final whistle, scenes of jubilation ensued as Lyon players and coaching staff poured onto the Gerland’s pitch, a new champion of France was crowned.
Little did anyone know at that time that this was the start point for French football’s longest consecutive title-winning streak. The title of Emma Bunton’s famous song “What Took You So Long?” was very applicable to Lyon, having gone 52 years without a Ligue 1 title, Les Gones then won seven in a row between 2001/02 and 2007/08.
Lyon continued to lose players to wealthier clubs abroad in Spain, Italy and England over this period of dominance. Yet the club was superbly run by chairman Aulas and good recruitment of both playing & coaching staff to replace departing stars & managers ensued Lyon continued winning whilst also proving competitive in the Champions League over many years.
So many famous names donned Lyon’s colours during this golden era also enjoyed superb careers overseas, examples including the aforementioned Juninho & Coupet, Mahamadou Diarra, Edmilson, Eric Abidal, Florent Malouda, Michael Essien, Frederico Chaves Guedes (Fred), Jeremy Toulalan and Cristiano Marques Gomes (Cris).
Paris Saint-Germain are the modern-day dominant French footballing force in the 21st century. However, they were not the first dominant force post-millennium, that honour went to Olympique Lyonnais and the teams they churned out in the 2000’s. Lyon, France’s second city, for so many years better known as the birthplace of modern cinema finally had a sports team adored by many across France and Europe.
By: Richard David Pike / @RichDPike89
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Neal Simpson – EMPICS / PA Images