Soccer has been so much about acquiring and developing the perfect squad: A invincible defense and a dynamic and deadly offense. But in our current age of soccer, the best way to do that? Money. You have a weakness somewhere on the pitch? You buy a player that can fill that gap. However, not every club can afford to spend extravagant amounts of money to buy that star winger like Arsenal did with Alexis Sanchez or a playmaker like Chelsea did with Fabregas. Sometimes, you have to look within your own system to really get that going.
Barcelona comes to mind. With La Masia around, they’ve been able to bring up players like Iniesta, Messi, Xavi, and the likes up to command and be in the top ranks of La Liga and Europe. But as of recent, they’ve went with the “pay big to win” route, acquiring the likes of Neymar, Luis Suarez, and Rakitic to combine with Messi and paying a hefty amount for them.
So it brings up the topic of this post… Why should you be following Olympique Lyonnais?
In a time where we’re so much focused on buying players to meet the immediate needs for clubs and be able to be successful in the top five European leagues, Olympique Lyonnais (or better known as either Les Gones or l’OL) has been a breath of fresh air. It was in a game last season that eight of the players of starting eleven that played came up from the youth ranks. It definitely requires patience (see the first four games of this past season, their elimination from Europa League qualifying to a small Romanian team, and their struggles in UCL this season). However, they finished second in Ligue 1 and secured themselves a place in the Champions League group stage.
It all started with their focus on their academy and developing their youth. Without a management that’s willing to be patient with the process, this wouldn’t be possible. A great article from Andy Brassell covers Jean-Michel Aulas’s vision and changes to the entire structure illustrates why Lyon needed to rely on their youth. With the desire to build a new state-of-the-art 60,000 capacity stadium, they couldn’t afford to maintain high salary profiles or be spending year after year. As a result, it required that they focus on bring up youth into the senior squad over time. Now they’re reaping the rewards of it.
But what’s more important is as a whole for the country. While England struggles to bring up youth for their senior national squad, France have players that they can rely on in the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Corentin Tolisso, Nabil Fekir, and Maxime Gonalons, all products of their system. It’s a formula for success that teams across the world should be looking at, for the sake of their club’s financial health, but also to help with supplying the national team’s future stars.
Lyon hasn’t been under the radar with their progress and development. People have taken notice and have noted as to how teams can take on their approach for healthy growth for their respective clubs. Here’s some great articles to take a look at:
It’s not to say that clubs shouldn’t spend money (Lyon spent €5.5 million for Claudio Beauvue, €12 million for Serge Darder this offseason). But ultimately, to have a team like this win a major trophy through primarily off their youth would be great for the game. It’ll give clubs that don’t have that kind of payroll a model to work off of and be able to work their way up the ranks to the top of the table in their respective leagues.
Lyon remains competitive in Ligue 1 this season, as they are in second place behind major spending club Paris Saint-Germain. They continue to be thrifty on their spending compared to most clubs out there. But as 2016 comes around, their youth will come into their new stadium and bring home new silverware and celebrate with the fans that have been loyal throughout this process. Keep an eye out for these kids, or even better, root for their continued success.