An XI of fantastic players sold by Lyon since 2009: Lacazette, Benzema…

Quick Reads

Olympique Lyonnais haven’t won the Ligue 1 title since 2008, but they’ve still had – and sold – plenty of wonderful players over the past decade.

Whether it’s local players coming through their academy or foreigners who stop off in France on their way to bigger clubs, the Stade de Lyon (or, previously, the Stade Gerland) has often been a great stepping stone.

The glory days of Juninho, Michael Essien et al might be in the past, but we’ve come up with an XI of top talents who once did the business at Lyon and are still tearing it up today.

Hugo Lloris

France’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper has been at Tottenham for what feels like an eternity, but he still had time for more than 100 Ligue 1 games before moving to White Hart Lane.

Grégory Coupet moved to Atlético Madrid in 2008, and Lyon fought off competition from Tottenham to sign Lloris from Nice.

Three years later, though, he was allowed to join Spurs at a small profit, and has never looked back.

Nicolas Nkoulou

Lyon have had a lot of great left-backs – honestly, we were spoilt for choice in that position – but finding a right-back was tougher, which is why we’ve shifted Nkoulou out of position.

The central defender has gone from being a rising star of French football to a solid defensive option, and Lyon took the Cameroonian from Marseille after years of him being linked with Premier League clubs.

Things didn’t work out there, but he’s now part of a Torino squad that came ever so close to gatecrashing the Champions League party under Walter Mazzarri.

Samuel Umtiti

Speaking of left-backs, Umtiti played a few games on the left before moving to his more familiar central role, even scoring a belter against Spurs in the Europa League from that position.

He always felt destined to play in the middle, though, and racked up more than 150 games for L’OL before Barcelona came calling with a €25million bid.

Things have been up and down for Umtiti in Catalunya, with compatriot Clément Lenglet providing stern competition at the back, but he has picked up a World Cup winner’s medal in the interim.

Dejan Lovren

Lyon was the club where Lovren made his big European breakthrough, joining from Dinamo Zagreb at the age of 20 and spending three full seasons in Ligue 1.

Southampton snapped him up in 2013, and one good season on the south coast saw his value double ahead of a move to Liverpool.

The Croatian hasn’t always been the most popular at Anfield, but you can’t knock a man who has been in two Champions League final squads.

Ferland Mendy

There have been other contenders for the left-back spot in the past, such as 50-cap internationals Maciej Rybus and Henri Bedimo, but this is Mendy’s role now.

The 24-year-old only made his senior French debut in 2018, but he was the subject of a huge €48million move to Real Madrid this summer, with a view to succeeding Marcelo for years to come.

Not bad business, seeing as the defender cost just €5million from Le Havre in 2017.

Miralem Pjanić

Bosnian midfielder Pjanić was just 18 when he joined Lyon from Metz in 2008, but he was already in demand back then.

After three seasons and plenty of promise, he moved to Roma and scored plenty of fantastic goals in a five-year spell.

The goals haven’t been as regular at Juventus, but he’s continued to play his part in a Champions League-quality squad.

Tanguy Ndombele

The new Spurs man was in high demand after playing a starring role in a Lyon side full of attacking flair in front of him.

Nbombele originally joined on loan but quickly stepped into the role vacated by Corentin Tolisso after the midfielder moved to Bayern Munich.

International recognition and a permanent move followed, allowing Lyon to make a huge profit on the €8million they paid Amiens for the youngster’s services.

Corentin Tolisso

Tolisso himself fetched a fee of more than €40million in 2017 having helped Lyon reach the Europa League semi-finals, and he shows how Lyon have found top talent in their own academy as well as across Ligue 1.

The midfielder made his senior debut just a few days after his 19th birthday, back in 2013, and ended his time in France with more than 150 games.

He was a relative bit-part player in France’s run to World Cup glory in 2018, with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté ahead of him in the central midfield queue, but he was given a 17-minute run-out in the final.

Anthony Martial

The one that got away, Martial came through the Lyon academy but made just four appearances before heading to Monaco. While the €5million fee wasn’t terrible for an unproven teenager, it would soon be dwarfed by the £44.7million Monaco received from Manchester United.

Martial has had highs and lows at United, playing more than 150 games but stalling under José Mourinho and missing out on the French World Cup squad in 2018.

Still, can you imagine how good he’d look in Lyon’s current set-up, as part of a fluid and pacy front-line?

Karim Benzema

The bridge between Lyon old and new, Benzema broke through in a team containing the likes of John Carew and Sidney Govou but also played with Lloris and Pjanić before joining Real Madrid in 2009.

In a decade in Spain, he has accompanied a similarly varied cast of characters, with Guti and Fernando Gago involved when he made his Champions League bow for Los Blancos.

More than 200 goals and nine double-figure seasons represents a tidy return for Madrid, while Lyon have spent wisely since receiving €35million for then then-21-year-old.

Alexandre Lacazette

Speaking of strikers who fetched big money, Lacazette commanded €53million from Arsenal in 2017.

After coming through the Lyon academy, the Frenchman made his debut at 18 and scored 37 goals – seven of them in that Europa League run – during his final season.

His scoring rate in London has been solid, if unspectacular, but the 2019-20 season could be a very big one for him.

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