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a marriage of unreason / One day, a transfer / Episode 33 /

This summer during the transfer window, So Foot returns every day of the week to a transfer that marked its time in its own way. For this 33rd episode, place in the transfer of summer 2010 in France. That of Yoann Gourcuff, 24 years old and promised a bright future when he moves from Girondins de Bordeaux to Olympique Lyonnais. A marriage that will have lasted five years, without too many chills and with many disappointments.

A year after the departure of legend Juninho, Olympique Lyonnais took advantage of the summer of 2010 to go in search of a new idol, capable of transcending the crowds and allowing the Rhone club to regain its crown as King of France. , left for the past two years to rivals Bordeaux and Marseille. A few months after playing their first Champions League semi-final (lost to Bayern), OL still have solid arguments to attract the best players in France. Jean-Michel Aulas, he has an idea and above all a great desire that this big blow be Yoann Gourcuff, 24 years old and essential in Ligue 1 for two years in the jersey of the Girondins de Bordeaux. Bingo: on August 23, the French international puts down his bags in the capital of Gaul for what looks like the summer transfer after an intense seduction operation, also led by Hugo Lloris and Jérémy Toulalan, both close to the middle. The cost is estimated at 26 million euros, including bonuses, which makes him the second most expensive player in Lyon history behind Lisandro López, who arrived a year earlier. “The investment in Yoann is a medium and long-term investment which primarily aims to try to win the Champions League in the period that remains before the construction of the stadium” , assumes without flinching Aulas when making the presentations to the press. The flagship club of the last decade could not miss the player of the one to come. “We also saw it as stealing the best player from Bordeaux who was a competitor in the standingsexplains Rémy Vercoutre, Gone from 2002 to 2014. We had weakened a rival for the title and we were strengthening, it was perfect. »

“It wasn’t really me, it doesn’t look like me. I no longer endured things, I didn’t choose for it to happen like that. I would have preferred it to be more discreet. It bothers me more than it gives me pleasure to be overexposed. » Yoann Gourcuff

A rock star in Gerland

The marriage between the best player of the 2008-2009 season and the club crowned champion of France seven times in the 2000s could not begin otherwise than with a grandiloquent ceremony. On August 25, OL invites its supporters to meet in Gerland for the traditional presentation of the team, and above all to welcome the Breton to his new garden, Aulas wanting a show “Barcelona style” . “I remember it very well, the club wanted to mark the occasionrecalls Aly Cissokho. It was special, it was a welcome with great fanfare for a great player. » After introducing Cris, Miralem Pjanić, Ederson, Bafétimbi Gomis and company, the announcer announces the name of Yoann Gourcuff, who tumbles in the middle of a guard of honor made up of young fans and under the screams of an audience filled with power admire the artist in the Lyon tunic. “There were a lot more than 15,000, we even had to open an additional stand” rewinds Rémy Vercoutre.
The understudy of Hugo Lloris had never seen such enthusiasm for a rookie, and now says to himself, with hindsight, that it might have been necessary to proceed differently for the good of the former Girondin: “I think he took it badly. He was rather embarrassed about it all. I’m not sure that helped him. At the time, everyone thought it logical given the magnitude of the transfer. But we didn’t know Yoann, we didn’t know he wasn’t comfortable with all that. » Years later, during an interview broadcast on France 2, the main interested party confirms this discomfort with this welcome worthy of an international rock star: “It wasn’t really me, it doesn’t look like me. I no longer endured things, I didn’t choose for it to happen like that. Of course, I would have preferred it to be more discreet and to correspond to who I am. It bothers me more than it gives me pleasure to be overexposed. »

“He didn’t come with the nicest watch, the nicest car, the nicest clothes, he was very normal. Maybe that’s what made it weird for us. » Remy Vercoutre

body and mind

This discrepancy between the glitter dreams of the OL institution and Yoann Gourcuff’s quest for a normal life is perhaps one of the reasons for the failure of a relationship that lasted five years. A few weeks after Knysna’s painful episode at the 2010 World Cup, a lot of rumors are circulating about the Breton introvert, who would be unable to blend into a locker room. “He used to go out with us. When he came to town, he was a bit of a member of the Beatles, so we tried to protect him so that he was comfortable by finding a discreet corner. Then, Yoann, when he is with friends, he was not the last to drink a beer or to mess around, it was cool » , asks Vercoutre. Aly Cissokho still describes a boy ” discreet ” , but also keep a good memory of the guy. The number 29 – chosen in reference to Finistère – has never hidden his discomfort with football business and his difficulty in adopting the codes of an increasingly individualistic environment over the years. “This can cause problems in the way a locker room works where egos try to shine. What is different does not always please: he did not arrive with the most beautiful watch, the most beautiful car, the most beautiful clothes, he was very normalanalyzes Vercoutre. Maybe that’s what made it weird for us. In football, there are a lot of guys who only think about looking good. Yoann prefers to think collectively rather than statistics. »

Personality is one thing, body is another. When settling in Lyon, Gourcuff is a star of the French championship, and the 24-year-old midfielder is promised a bright future. In addition to being beautiful to watch, the playmaker is efficient and seems to have learned from his time at AC Milan, as he demonstrated in Gironde (24 goals and 27 assists in two seasons). But his adventure at OL will have been marked more by repeated injuries than by a string of sporting exploits. The list is long, too long, for someone who has accumulated around twenty glitches in a five-year term in Lyon: a crack in the tendon, an injury to the malleolus, others to the knees, a tear in the adductors, back problems, etc. . “These injuries have undermined his moralethinks Cissokho. And yet, he remained a very great professional. He was always working at the gym, he arrived before everyone else, he left later. But it was hard for him to come back after the accumulation of glitches. » A series of tiles provoking incessant criticism of the player deemed too fragile, in foam, and too attentive to his body by the media and tired supporters. “He wanted everything to be adjusted to be as efficient as possible, we all have a different relationship to painsays Vercoutre. He couldn’t stand not being able to play at 100% of his means, when others would have held their place at only 50%. We were also perhaps a little too brutal around him, even if he and the club did their best to make it work. »

“For me, it is a personal failure and above all a relational one. I supported this boy with all my might. » Jean Michel Aulas

Multiple Overpowers and Failures

However, the acknowledgment of failure quickly became inevitable. In five years spent in the Rhone jersey, Gourcuff has played nearly 50% of possible matches (128 out of 258), without his performances and statistics (19 goals, 29 assists) not having lived up to the expectations linked to his great talent. None of his coaches in Lyon (Claude Puel, Rémi Garde and Hubert Fournier) have found the solution for him to regain his Bordeaux level. There were some beautiful moments, too rare, like this decisive cross on the head of Jimmy Briand to beat the rival Saint-Étienne in the 93e minute, at Geoffroy-Guichard, in November 2013 (“we were so happy for him” says Vercoutre), or even this sumptuous goal and gourcuffian against OM one evening in October 2014. “The expectation was certainly too greatwill assume Gourcuff in West France more than three years after his departure. I am a player who fits into a collective, while perhaps I was expected to solve problems. I did what I could, I gave it my all. There was an environment that was not conducive. (…) Lyon is a great club, with a great president, even if we sometimes disagreed. »

The president, precisely, who has always adopted the Coué method in public, even defending his protege after his last appearance at OL in March 2015, during a match against Nice, when the midfielder unexpectedly left the pitch in during the second period, provoking a final controversy. The extension of the star of yesteryear had become impossible as his salary was cumbersome for OL’s coffers (450,000 euros monthly), and Jean-Michel Aulas ended up giving the bottom of his thoughts barely ten days after the end of the Breton lease, in July 2015, on RMC: “I played the role of the president who believes in the man and in the footballer. It is an acknowledgment of failure on sports performance and on the relationship, it has often only been in one direction. For me, it is a personal failure and above all a relational one. I supported a boy with all my might. My frustrations say perhaps more than attacks that would not take place. I have had other failures before. » This will have been particularly significant in the recent history of Olympique Lyonnais.

By Clement Gavard
Comments by Rémy Vercoutre and Aly Cissokho collected by CG



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