July 4, 2022

How could Juninho’s return to Lyon end so brutally?

A DS CDI with “all the sporting powers”, a desire to stay “at least five years” in Lyon, and finally a departure from OL after only two and a half seasons. Although this was Juninho’s first experience at a club since his retirement from a player in 2014, few observers had predicted that the return of such an icon to a key position would go so short in the Rhône. Lyon supporters may have one last opportunity to meet him at Parc OL on Wednesday (9 p.m.) against FC Metz, before he officially leaves his post as sports director.

How the euphoria of Jean-Michel Aulas in the spring of 2019, when he convinced “Juni” to join OL after going to Los Angeles, could it turn into a cold observation in The team last week ? ” It did not work. Maybe the costume was a bit oversized. He found it difficult to take on this role in a large organization, ”JMA said in the sports daily.

Jean-Michel Aulas pushed hard to convince Juninho to take over the sporting direction of OL in May 2019. – ALLILI MOURAD / SIPA

“One may wonder why Aulas made him come”

Co-author of the Brazilian biography in 2009,
Thomas Lacondemine points to the possible initial concern: “One may wonder why Aulas made him come. If it was only for a question of image with the supporters, it should not be surprised that it ends like this. As soon as he arrived, “Juni” didn’t give a damn about his image as the club’s greatest player. He was there to bring something to OL and he wanted his work to be judged on documents. That’s why he insisted on having no cronyism with the media. “

On May 28, 2019, his presentation to the press alongside the coach he chose, Sylvinho, brought fans a breath of fresh air after the grueling cycle of Bruno Genesio (2016-2019). “Like many people, I was hyped immediately, remembers Alexandre (25), an OL enthusiast. We said to ourselves that we were going to see our club move forward, finally with a real sporting direction given. “Juni” represented the modernity he so lacked here, like his ambitious search for a different coach for this season, since he tried Roberto De Zerbi [Sassuolo, désormais au Shakhtar Donetsk] before signing Peter Bosz. “

Who would have thought, on May 28, 2019, that Sylvinho's flocking finally corresponded to Juninho's short adventure at OL?
Who would have thought, on May 28, 2019, that Sylvinho’s flocking finally corresponded to Juninho’s short adventure at OL? – Laurent Cipriani / AP / SIPA

“He felt that everyone was abandoning him at the club”

The hype Juninho still quickly took the lead in the wing due to the mediocre results of the team (then 14th in Ligue 1) with Sylvinho, pushed to the exit two months after the start of the championship. Finally, the adventure “Juni” -OL never recovered from this first turning point, as assured Thomas Lacondemine, remained close to the former strongman of the seven titles of champion of France from 2002 to 2008.

After the failure of Sylvinho, “Juni” could only have an advisory opinion in the choice of Rudi Garcia. He felt that everyone was abandoning him at the club. “

Clearly not Juninho-compatible, the arrival of the former Marseille coach leads to two seasons without qualification in the Champions League for OL and a settling of scores as we rarely see between Rudi Garcia and his ex-sports director, at the end of his contract. The gradual decline of Jean-Michel Aulas, in parallel with the promotion in June 2020 of Vincent Ponsot as general manager of football, isolated the Brazilian a little more.

May I have your attention please ?
May I have your attention please ? – Laurent Cipriani/AP/SIPA

When “Juni” spots a potential recruiter on Twitter

When the latter wishes during the summer of 2020 his former partner Patrick Müller as director of the recruitment unit after the departure of Florian Maurice, he obtains Bruno Cheyrou. When he opts in November for Jean-Marc Chanelet, another OL player in the 2000s, as a new recruiter, the club management prefers Alain Caveglia. In recent months, Juninho has also asked his management to be able to surround himself with Thomas Lacondemine as an assistant, as well as Mickael, aka
Mycki ElScout on Twitter, to strengthen this same recruitment unit. Two choices which would also have been refused by Vincent Ponsot.

“I would have loved working with him,” says Mickael (29), who was surprised to be contacted in August on Twitter by his childhood idol. I watch about thirty games a week and I titillated his curiosity with my analyzes on different players. I had an interview in September and Juninho wanted to take me to video scouting, to guide the field observation of other club recruiters. He received me in all humility for more than 2 hours, he immediately put me at ease. But the management ultimately did not want to expand the recruitment unit. “Juninho has gradually worn out in the face of all these refusals, as explained by a close friend of the club insisting on remaining anonymous.

He didn’t want 10,000 people around him, but loyal lieutenants. It was systematically refused to him. It was not easy for him to work in harmony with Vincent Ponsot. Unfortunately, he is perhaps too complete to occupy such a position, where we are used to seeing someone with a political dimension. Juninho therefore discovered ego battles and it tired him. “

“He expected us to try to hold him back”

“What bothered him was also to move forward blindly because he never had a clear budget for a transfer window,” continues Thomas Lacondemine. So he was working on a lot of players with different price categories, like Arnaut Danjuma (moved from Bournemouth to Villarreal) and Erik Lamela (transferred from Tottenham to Sevilla) last summer. But the real straw was the departure at the end of October for Angers of recruiter Patrice Girard, with whom he got along very well, and whom the club did not try to retain. “On November 17, Juninho then delivers an interview on RMC Sport in which he announces that” normally, it’s over at the end of the season “.

Juninho and Vincent Ponsot (right), here during the presentation to the press of Peter Bosz, have never really succeeded in working
Juninho and Vincent Ponsot (right), here during the presentation to the press of Peter Bosz, have never really succeeded in working “in harmony”. – OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

“I think he said all that to shake things up,” says Thomas Lacondemine. He had no plans to leave before the end of the season at all. He expected us to support him, to try to hold him back, but he got hit in the face by Aulas and Ponsot. He was overwhelmed by the consequences of this interview. If he leaves, it is not out of cheerfulness. “Mycki ElScout accredits this hypothesis of an unplanned departure of Juninho, despite his frustration with the low resources allocated to recruitment:” When I met Juninho and Patrice Girard in September, “Juni” seemed to me to be really involved in the winter transfer window. He asked me for a report on four players he had targeted, interesting leads, especially as a winger ”.

A sometimes bubbling “Juni” in front of OL matches

This hasty departure of Juninho, who should stay alive until next summer in Lyon, where one of his daughters is educated, would therefore only have a “resignation” in name. If he maintained very cold relations with Vincent Ponsot therefore, but also with Bruno Cheyrou, ephemeral recruiting manager who switched to the women’s section, and the director of the training center Jean-François Vulliez, Juninho remained close to the supporters.

He is as accessible to them as he was a dozen years earlier, always ready to pose for a photo at Parc OL, even when it can make him miss a few minutes of the match. We have seen his passionate, even bubbling, side on several occasions this season in the press gallery, where he has become accustomed to attending OL matches, despite the difficulties experienced behind the scenes.

“He will not lose his place as a legend”

At the time of the assessment, we retain some com errors, such as an awkward tackle from the first conf on Lucas Tousart, and his assumed propensity to meddle in the playing times of Bruno Guimaraes and Jean Lucas with Rudi Garcia. OK, he did not help reinstall Lyon in C1. But without him, recruits of the caliber of Lucas Paqueta and Bruno Guimaraes would not have joined OL.

“He will not lose his place as a legend, but it is obviously a big frustration to see him already leave,” sums up Lyon supporter Alexandre. I dreamed of seeing him establish a long-term sports policy. I symbolically see in his departure the rejection of modernity by the Aulas-Ponsot duo and I fear that the club [actuel 13e en Ligue 1] does not stagnate. “After this most often disillusioned parenthesis, OL are about to lose sight of the best player in their history again.