June 18 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Thursday, February 14, 2013
There may be an extra chill in the air in the executive box at White Hart Lane tonight, following the last tussle between Spurs and Lyon in the summer – the negotiations over Hugo Lloris.
After all, the French club’s president, Jean-Michel Aulas, was less than complimentary about his Tottenham counterpart Daniel Levy as the pair haggled over the transfer of France’s No1 goalkeeper at the end of August.
“He [Levy] talks a lot and goes back on what we’ve agreed in writing,” fumed Aulas on deadline day. “The negotiation with the Tottenham directors has been the hardest I have ever had to undergo in these 25 years.”
However, despite their differences, there is likely to be a tacit respect between Aulas and Levy – an awareness that they are not so different, that there are plenty of parallels between their clubs and that they are both facing similar tasks in a challenging era.
Like Levy, Aulas is often accused of running his club like a business. Like Spurs, Lyon are currently in the process of building a new 60,000-seater stadium – Stade des Lumieres, which is scheduled to open for the 2015/16 season. And, like Levy, that is leaving Aulas with a tricky financial balancing act.
Lyon were listed as the 12th richest club in the world in February 2009 but, four years on, they have slipped to 17th – four places below Tottenham.
In October the French outfit announced a loss of 28million euros for 2011-12, and Aulas conceded that, having already flogged Lloris, more first-team players would have to be sold.
Like Tottenham, Lyon finished fourth in their league last season and, like Spurs, that was not enough to secure a lucrative Champions League spot.
It was the first time the French side had failed to qualify for the group stages since 1999/2000, underlining their difficulty in maintaining the success the club enjoyed during the ‘noughties’.
Lyon won the Ligue 1 championship for the first time in 2002, starting a national record-breaking streak of seven successive titles.
That period also coincided with a golden era in the Champions League as they reached the quarter-finals on three occasions, and the 2005 squad included Eric Abidal, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Sidney Govou, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Wiltord and Nilmar.
There are fewer big names now, but Spurs fans will recognise the former Tottenham man Steed Malbranque, while Yoann Gourcuff is a French international – although he is set to miss out through injury.
Up front, the Argentine international Lisandro Lopez replaced Karim Benzema in 2009, arriving from FC Porto for 24m euros – and the 29-year-old was recently linked with a deadline day move to Spurs.
Lyon were looking strong at the end of the Europa League group stages, having won Group I with 16 points – more than any other team in the competition – and they were also leading Ligue 1 at that time.
However, they have since suffered a dip in form, winning just three of their last eight league games – including a 3-1 home defeat against Lille at the weekend.
Manager Remi Garde, a former Arsenal player, said: “We currently have less confidence in our game. It’s clear we are in a trough at the moment.
“The Europa League is clearly a target for us but this round won’t be easy. We’re up against a team in good form in their league who have the quality to play in the Champions League.”
Andre Villas-Boas echoed those thoughts, stating: “They are like Champions League fixtures. If we want to set our targets for Champions League qualification, this is the kind of team we will face.”
The verdict: After the monotony of the group stage, this is where the Europa League comes to life. The glory glory nights are back at the Lane, and we’ll back Spurs to win – 2-0