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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 April 2007, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Six-in-a-row Lyon
By John Sinnott

Gerard Houllier
Houllier has guided Lyon to two of their six titles

Olympique Lyon have become the first team from the major European leagues of France, Italy, Germany, Spain and England to win six domestic titles in a row.

With six games to play Lyon hold an unassailable lead of 17 points after Toulouse lost 3-2 at Stade Rennes on Saturday.

Latvia's Skonto Riga hold the world record for successive domestic league crowns, clinching their 14th title in 2004.

Norway's Rosenborg have won 13 titles in a row, while Scottish clubs Rangers and Celtic have both won nine in a row.

Arguably Lyon's achievement is greater than those other clubs title successes given the French side have combined domestic dominance as well as usually getting to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Lyon have been knocked out of the quarter-finals three times, though this season they exited at the last 16 stage.

BBC Sport spoke to Tottenham sporting director and Frenchman Damien Comolli to discover the secrets of Lyon's success.


Unless your name is Roman Abramovich and you have money to burn there are no quick fixes to building a successful football club.

Current Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas took over just under 20 years ago in June 1987.

He had to wait 15 years to realise his dream of bringing Lyon their first French Ligue 1 title.

When Aulas, who was the chairman of a software company, took over Lyon they were in the second division, but he promised to have the club back in the first division and in European competitions within four years.

In 1988, Aulas appointed Bernard Lacombe as sporting director and former Lyon player Raymond Domenech - now France manager - as coach.

Skonto Riga: 1991-2004 (14)
Rosenborg: 1992-2004 (13)
Celtic: 1966-1974 (9)
Rangers: 1989-1997 (9)
Juventus: 1931-1935 (5)
Real Madrid: 1961-1965 & 1986-1990 (5)

Domenech immediately guided the team to promotion.

Aulas's promise of European football within four years was also delivered, though the club's Uefa Cup campaign was disastrous as they were beaten 8-4 on aggregate by Trabzonspor.

That season - 1991-1992 - Lyon also only avoided relegation by only two points.

Another 10 years was to pass before Lyon picked a major trophy when in May 2001 they claimed the French League Cup, their first piece of silverware since 1973 when they won the French Cup.

In the three years before they claimed the title, Lyon twice finished third and were runners-up in 2001.

606 VIEW
BBC Sport's John Sinnott

The following year Lyon clinched the Ligue 1 crown on the last day of the season, beating Lens 3-1, who had been ahead of them by one point going into the game.

According to Comolli, the continuity provided by Aulas and the club's sporting director Bernard Lacombe has been key to Lyon's success.

"The club has had the same people, Aulas as chairman, as well as the chief executive and Lacombe as sporting director, since the late 1980s.

"Even when they didn't get the popular results they stayed together. There is a continuity within the management of the club and that is so important."


Lyon have had plenty of coaches under Aulas.

As well as Domenech, former Fulham boss Jean Tigana has also coached the club, but Jacques Santini, Paul le Guen - now at Rangers - and current boss Gerard Houllier, are the three coaches who have each taken Lyon to a higher level.

Santini arrived in 2000 and within two years had delivered that elusive title, before he was appointed coach of the French national team.

Le Guen replaced Santini and led the club to their next three league title successes.

But Comolli believes Houllier's appointment in the summer of 2005 could see the club achieve Aulas's next ambition - Champions League success.

"Gerard was the person they needed to finish the job," said Comolli.

"He is very intelligent and has got so much experience.

"Lyon are up there with the big teams in Europe now."


By winning the French league title again and again and thereby qualifying for the Champions League, Lyon have established a vice-like financial superiority over their domestic rivals.

Over the last two years, Lyon have lost key players such as Michael Essien and Mali midfielder Mahamadou Diarra, but their financial power - the club now has a 100m annual turnover - means they invariably sign the best French players.

Brazilian Juninho
There has been plenty of flag waving at Lyon over the last six years

Diarra has been replaced by 23-year-old Jeremy Toulalan, who joined from Nantes in the summer, and is seen as Claude Makelele's successor in the French national team.

"Clubs like Paris St Germain, Marseille and Monaco have had no continuity," said Comolli.

"Lyon's stability and success has given them a massive edge over their rvals. Because they win everything that means they can buy the best French players.

"They are miles wealthier than other clubs in France. If you are a French player then there is no other club you aspire to play for."


As well as recruiting the best French talent, Lyon have discovered if you want to get ahead, a dash of Brazilian skill goes a long way.

The club have established a formidable scouting network in Brazil, which has been developed by Marcelo, the first Brazilian defender to play for Lyon during the 1990s.

Working in tandem with sporting director Lacombe, Marcelo has proved a shrewd judge of talent.

Integral to Lyon's recent success have been defenders Cris and Cacapba, midfielder Juninho and striker Fred.

Juninho proved be an inspirational purchase, the player that dictates how Lyon player and who scores his fair share of goals, notably from free-kicks.

It is no coincidence that he joined at the start of the season Lyon secured their first league title.


Lyon used to have the best academy in France and the first part of their success was partly built on developing their own young players.

Karim Benzema
Lyon have high hopes of youngster Karim Benzema

Lyon's academy is no longer the best - according to Comolli Rennes has now the most impressive youth development scheme in France- but the French champions are still capable of producing a gem every two or three years.

Much is expected of Hatem Ben Arfa and even more of Karim Benzema.

"Karim is going to be fantastic player," said Comolli.

"He is a striker who can play in wide positions. He is very strong, very quick, who can score goals. He reminds me a bit of Sylvain Wiltord."

Lyon pick up record sixth title
21 Apr 07 |  Europe


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