What Happened to the All-Conquering Lyon Side of the 2000s?

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What Happened to the All-Conquering Lyon Side of the 2000s?
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Juninho best represents Lyon's golden era

Juninho Pernambucano, Gregory Coupet, Florent Malouda, Sidney Govou, Sylvain Wiltord, Hatem Ben Arfa, Mahamadou Diarra, Benoit Pedretti and Fred. Those were some of the players on the field for the hosts on September 13, 2005, when Olympique Lyonnais thumped Real Madrid’s Galacticos 3-0 at the Stade Gerland.

The Real Madrid side that night boasted the likes of David Beckham, Raul, Iker Casillas, Robinho, Sergio Ramos and Roberto Carlos, but they were completed outclassed by Gerard Houllier’s rampant OL team.

President Jean-Michel Aulas’ expensively assembled side had been expected to go on to conquer Europe, or at least to go close following that result and steadily progress under predecessor Paul le Guen.

Le Guen had taken the side to the Champions League quarterfinals and secured four consecutive Ligue 1 titles to lay the foundations for Houllier, but that success was not forthcoming. The club only managed to go one step further.

A 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Bayern Munich in 2010's semifinal under Claude Puel has been their most successful European campaign to date, and even that came long after the majority of star names had left the French giants.

Lyon’s domestic hegemony had ended the season before in 2009, and since then les Gones ("the Kids" in local Arpitan dialect) have declined to title contenders as opposed to title favourites.

What happened?

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