For musicians, they say the second album is always the most difficult – especially if the first is a worldwide smash. For Olympique Lyonnais, despite winning seven straight titles at the turn of the millennium, they face that pressure going into the new season.
At the head of all their hopes is the striker that has been linked with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool this summer. Alexandre Lacazette is the story that won’t go away, and he threatens to overshadow the start of their campaign.
Under Hubert Fournier, Lyon surprised everyone last season and pushed Paris Saint-Germain all the way, this despite enduring their worst-ever start to a campaign – winning only two of their first five games.
It was the stuff of fairytales for the man – or boys – from the Stade Gerland, at times starting at least eight players that all came through the youth academy, spearheaded by the goals of Lacazette.
After scoring 15 league goals in the 2013/14 campaign, the young striker was sensational and continued to blossom, finishing with 27 goals as Lyon came second.
This summer began under a cloud. It seemed that it would take a huge bid for anyone to tempt Lyon into selling their most valuable asset, and it would also take the player to spark any move away from Les Gones.
Lacazette scored 21 goals in 22 league games, but after an injury finished with only six in his last 10 games. In pre-season he has looked jaded and off the pace, and that brought about questions regarding his commitment to the club, which he addressed after scoring the winner against Milan
"What people say doesn't mean much. I can still work well,” the forward told beIN Sport post-match. "I can show everyone that my mind is not in another place. I have already told the head coach and the president that I want to stay in Lyon.
"I am fully committed to our project for this season. Whatever happens outside stays outside. Personally, I know what I want for this season.”
Actions speak louder than words, and although L’Equipe reported that he would sign a new contract, that particular deal has been on the table for the last three weeks. Giving the impression that the player was not as committed as words would suggest.
At face value, all the signs are there to suggest the best thing for Lacazette to do would be to stay at Lyon for a another season. They have qualified for the Champions League group stage and they move into their new stadium in January.
Staying and playing his part will put Lacazette down in the pantheon of Lyon greats and no one would begrudge him a move to the highest bidder next season. However, that doubt has stayed in his mind.
He has watched Anthony Lopes, Samuel Umtiti, Jordan Ferri, Corentin Tolisso and Nabil Fekir all sign extensions to their deals, keeping the nucleus of a wonderful side, but yet, on the eve of the first game, he still hasn’t put pen to paper.
Despite scoring 42 goals in two league campaigns, Lacazette has yet to establish himself as a starter for Didier Deschamps' national team. Not many other countries would keep such an in-form striker on the bench, especially with Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema continuing to miss the mark on the international stage.
Next summer, France hosts the 2016 European Championships, and most players that are part of Les Bleus won’t leave their current club, so not to rock the boat – Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann – while others like Yohan Cabaye, Lucas Digne, Mathieu Valbuena, are either moving or looking for moves to help win a place in Deschamps 23-man squad.
Lacazette started one of the two most recent friendlies – he needs to be starting and he may question that playing at Lyon is limiting his opportunities to become France’s top striker.
Fournier was asked where he envisioned Lacazette playing this season: "Olympique Lyonnais. I haven't got much to say. He has said he wants to stay with us.
"Of course some clubs are going to be attracted to the sort of player he is but he is under contract at Lyon and with all of the different competitions we have this season with the Champions League and the domestic French cups, we obviously want to keep him at the club."
It is unlikely that Lacazette will leave this summer, but the thought has obviously crossed his mind over the last few weeks – and with good reason.
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