LYON, August 25 – Fallen French giants Lyon are looking to new multi-million euro recruit Yoann Gourcuff to breathe fresh life into a team which has struggled since the departure of Brazil legend Juninho two years ago.Last year’s Ligue 1 runners-up have reached agreement with French first division rivals Bordeaux for France international midfielder Gourcuff in a deal worth 22 million euros.
The 24-year-old Gourcuff, who has so far failed to live up to his one-time billing as his country’s natural heir to Zinedine Zidane, will sign a long-term deal after undergoing a medical on Wednesday, Lyon said.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has high hopes for their new recruit who he believes is of the same calibre as Sonny Anderson, bought from Barcelona in June 1999, and who helped spark Lyon to begin their run of seven league titles from 2002 to 2008.
"We feel a great excitement everywhere which leads us to believe that we have achieved something extraordinary," said Aulas of the Brittany-born playmaker who has played 22 times for France.
"We’re going to see what we can do to ensure that Yoann gets a welcome from the fans like at Barcelona or Real Madrid," said Aulas.
Gourcuff arrived in Lyon on Tuesday aboard a private jet, alongside Aulas’ adviser Bernard Lacombe and ex-Lyon player Florian Maurice, now one of the club’s scouts.
"I leave with only good memories of my years at Bordeaux," Gourcuff told olweb.fr. "There was a great group of good guys, but that’s football, that’s life.
"It’s a new experience, a new challenge," he said of his transfer to Lyon. "I’m motivated and I hope to work my way well into the squad and do the best possible. I’m arriving at a club with ambitions."
Gourcuff will again link up with Jimmy Briand and Kim Kallstrom, whom he knew at Rennes, as well as France team-mates Jeremy Toulalan and Hugo Lloris.
"They’re good guys and that obviously played a decision," he acknowledged.
After an unmemorable passage at AC Milan from 2007-08, Gourcuff achieved his top level the following season in Bordeaux, scoring 12 goals and making 11 key passes on the way to a league title success.
And Aulas is counting on Gourcuff to lift a team hit by multiple injuries to the likes of Ederson, Cris, Michel Bastos, Aly Cissokho and Lisandro.
Since the departure of Juninho, Lyon has been sorely lacking a free kick specialist capable of getting them out of tricky situations.
Ederson, Miralem Pjanic and now Bastos have all failed to show they possess skills to match the Brazilian.
It will now be the turn of Gourcuff to show if he can light up the midfield.
Coach Claude Puel, under-fire despite his team finishing runners-up in the league and semi-finalists in the Champions League last season, has this term opted to put Toulalan in a central defender’s role and to reorganise the midfield around Ederson and Pjanic.
Both have failed to convince and Ederson has now been ruled out for six months with a thigh injury.
Lyon midfielder Jean II Makoun admitted Gourcuff’s arrival was eagerly awaited.
"His arrival demonstrates all the club’s ambition," he said.
"He has a lot of technical qualities. He’s a player who can be decisive in extra time and in the final pass. Sometimes we have trouble in these areas.
"He moves well and is intelligent in his passes. He knows how to keep the ball and makes the difference at key moments.
"With him we’re hoping to get to the next level and recapture the title."