Violeau: “Aulas has built something that has no equal in France”

Violeau: “Aulas has built something that has no equal in France”


Philippe Violeau. : It was a very big surprise even if we knew that he was going to hand over in the months or years to come. We did not expect such sudden news. I have to admit it freaked me out. It’s a little cold in the back. But afterwards, we do not know all the ins and outs of this decision.

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With Jean-Michel Aulas, I immediately felt a message of rigor and winning

You arrived at OL in 1997 from Auxerre. What are your earliest memories of Jean-Michel Aulas?

PV: I remember our first meeting. I had just spent four years in Auxerre. In July 1997, Jean-Michel Aulas contacted me to join OL. I make the short trip between Auxerre and Lyon. I am received by Bernard Lacombe, Jean-Michel Aulas and Marino Faccioli. We spend almost two hours together and they explain their project to me. It was an ambitious project with experienced and young players. There was a real intention to build something important and lasting. The contact went really well and I responded favorably to Lyon’s proposal.

You mention ofan ambitious project” from 1997. Did he talk about the title of champion of France and the Champions League?

PV: Of course not. But there was a real desire to play the leading roles in the French championship. There was a lot of talent at the time, but there was perhaps a lack of executives. His speech was to project himself into the future, to build something. For my part, I immediately felt a message of rigor and winning that had to be established.

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When did he start talking openly about the title of champion of France? During the 1999-00 season with the arrival of Sonny Anderson?

PV: Actually, it was a slow progression but very well planned. In 1998, we finished sixth, then third in 1999 and 2000, then second in 2001, the year we won the Coupe de la Ligue. At this point, ambitions begin to take shape. Indeed, the recruitment of Sonny Anderson was a springboard. He saved us quite a few years. He represented the beginning of the great hours of Olympique Lyonnais.

Which president was he with the Lyon locker room?

PV: Me, I remain a complete fan. Vis-à-vis the outside public, it does not always have good press. Even my relatives could have a bad image. But it doesn’t match that of the man I know. Internally, he is more than generous, close to his players but also to the whole life of the club. He will remain a model of success. Also, he knew how to apply rigor when necessary. Attention, it was not always funny. We must not believe that we only had good times. He knew how to bang his fist on the table but also how to re-motivate us so that we can move forward again. It was a pleasure to have been able to share these six years by his side.

Is there a particular rant that stood out to you?

PV: There were several. But the most striking thing was after the elimination in the preliminary round of the Champions League against Maribor in 1999. His speech was firm. We had made a mistake and we had to explain the reasons for this elimination, against a team that seemed less strong on paper, to move forward.

The first title in 2002? It was not a culmination but the confirmation of what he wanted to put in place

What memories do you have of Jean-Michel Aulas, on the evening of OL’s first French championship title in May 2002?

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PV: It was an unforgettable evening. For me, what struck me was the closeness between people. That day, there was no longer any gap between the club boss and the players. We were all happy to share an extraordinary moment. Afterwards, for him, it was not a culmination but the confirmation of what he wanted to put in place. Behind, he had six others. This proves that he was never satisfied with good performances. We can only thank him for having put everything in place so that we can win titles and help Olympique Lyonnais grow.

You spent six years by his side. How was he in the negotiations?

PV: He’s an entrepreneur. When he negotiates, it’s never easy. Afterwards, for my part, it was different because I arrived as a free player. It was not a complicated negotiation like when you have to pay for a transfer. I remember quickly agreeing with OL at the time and I don’t regret it.

OL is a family. Jean-Michel Aulas created the OL family

In many clubs, former players are somewhat forgotten. Which was not necessarily the case for OL under Jean-Michel Aulas …

PV: Absolutely. We can return to Olympique Lyonnais at any time, we are always welcomed with open arms. We have places available to go to the match, where we can see other former players in a place reserved for us at Groupama Stadium. OL is a family. Jean-Michel Aulas created the OL family. It was he who wanted this tradition to continue. And that is not from today. When I arrived, everyone was there for the club’s Christmas tree, whether ex-employees working in administration or former gardeners. No one was above the club and we all had a good time together.

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How do you view his record at Olympique Lyonnais?

PV: He got involved very young. He took the time to build something that has no equal in France. It is a model of success.

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