Can Fabio Grosso revive Lyon’s fortunes?

Saturday’s game away to Stade Brestois 29 is Grosso’s first at the helm of a club who have been mired in crisis in recent months and parted ways with previous coach Laurent Blanc during the recent international break. After just under a year with Blanc, a member of France’s 1998 World Cup-winning side, it is Grosso’s turn to try to revive the fortunes of the seven-time champions.

The 45-year-old Grosso, who was brought up in the Pescara region of Italy, comes in on a contract until the end of next season and arrives fresh from leading modest Frosinone to promotion to Serie A in his native Italy at the end of the last campaign.

Having gone straight to take his coaching badges at the age of 35 after retiring as a player, Grosso had worked in the youth set-up at Juventus before being appointed coach of Bari in Serie B in 2017. However, he lasted just a season there and another at Hellas Verona, before managing just three Serie A matches in charge of Brescia. Grosso then lasted barely six months as coach of Sion in Switzerland.

Serie B success

He hardly seemed destined for great things, therefore, when he was appointed in March 2021 by Frosinone, a club from a small town of the same name not far south of Rome. He replaced the sacked Alessandro Nesta. Grosso kept his new club up and was given time after leading them to the brink of a play-off place in his first full campaign. He followed that by taking them to the second-tier title last season, with Frosinone scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest in the league playing mainly in a 4-3-3 formation. He then departed at the end of the campaign.

That meant he was a free agent when Lyon came calling. The question now is whether he can build on his success last season at a lower level and handle the pressure of managing one of France’s biggest clubs.

“We need to take this club back to where it deserves to be, and that is not its current position in the table,” he said at his unveiling. “I have lots of respect for the previous coach. Laurent Blanc is an institution in France but if I am here it is because something was not working.”

Patience required

Grosso needs to hit the ground running and get the most out of a squad that still has enough quality on paper to be competing for a European place. He will need some patience, but his past association with the club should mean supporters of the club give him that.

A hero of the Italy team that won the 2006 World Cup, the left-back scored the vital opening goal in extra time as the Azzurri beat hosts Germany in the semi-final that year, then netted the decisive penalty in the shoot-out victory over France in the final in Berlin – just five years earlier he was playing in Italy’s fourth division.

That did not put him off turning down a move to Ligue 1 in 2007 when Lyon signed him from Inter, and in his first season he hardly missed a game as an OL side featuring the likes of Juninho, Karim Benzema, Sidney Govou, Fred, Cris and Hatem Ben Arfa won a Ligue 1 and Coupe de France double under Alain Perrin. Grosso stayed for another season before returning to Italy at the start of the 2009-10 campaign to sign for Juventus, where he finished his playing days.

‘Pleased to be back’

“It is a pleasant surprise to see you in charge of our OL Fabio,” wrote ex-club president Jean-Michel Aulas on X, formerly Twitter. “You have not changed (you are) elegant and kind: I wish you and the whole OL family great success at Lyon and results to match those you had as a player.”

“I am really pleased to be back in France. It was important for me to come back here, where I had two magnificent years,” said Grosso, who can nevertheless be under no illusions as to the job in front of him.

“It is often said that you learn most from your most difficult experiences. After Juve I went down to Serie B and had great experiences, even if I did not always get results. Once I was given time to work properly, then things went rather well. My dream is to achieve great things in the future but for now I am focusing on the present.”

>> CLUB PROFILE: Olympique Lyonnais



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