Two days ago, L’Equipe published a long interview of Jean-Michel Aulas, where he talked about numerous subjects, such as next season’s title race, the future stadium, the Champions League, and yes, Eto’o.
All of sudden, Barcelona want to swap Eto’o for Karim Benzema, possibly even offering cash as part of the bargain. Not only that, but Barca are saying that the only way Lyon will get Eto’o is if Benzema is part of the negotiations. (Or, depending on which newspapers you read, Lyon are actually interested in Didier Drogba).
But just hold on a second.
Aulas never said that Lyon are specifically interested in buying Eto’o. That’s just the media taking things totally out of context. What he really said was that he didn’t think it was a good idea to have a player whose salary far exceeded that of his other teammates. But if Puel decided that in order for Lyon to win the Champions League, he would need a player like Eto’o, Aulas promised that he would do everything within his power to sign such a player, even though they aren’t really within Lyon’s reach.
And that’s it. Not terribly exciting, right?
But let’s pretend for a moment that these rumors have some substance to them. It’s no secret that Aulas is a big fan of Eto’o and has been after him since his Mallorca days. In fact, Lyon almost signed Eto’o four years ago, but the negotiations were so protracted (Aulas negotiated too hard) that Barca eventually signed him right under Aulas’s big French nose. It’s also well known that Eto’o has a soft spot for Lyon and thinks highly of the club. Eto’o’s close friend, Jean II Makoun, recently confirmed that he had spoken about Lyon to Eto’o, though he denied they spoke of transfers.
First, let’s examine the problems associated with Eto’o coming to Lyon:
1. His wages. When French taxes are taken into account, Lyon would have to pay a lot of money. This isn’t necessarily the obstruction though. Lyon could manage his wages if they really tried, but what Aulas said was true - his salary might cause resentment in the locker room. Lyon are still a small club in the sense that they don’t have the allure of bigger clubs, so the players won’t accept the huge wage discrepancies that they would otherwise tolerate in a more prestigious club.
2. Lyon are in France. No matter how much Eto’o might admire Lyon, I doubt he feels the same way about the league. No matter how you dress it, L1 is a step down from La Liga.
3. The interest of other clubs. He’s currently being followed by several of them, most notably Real Madrid, Valencia, Inter Milan, and Tottenham. Besides Valencia, the other three are far wealthier. Oh, and there is that club in Uzbekistan.
4. The decision is not up to Aulas. One of the perks of being general manager is that Puel has the final say on transfers. And Puel is a very smart man who will not only see the inherent dangers of signing Eto’o but will actually go by his good judgment.
Next, let’s look at the even more improbable swap deal that Barca are supposedly demanding.
1. Lyon don’t want a swap. They want to pair Eto’o with Benzema. Currently, Lyon operate with a lone striker, but coupled with Benzema’s flexibility as well as Puel’s open-mindedness about formation, it is possible that a two striker lineup could be found to accommodate them both.
2. Aulas isn’t stupid. Eto’o is an oft-injured 27 year old who may be on the decline. He’s also known to be a locker room cancer. Whereas Benzema is only 20 and hasn’t even begun tapping into his potential.
3. Benzema isn’t going anywhere. He’s said emphatically that he doesn’t want to leave Lyon this summer and may stay next summer as well.
4. Lyon are trying to become more competitive in Europe. Getting rid of Benzema for Eto’o won’t improve the team. In fact, it might even weaken them. But having both of them will obviously be a definite improvement.
Not to be a party pooper, but I just don’t see this happening. I know most of you agree with me. I think one of two things are happening. Either Aulas is throwing a red herring out there, trying to distract everyone from Lyon’s real target (Diego Milito or Frederic Piquionne). Or Aulas is pulling his usual stunt in which he promises to sign a big player but tells us in advance how it probably won’t happen, then fails in his attempt, and then tells us he “tried.”