Lyon's academy is a prime example of how a comeback to one's boyhood club is universally loved in football. Players always feel a sense of passion and belonging to the club they have dreamt of playing for since their childhood. Very few clubs in France have such a sense of pride and belonging to Lyon's "Academy".
There are two things Lyon is renowned for. One is Juninho's beautifully curled free-kick, and the other is its Academy. It was on par with Ajax Amsterdam's academy in terms of exporting players.
There has been a lot of talk about the Academy lately. Two players from the Academy recently came back and fans are still hoping Karim Benzema might return one day.
Here are five players from the Academy who returned to their boyhood club.
#5 Sidney Govou
Sidney Govou was one of the few players to win all seven league titles with Lyon from 2002 to 2008. He has also won four Trophée des Champions, and one League Cup with the club.
Govou also scored the winning goal in 2008's Coupe de France, helping his club earn a historic double. A pure product of the Academy, Govou's professional career started in 1999 in Lyon. He then stayed with the club until 2010 making a mammoth 411 appearances across competitions, scoring 76 goals and giving 38 assists.
After a short stint in the with Panathanaikos in the Super League Greece, he ended his professional career with Evian Thonon Gaillard. He then joined Lyon's reserve team for a year. Govou never tried to hide his attachment to the club, whether as a player or as a pundit.
#4 Alain Caveglia
Despite being a product of the Academy, Alain Caveglia started his professional career at Gueugnon. It wasn't until he was 28 that he joined Lyon in 1996. He was a notable part of the offensive trio alongside other homegrown talents Ludovic Giuly and Florian Maurice.
He scored 19 goals in his first season and was known as "Cavégol". He was the club's captain during some notable European campaigns. He also helped the club win the Intertoto Cup in 1997 against Montpellier, scoring a dramatic 90th minute winner.
Caveglia was an important figure at a time when the club was getting better each year. It was a crucial phase that would culminate at the beginning of 2000s.
Caveglia left his boyhood club in 2000, after he was sidelined in favor of Brazilian forward Sonny Anderson. He made 137 appearances for the club across competitions, scoring 61 goals.
#3 Corentin Tolisso
Corentin Tolisso is one of the most recent occurrences of a player coming back to Lyon. The central midfielder, aged 27, has come back after an underwhelming stint at Bayern Munich.
Despite his undeniable talent, injuries prevented him from reaching his full potential. He still won five Bundesliga titles and played in the Champions League final victory against Paris Saint-Germain in 2020.
A brilliant passer who can also score goals, Tolisso is a player the club desperately need. He will undoubtedly be titular and aligned alongside Maxence Caqueret and Lucas Paquetà if he can avoid injuries. His relatively young teammates could benefit from his experience.
What's more, Tolisso is joining his former Bayern teammate Jerome Boateng. Despite some very good performances, the German defender had trouble adjusting to the team. His strong personality might be better used with the presence of one of his former teammates.
#2 Steed Malbranque
Steed Malbranque's come back resembles a fairytale a Lyon fan would dream about. Born in Mouscron, Belgium, Malbranque joined the Academy at the age of 14. He made his professional debut against Montpellier in 1998 aged 18.
The box-to-box midfielder impressed in a 3-0 win against Bayern Munich at home, following which he had a chance to join Arsenal. However, he turned down the offer. After four years at Gerland and one League Cup, Malbranque joined Premier League side Fulham.
He joined Tottenham Hotspur after five impressive seasons at Fulham. He helped Tottenham win the League Cup (the then Carling Cup) in 2008. Tottenham haven't won a trophy since.
After 10 years in the Premier League and three years in Sunderland, Malbranque returned to France. Only this time, he joined Lyon's arch rival, AS Saint-Etienne. After playing 26 minutes under his new shirt, he asked to be released from his contract.
He spent the following months training with Stade Malherbe Caen, while their sporting director, Alain Caveglia, wanted to sign him the following year. Since they were relegated, Malbranque's next destination was his boyhood club.
This story made fans love him even more. After six outstanding months, he would become less consistent. But his experience and leadership made him popular among fans and supporters, as well as former England Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair, when asked on the BBC's Football Focus program, had famously named Malbranque as one of the Premier League players who had 'caught his eye'.
#1 Alexandre Lacazette
Alexandre Lacazette is one of the last two players from the Academy who came back. Aged 31, the centre-forward has signed with Lyon after five years at Arsenal FC.
Lacazette joined Arsenal in 2017 after spending seven years at his boyhood club.The striker really became a fan favourite during his breakthrough campaign in 2014-15. He could score goals and take part in the playmaking alongside Nabil Fekir, another player from the Academy.
During his first stint with the club, Lacazette scored 100 goals, two of which were scored in his last game against OGC Nice. Lacazette and Fekir carried the team before they both eventually left. The team was spectacular, if somewhat inconsistent.
Unfortunately, this inconsistency would follow him throughout his career at Arsenal. Now a full-fledged playmaker, Lacazette wants more playtime after being sidelined for the last two years.
The "General" will also bring more efficiency to a team that wasted too many chances last season.