Lyon sporting director Juninho slammed departing Barcelona-linked star Memphis Depay for wanting the Ligue 1 side to revolve around him like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. (More Football News)
Depay will leave Lyon on a free transfer this off-season and LaLiga giants Barca – led by former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman – have been tipped to sign the Dutch forward.
The 27-year-old Depay, who arrived from Manchester United in 2017, was involved in 32 goals in Ligue 1 this season (20 goals and 12 assists) – equalling his best tally in a single campaign with the French side (19 goals and 13 assists in 2017-18).
Only Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe scored more Ligue 1 goals (27) than Depay in 2020-21, but Juninho had strong words for the outgoing Lyon captain.
"Memphis Depay just wanted a team for himself," Juninho told OLTV. "It's not a criticism, I had a good relationship with him.
"But on the other hand, the whole team had to revolve around him and that is very hard. Everyone should feel like they're working the same.
"There are only four players in the world where you have to do everything for them: Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and Mbappe. If you have one of them, then the team can revolve around them.
"Sorry, I think that Depay is strong, but he's not at their level. And I think that he has to work harder without the ball."
Juninho also responded to departing head coach Rudi Garcia's stunning criticism.
In an interview with L'Equipe, Garcia said: "I was badly welcomed by certain people but I thought that after the cups and being top of the table at the half-way point, things would change.
"There are some fiery minorities but in the city the messages I received were truly nice. I also have the satisfaction of having the second team in France in terms of most playing time for young players. That was one of the objectives, to give chances to and favour those who have a market value but also to play the Brazilian recruits and after a while, there is the squaring of the circle…
"…he [Gerard Houllier, who died in December] was critical in the balance of the club. He knew how to grease up the wheels. It was he who could explain the role of Sporting Director to Juninho who lacked the experience. It is essential in a club that all the people are behind each other as we saw in Lille. Here there was too much dissonance in my relationship with Juni.
"Things went well initially. Things started to go wrong without me noticing. After two or three victories in November, the sporting director no longer came to congratulate me. I found that when the Brazilian recruits weren't playing, he wasn't happy. He would have preferred to win with his players.
"He invests himself a lot, and that is a quality, but I certainly think that he must have promised them that they would start. We spoke about it, he told me that if it had to be done again, he would not push on these things. But it slowed down the emergence of certain young players like [Maxence] Caqueret in particular. Juni's opinion was that Jean Lucas was better. The problem must have come from there initially. And things quickly deteriorated."
In reply as Lyon try to replace Garcia, Juninho said: "I was surprised. I knew he was going to do something like this because that's his character. He chose an experienced journalist and the statement looks like it was prepared a long time ago. It's a long interview, but I don't feel like I'm being betrayed. We are betrayed by friends, and we worked together as professionals.
"One of the problems I had with Rudi was the different ways he treated players in the locker room. He was strong with the weak, and weak with the strong. It was creating problems in the locker room and the players came to see me. Rudi Garcia wanted to loan out Jean Lucas because he didn't play him, we didn't necessarily agree on that. He was complaining that he wasn't progressing tactically, and I thought maybe it was his fault. He took some things personally but the player had nothing to do with it. Eventually he was loaned out, maybe I insisted too much but I have the right to ask questions.
"I think he has a lack of self-confidence. It also bothered him, my way of behaving with the players and the rest of the staff. During the transfer window, it's true I didn't let him choose the players. But that's my role, I made my choices. [Lucas] Paqueta, for example, I made the effort to bring him in. He wasn't necessarily used to this; he likes to impose his choices and that is understandable. But I have defended Rudi on several occasions, it was not necessarily easy but he was doing a good job."
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine