There was no car waiting to pick them up from the airport and no car calling to drop them off afterwards. From Lyon’s point of view, it was strictly commercial. The hospitality extended to food at the French club’s canteen. At least it was free. Where was it?
In hindsight, it may become the most expensive lunch in the world. After all, the England delegation had just conceded defeat and ended up paying an extra £3m to finally get the deal done. One of the parties had to move and, after weeks of tough negotiations, it was clear that it was not Lyon.
At this stage, the Premier League club were on their third trip to France and the transfer fee, much like the plane running off the runway in Lyon after their unsuccessful first visit, continued to mount. Jean-Michel Aulas, the 72-year-old president of Lyon, was nowhere to be found during the negotiations but everyone suspected him of pulling the controls. He normally is.
Aulas has been fighting in the Lyon corner for over 30 years and, as Newcastle United discovered this week, he usually tends to get by. Lyon decided on Monday that they were ready to do business on the transfer of Bruno Guimaraes and, financially, there would be only one winner. Aulas is used to extracting maximum value from clubs – and clubs that were nothing as desperate as Newcastle.
He’s a man who once gave Roman Abramovich the ride on his luxury yacht, with the Lyon president making the most of his attire and the young guest accompanying him as he met the owner of Chelsea with transfer negotiations for Michael Essien in mind.