When Olympique Lyonnais learnt that they had clinched an unprecedented fifth straight French title thanks to FC Girondins de Bordeaux failing to defeat LOSC Lille Métropole on Saturday night, they were in their hotel ahead of Sunday's match at Paris Saint-Germain FC.
The squad had gathered in expectation around a television, and when Lille secured their 3-2 win, Lyon's celebrations began. The room was deemed to small to contain their joy, so Sylvain Wiltord led a parade out on to the streets of Paris, signing autographs for astonished drivers and pedestrians. The party continued at the Parc des Princes the following day as Lyon won 1-0.
"This success is a collective one," said coach Gérard Houllier, still dripping after being drowned in champagne. It is also Houllier's own success. Having last won the title in 1985/86 with PSG, 20 years on he has taken up the reins from Paul Le Guen and continued Lyon's extraordinary dominance.
With Houllier on the bench, Lyon's 2005/06 vintage proved even more spectacular than the Jacques Santini or Le Guen versions, "taking a genuine place in French football history," French newspaper L'Equipe declared on Sunday. Not only have they passed AS Saint-Etienne and Olympique de Marseille's records of four straight championships, but victories in all their four remaining games would take them past the league best of 26 wins, jointly held by Stade de Reims Champagne (1959/60), AS Monaco FC (1960/61) and FC Nantes Atlantique (1965/66 and 1979/80).
They lie on 78 points, just one behind their record from last year, and their current 17-point lead over Bordeaux is four more than the Ligue 1 best since the switch to three points for a win. That advantage took its current magnitude on Sunday thanks to Fred's goal at PSG, showing Lyon's continued determination particularly after recent exits from the UEFA Champions League to two late AC Milan goals and then the French Cup after a 2-1 home loss against Marseille.
"I told the players that great teams prevail in the league which was clearly our main aim at the beginning of the season," Houllier said. "We had the ability for a treble, but cups are often a matter of small details while luck is lessened along a 38-game run."
Captain Claudio Caçapa - one of the four players to have been part of all five championships along with Grégory Coupet, Sidney Govou and fellow Brazilian Juninho Pernambucano - said: "To be champions is great, this squad deserves it." Caçapa and Juninho are now hoping to gain French citizenship, which would free up two 'non-EU' slots.
That is one for the future, and that aspect looks rather bright for Lyon. No one in France seems to be powerful enough to challenge Lyon over nine months, impressive for a team who had never even won the title before 2001/02. "I'll stay," said Houllier on Saturday having been linked with a move away in the summer. "And I hope to extend our reign.
A sixth league title will be our main quest next season."
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