It is the saga that is threatening to last the summer, Liverpool’s pursuit of Lyon star Nabil Fekir.
The Reds have already made one summer acquisition, bringing in Fabinho with the minimum of fuss from Monaco.
But if Reds supporters were expecting the surprise, under-the-radar move for the Brazilian midfielder to set the tone for future dealings with Ligue 1 sides, they could be in for a rude awakening.
Certainly where Fekir is concerned.
Introducing Jean-Michel Aulas, the wily, awkward, cantankerous long-time president of Lyon.
Not for nothing does he possess the reputation of being one of the most fiercely difficult negotiators in European football.
If Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards found Monaco amiable, Aulas is already proving somewhat more obstinate.
Such is his way, with countless peers swiftly discovering how drawn-out and convoluted it can be to prise a player away from Lyon.
Aulas, now 69, certainly knows his onions, having made his name and fortune in Business, a background from which he regularly draws in transfer dealings.
When he took over at Lyon back in 1987, they were a second-tier club. By 2002 they had lifted their first French title and won the next six while become regulars in the Champions League, reaching the semi-finals in 2010 having knocked Liverpool out of the group stages.
All of this has been while selling some of their best players.
Aulas accepts Lyon will never be able to compete with the lure of the leading Premier League teams and those from Italy, Germany and Spain. But that doesn’t mean he will willingly allow his club’s top talent to be cherry-picked with ease.
Take Chelsea’s pursuit of Michael Essien in 2005, for example.
The Londoners first had an offer of £10m turned down on May 11, and went back with offers of £16.75m, £18m, £21m that were all rejected during the summer.
Come August, Aulas was saying: “Roman Abramovich asked to meet me. No problem but it will be just for fishing. The Essien case is closed and he will remain at Lyon.”
By August 19, though, a deal had been agreed, more than three months after Chelsea first made concrete their interest.
Liverpool had some experience of Aulas in the summer of 2007 with their failed attempt to sign Florent Malouda.
Rafael Benitez at the time raged against how long it was taking the transfer to go through, although his ire was at chief executive Rick Parry and the club’s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett rather than Aulas.
“Benitez called me several times and he is a good man, a good trainer,” said Malouda, before tellingly adding, “but we didn’t manage to find a way to make me join.”
Aulas didn’t make life easy for Real Madrid when they snapped up Karim Benzema in 2009 having already resisted interest from Manchester United.
However, the Lyon president admits he met his match in 2012 when attempting to negotiate with Tottenham Hotspur’s Daniel Levy over the sale of Hugo Lloris.
“It’s been very, very difficult,” he said at the time. “I’ve got 25 years of experience as a president of a club, but this is very rare in the football world.
“The negotiation with the Tottenham directors has been the hardest I have ever had to undergo in these 25 years.”
Nevertheless, Aulas managed to drag it out all summer until a deal was finally agreed on September 1.
Alexandre Lacazette, for a long time linked with Liverpool, stayed at Lyon longer than would have been expected until last summer, although it still took Arsenal a month to get a deal over the line.
“Alexandre Lacazette was told he could leave,” Aulas said. “We had negotiations with Atletico. Things did not work out. We now have a very nice offer from Arsenal. But for us he will not leave.”
It cost the Gunners almost £50m when Lacazette finally did go.
“We have the will to keep all our best players,” said Aulas, speaking to Goal.com in 2016.
“We will keep our best players, but if some of them absolutely want to leave and the offers are difficult to resist, we will not be stupid and we will listen to what the players have to say.”
Liverpool want Fekir and, according to reports in France, he would welcome a move to Anfield.
That, though, would be the easy bit. Now for Aulas. History suggests this is a saga that could run and run.
Source : DailyPost