It’s pretty hard to not empathise with recent Arsenal transfer target Andre Onana, who could be set for a move to Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyonnais imminently.
If recent reports are to be believed, the former Barcelona goalkeeper could be set to depart Ajax after six years with the Dutch giants.
“Yes, they are interested. The clubs are in talks,” Albert Botines, Onana’s agent, told Voetbal Primeur recently.
Of course, it’s not lost on anyone that the current Lyon manager is Peter Bosz, who took over from Rudi Garcia in May, two months after his Bayer Leverkusen dismissal.
The Cameroon star owes the 57-year-old boss his ascent to prominence after the ex-Vitesse boss handed him his debut and made the goalkeeper his first choice in 2016/17.
Bosz left after only 13 months with the Dutch giants, but Onana kept his place under subsequent managers at the Johan Cruyff Arena, where performances in the Eredivisie and Champions League made him arguably Africa’s number one shot-stopper.
In that sense, a reunion of the pair at the Groupama Stadium makes sense.
Both already have an adequate working relationship after their year together in the Eredivisie, so they would essentially be picking up where they left off four years ago.
Ajax, meanwhile, would be getting a fee for a player entering the final year of his contract. This is obviously preferable to losing him for free in 12 months.
For the Central African, a move to one of Europe’s top five leagues is understandable. Having never tested himself in the continent’s biggest divisions, a transfer to Les Gones makes sense in that regard.
However, are the seven-time French champions the right fit for the 25-year-old?
The Kids haven’t lifted Hexagoal since their last triumph in 2008 and have failed to end second since 2015/16. While last season represented an opportunity to claim an open title race, their damaging gameweek 34 3-2 defeat by eventual winners Lille more or less ended their dream.
Perhaps more damaging for OL was their fourth-placed finish, which means they will be without Champions League football for the second season running.
Garcia’s men still had an outside chance of claiming third spot going into the final day, but a second-half collapse at home to Nice saw them throw away a 2-1 advantage to lose 3-2. Monaco finished third, despite a goalless encounter with Lens, thus beating Lyon to third place by just two points.
The upshot of the final standings means the seven-time French champions will take no part in CL football for two years running, having also missed out in 20/21.
While the last two absences are disappointing, the Kids participated in four of the five campaigns in the continent’s top club competition between 15/16 and 19/20, notably eliminating Manchester City post-lockdown in 2020 to reach the semi-final.
Having said that, the exit of Memphis Depay — the club’s talisman in the last four years — and the expected departure of Houssem Aouar — weaken the club to an extent.
It remains to be seen if Karl Toko Ekambi can still be as influential as during last term’s success, and if Tino Kadewere can build on a commendable debut campaign at the club; while Lucas Paqueta will look to become one of the side’s on-field leaders following Depay’s Barcelona move.
The uncertainty at the Groupama Stadium leaves many questioning the logic of Onana’s Lyon move. They aren’t a destination club, didn’t play in the Champions League last term and will miss the competition this year. The loss of their star player also casts further doubt on the upcoming season.
Perhaps, the ideal scenario for the Cameroon goalkeeper would be playing out the final year of his Ajax contract before seeking a move in 12 months.
The 25-year-old’s conundrum is pretty discouraging: he’s seemingly good enough to play at an even bigger club than Lyon, but the possible destination clubs are either not seeking goalkeepers at this time or face complicated choices.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have Thibaut Courtois and Marc-Andre ter Stegen respectively, Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer may remain in Bavaria until 2023 and Manchester United already face a tricky situation with David De Gea and Dean Henderson.
Juventus are committed to Wojciech Szczesny until 2024, AC Milan already signed Mike Maignan and Inter Milan still value 37-year-old captain Samir Handanovic.
While Bernd Leno faces an uncertain future at the Emirates Stadium, Onana will require guarantees of a starting role if he’s to opt for North London. Chelsea are certainly not considering the position following Edouard Mendy’s debut season success and Liverpool and Man City are secure with Alisson Becker and Ederson respectively.
Tottenham Hotspur have been mooted, even though they arguably don’t particularly fit the bill of a destination club. Hugo Lloris’ contract expires in a year and chances of renewing are up in the air for the 34-year-old Spurs and France captain.
Perhaps the Lilywhites could have swooped for Onana in 12 months if the plan was to release the 2018 World Cup winner in summer 2022, but the Indomitable Lion’s expected Lyon move means he’ll be locked into the Ligue 1 side for the foreseeable future.
A transfer to Europe’s top five leagues could be seen as a success for the Cameroon star, but the long-term merits leave much to be desired.