Fred At Lyon: A Frustrating and Inconsistent European Adventure 

Outside of France and South America, people may only know the Brazilian striker Fred as the man who played for his country during the 2014 World Cup despite offering… well… very little on the field. Even his own fans booed and jeered him whenever he touched the ball due to his abysmal performances. He was a striker who only registered five shots on target in six games, becoming a national and international joke. The brutal criticism he received for his outings was so severe that he announced his international retirement because of it. The forward did attempt a comeback later that year. However, he was never picked for the Seleção ever again and eventually retired for the second time. 

Despite his dreadful World Cup performance, Fred certainly did earn his place in that Brazil team. The Minas Gerais native was a goal machine at club level for Fluminense, scoring an impressive 91 goals in 153 appearances. He also topped the goalscoring leaderboard at the 2013 FIFA Confederation Cup, tied with Spain’s Fernando Torres, and left with a winners medal as Brazil emerged victorious. There was simply no way that Luiz Felipe Scolari could leave him out of the Brazil National team for their home World Cup in 2014. 

The 37-year old’s career has been littered with championships, with most of his success coming in South America. Alongside winning the 2013 Confederations Cup, Fred was also a member of the Brazilian team that won the 2007 Copa América. With Fluminese, he won the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A in 2010 and 2012 and captured the Campeonato Carioca and Primeira Liga titles in 2012 and 2016. The striker also earned three Campeonato Mineiro medals in consecutive years with two different sides. The first coming in 2017 with Atlético Mineiro, before winning the next two with Cruzeiro in 2018 and 2019. He also won the Copa do Brazil with the ‘Raposa’ in 2018.

However, not all of Fred’s success came in his home country. Today, we will be detailing and dissecting the strange, but notable, three and a half year period he spent in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.


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Transfer Controversy

Arguably, the most notable club Fred ever played for was during his only stay in European football. He joined the dominant defending Ligue 1 champions Olympique Lyonnais from Cruzeiro in 2005 on a four-year deal after netting 41 goals in just 43 appearances. However, this turned out to be a very controversial move. Before Fred joined Cruzeiro in 2004, he played for América Mineiro. The Dutch team Feyenoord had acquired the player’s transfer rights from América previously. When Cruzeiro attempted to purchase the striker, it was agreed that Feyenoord would retain 10% of his economic rights and obtained Gérson Magrão in exchange for allowing the transfer to go ahead. The official transfer agreement stated, “Feyenoord remains the owner of 10% of the economic rights of Fred. This means that in the event that the player Fred is transferred in the future from Cruzeiro to another professional football club Feyenoord shall remain entitled to a percentage of 10% of the full transfer sum / compensation due or in other words Feyenoord will be entitled to 10% of all revenue with respect to this transfer”. 

Lyon and Cruzeiro entered into transfer talks for Fred’s services on August 26th, 2005. Just three days later, the two clubs came to terms on an official agreement for the striker, with the French side paying €15 million for him. Cruzeiro also obtained the 15% economic rights that Fred himself held for €3 Million before the move to ensure there would be no complications with the transfer. However, after the deal was finalised, Feyenoord was now owed 10% of the revenue, as per the stipulation that brought Fred To Cruzeiro in the first place.

On October 10th 2005, Feyenoord sent an invoice to Cruzeiro for the €1.5 million they were due from the transfer, requesting it to be paid within five days. The Brazilian club refused, stating that the figure Feyenoord claimed was wrong. They agreed to pay 10% “calculated over the total amount effectively destined to Cruzeiro due to the transfer of Fred” instead. Fred received €3 Million of the move after selling in his own 15% rights, his agent received €1.4 Million in fees, and Brazilian taxes required for these payments came to €510,913. Cruzeiro claimed that these should be deducted from the €15 million Lyon paid for the striker. However, despite claiming they would pay what they thought was owed in two instalments within 30 days of receiving Lyon’s total amount owed, Feyenoord did not receive any money from Cruzeiro. 

On November 14th, 2005, Feyenoord filed a request for arbitration with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to obtain payment of the amounts due, plus costs and interests. After a hearing on September 5th 2006, the panel dismissed Cruzeiro’s claim of deducting the fee and ordered them to pay the total €1.5 million to Feyenoord, with an additional interest rate of 5% per year from October 10th 2005. 


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Debut & Dummies 

Outside of the courtroom drama surrounding the move, Fred settled into the Lyon team quickly. His debut came on September 9th 2005 during matchday six of the 05/06 Ligue 1 season. The striker promptly became a fan favourite as he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory against AS Monaco. During his inaugural season in France, Fred found the back of the net 14 times in 31 appearances, starting just 20 of these games. The Brazilian was Lyon’s highest scorer that season and came joint-second in the Ligue 1 top scorer list, tied with Lille’s Peter Odemwingie. Only PSG’s Pauleta had a better record in front of goal, netting 21 times. Fred’s contributions allowed his team to retain their Ligue 1 championship with relative ease. They finished 15 points ahead of second-placed FC Girondins Bordeaux and only lost four games as they cruised to their fifth consecutive league title. 

Despite dominating the league, Lyon struggled in the domestic cup competitions. They fell at the Coupe De France’s quarter-finals stage to Marseille 2-1, with Fred scoring the only goal for Les Gones in that game. They faired even worse in the Coupe de la Ligue, losing to FC Nantes on penalties in the second round. Fred started all five games in both domestic cup competitions but only managed to score a singular goal, although he did successfully convert his penalty in their shootout loss. 

Alongside the league title, Lyon’s eyes were set on the Champions League. Disappointingly, their run came to an end in the quarter-finals for the third season in a row. The French side dominated in the group stage, going unbeaten with five wins and one draw. The most impressive of these victories came against Spanish giants Real Madrid, winning 3-0 at home. Although, Fred only played for 18 minutes of the game. The Brazilian was on the bench for most of the European campaign, only starting twice in nine appearances. Despite this, Fred managed to make headlines during Lyon’s Round of 16-second leg tie against PSV Eindhoven. He came off the bench to score a world-class goal and registered an assist in a dominant 4-0 performance. This result ensured his club would advance to the quarter-finals and avenged their loss to the Dutch side during last season’s competition. 

During Fred’s goal celebration, he pulled a baby’s dummy from his shorts and put it in his mouth. The striker did this strange celebration because, just mere hours ago, his wife had given birth to his daughter Geovanna. Fred was by his wife’s side, holding her hand in a Lyon hospital. His team was unsure if he would make it to the ground in time for the game, preparing the squad without him in case he could not. But, thanks to a police escort through the city, the then-22-year-old reached the Stade de Gerland before kickoff. Lyon manager Gérard Houllier apparently placed Fred on the bench so he could make phone calls to his friends and family back home. Motivated by the miracle of birth, the Brazilian arguably had his best performance in the Champions League after replacing John Carew in the 65th minute. 

Lyon would fall to the 02/03 Champions League winners and last seasons finalist AC Milan in the quarter-finals. The two sides drew the first game 0-0 at the Stade de Gerland, but Milan proved to be too powerful at the San Siro. The Rossoneri emerged with a 3-1 victory and secured a spot in the semi-finals.

During the summer of 2006, Fred made his major international tournament debut. He was called up to the Brazilian national team for the 2006 World Cup, despite not playing in any of the qualifying games. His primary role in the squad was to provide backup for the main strike force of Ronaldo and Adriano. The Lyon hitman only made one appearance in Germany, but he certainly made the most of it. In Brazil’s second group stage game against Australia, the forward entered the field in the 88th minute, replacing the goalscorer of the game’s opening goal, Adriano. Just two minutes later, he found the back of the net. After Robinho’s initial shot rebounded off the post, the ball fell right into Fred’s path. With an open goal in front of him, the striker simply walked the ball into the net to secure a 2-0 victory for the Seleção. This result advanced Brazil into the knockout stages with a game to spare. After cruising past Ghana in the round of 16, they would ultimately be eliminated by France in the quarter-finals. 


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Injury-Struck Second Season.

Fred’s second year in Europe was primarily interrupted by a hamstring tear that occurred against Marseille on October 22nd. This injury sidelined him for around two months and caused him to miss 13 games in a row. Alongside this, his reoccurring injuries and other medical issues forced the striker to not feature in seven more matches during the second half of the season. Despite these issues, Fred managed to lead Lyon in goals once again. When he was fit, the Brazilian was on prolific form. At the start of the 06/07 Ligue 1 season, he managed to score five goals in eight games for the defending champions. After returning from injury, the former Cruzeiro hitman resumed right where he left off, scoring another five goals in nine games before being sidelined yet again. In total, Fred made 21 appearances in Ligue 1. He was named in the starting lineup 11 times and made seven substitute appearances. The striker scored 11 goals and registered one assist as Lyon, once again, retained their title in a dominating fashion, finishing 17 points ahead of Marseille in second place. 

Les Gones once again finished both their domestic cup campaigns trophyless, although they did come closer than the season before. They were knocked out at the round-of-16 in the Coupe de France. Marseille eliminated them for the second year in a row after winning 2-1 at the Orange Vélodrome. Lyon’s Coupe de la Ligue run was far more successful. They made it to the finals, but fell at the last hurdle, losing 1-0 to Bordeaux at the Stade de France. Fred started in five of their seven cup games this season, missing the first two Coupe de la Ligue games through injury. However, he was goal-shy in these competitions yet again. He only managed to find the back of the net once, with the goal coming against the lower league side US Laon. 

Like in other competitions, Fred’s injuries interrupted a promising start in the Champions League. In Lyon’s opening game against Real Madrid, the Brazilian effortlessly out-strengthed and out-paced the 2006 Balon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro to get on the end of an exquisite long pass from Juninho Pernambucano. He then perfectly chipped the ball over an onrushing Iker Casillas to score the game’s opening goal, and perhaps his most famous in a Lyon shirt. The French club emerged 2-0 winners from that game. Fred continued his goalscoring form, netting in his side’s 3-0 victory against Steaua Bukarest. Unfortunately for the striker, that would be his last goal in the season’s competition. He failed to score against Dynamo Kyiv before being forced to miss the final three group stage games through injury. 

Despite Fred’s absences, Lyon once again topped their group. The Brazilian was fit for their round-of-16 games against Italy’s AS Roma. The french team were arguably the favourites to advance into the quarter-finals before the tie. They managed to leave the Olimpico di Roma with a 0-0 draw in the first leg and were expected to win on home soil. However, one of the world’s best players at that point, Francesco Totti, stole the show. He beat Grégory Coupet with a header to open the scoring before assisting Mancini for one of the goals of the tournament. Totti launched a long, cross-field ball from the halfway line to the winger. The Brazilian-Italian’s impeccable footwork allowed him to fool defender Anthony Réveillère, skipping past him after multiple stepovers before hammering the ball into the net. The game ended 2-0 to the visitors, meaning Lyon once again crashed out of the Champions League. Fred’s only impact over the two games was a negative one. He retroactively received a three-match ban in next year’s competition for elbowing Cristian Chivu during the second leg.

In all competitions during his injury-plagued 06/07 season, Fred made 30 appearances for Lyon, starting 23 games. The striker managed to find the back of the net 14 times, just three less than his previous season in 15 fewer matches. He also registered one assist and averaged 2.07 points per match when he played. 


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Should I Stay Or Should I Go

Fred was once again called up to the Brazilian national team in the summer of 2007. This time it was for their Copa America campaign. However, things did not go to plan for the striker as he suffered a cracked fifth metatarsal in training before Brazil’s opening day defeat to Mexico. This injury would sideline him for the entire tournament, as well as many months following it. Fred decided to go home to Brazil for his rehabilitation rather than returning to France, a move that angered Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas and his staff. The striker was already frustrated with Aulas before this latest injury. His anger towards the president had been growing over the past year. According to Goal.com, he claimed that “If the player is doing well, he will give him special attention. If the player does not perform as expected, he will not give him any respect” and that “He only thinks about money.” The president was a polarising figure among many at the club, with the first-team manager Gérard Houllier resigning from his post due to a fractious relationship with Aulas in May.

The supposed disrespect Fred received throughout his injury-ridden season from Aulas was the catalyst behind his desire to leave the French champions. The injured 23-year old told newspaper O Dia that “I don’t want to wear the Lyon shirt anymore.” He explained the reasoning behind his decision by saying, “I don’t have the same relationship that I used to have with the president and that’s why I am taking the decision of leaving Lyon.” According to FTBL.com.au, Les Gones advisor Bernard Lacombe stated, “The president is going to sort this out because it is in the interests of the player and the club. It is in the interests of everyone.” Fred’s talent when he was free from injuries caught the eye of many other European clubs. Spanish side Sevilla and England’s Tottenham Hotspur were rumoured to be interested in the wantaway striker. However, Lacombe believed a transfer away would be near-impossible, saying, “The difficulty for him, if he thinks he has clubs interested in him, is that he is injured, and suspended from European competition for three games.”

Despite Fred expressing his “irrevocable” desire to leave mere weeks before, the striker and the president managed to patch up their differences follow a ‘crisis’ meeting between the pair. Prior to these talks, the striker told L’Equipe. “It’s a personal problem that only concerns them and me, and not the press. If we could not sort out that problem, it would not be possible for me to remain at Lyon.” It is unknown what was said between the two, but they apparently put their issues on hold to achieve success domestically and in Europe with Les Gones. Lyon club official Marino Faccioli told L’Equipe that “We can say that this affair, which was not really one from our point of view, is closed.”


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Replaced

After a whirlwind summer of transfer talks and falling outs, Fred remained with Lyon for their 07/08 Ligue 1 campaign. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the injury he picked up while on international duty ruled him out for the season’s first ten games. He returned to action on November 20th, coming off the bench in Lyon’s 3-1 victory against Monaco. The striker came on in the 55th minute, replacing Les Gones’s future superstar Karim Benzema, who netted the third goal in the game. The young striker was Fred’s replacement during his injury and made the place in the team his own, scoring 11 goals in the first 11 games of the season. 

The Brazilian did not get his first start until two games later against Valenciennes FC, which Lyon won 2-0. Benzema was moved to the wing to accommodate the striker and assisted Juninho for the game’s first goal. Fred, on the other hand, was not involved in the scoring. The former Cruzeiro man was dropped from the starting lineup by Alain Perrin, the man who replaced Houllier as manager, in favour of Benzema following a 2-1 loss to rivals Marseille on November 11th. However, he did start in Lyon’s Champions League clash against Barcelona on November 27th. He failed to make an impact during the 2-2 draw and was substituted in the 60th minute. 

Throughout December, Fred’s desire to leave the club came to the forefront once again. Unhappy with the bench role and fearing he would lose his Brazil National Team spot, the striker indicated his time at Lyon was over. In an interview with Gazeta Esportiva, he said, “I would like to stay until the end of my contract in 2009 but I want to have the chance to play more so I can recover my place in the national team. I cannot continue with the way things are at the moment.” The striker admitted he was finding it difficult to compete with Benzema for the number nine spot, saying, “I want the club to trust me again, that I am their number nine, but that is currently impossible at Lyon. We are playing with only one forward, Karim Benzema, and he is doing really well.”

Jean-Michel Aulas revealed that he was prepared to sell the wantaway striker. England’s Tottenham, Portsmouth, West Ham and Middlesbrough were rumoured to be interested in his services. However, the French club Paris Saint-Germain was his most plausible next destination. The president, who had enough of his striker’s attitude towards his club, told Le Parisien, “Frankly, I hope Fred will go to PSG. It’s a good deal if PSG are interested.” He also admitted that the two clubs had exchanged phone calls regarding a potential agreement. Despite both sides willing to make the move happen, the transfer never went ahead. 

After a change of heart, Fred announced he wanted to stay at Lyon and fight for his place, rather than move to the teams that were interested in him. In a statement, the Brazilian said, “I’m staying. I hope to regain my top level and to give the best of myself to the team. “I know it won’t be easy. I’ve talked to Marino Faccioli and the coach. “I want to stay here at Lyon. There haven’t been good offers for me.” Aulas was still wary of the striker and refused to believe in his loyalty to the club, especially if Tottenham or Middlesbrough were willing to give him the lucrative wages he was demanding. He stated that “He is going to play the waiting game until January 31st, and perhaps after that.” “What bothers me most is his indecision. If I knew that he said this because he really wanted to stay, I would be relieved.” Despite the distrust, no move ever materialised, and Fred remained at the Stade de Gerland.


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The Rise, The Fall & The Rise Again. 

After another month of wondering if he would leave the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and recovering from another spell on the sideline that forced him to miss every game in December, Fred could finally focus on winning back his spot in the starting lineup. He returned to Ligue 1 action on matchday 21, coming off the bench and playing 28 minutes during Lyon’s shock 3-0 defeat to relegation battling RC Lens. He made his first start in eight games three days later. The Brazilian was deployed through the middle, with Benzema once again moving out to the wing. Both men were involved in the scoring during Lyon’s 2-0 win. Fred assisted Hatem Ben Arfa for the games opening goal before Benzema found the back of the net 45 minutes later to seal the game. Despite the assist, Fred was relegated to the bench once again for the next two games. 

Lyon’s matchday 24 game at home to FC Sochaux looked to be the turning point of the season for the out-of-favour Fred. He was only on the pitch for 20 minutes, replacing Ben Arfa in the 74th minute, but managed to register two assists in his sides 4-1 victory. Both of the goals he set up came in additional time at the end of the 90 minutes. After being ruled out of the next game against Le Mans, Fred was promoted back to the starting lineup against FC Metz. The future seemed bright as he scored both goals in their 2-0 win at the Stade de Gerland. Benzema provided the assist for the first goal. With a potential partnership between the two threatening to bloom, the Lyon fans were brimming with excitement. Fred followed this up with another game-winning goal, this time in Les Gones 1-0 victory against LOSC Lille. 

Lyon’s next match was their most important of the season. The top of Ligue 1 team hosted second-placed Bordeaux. With a mere three points separating the two sides, this game guaranteed to alter the title race. Fred may have been on red hot goalscoring form, but he failed to add to his tally on this occasion. Instead, he assisted Benzema in the 50th minute to score a crucial goal, which put their team 3-1 ahead. A six-point gap had opened up between the two sides as Lyon went on to win 4-2. The Brazilian striker’s rich vein of form continued over the next two games. He found the back of the net in his team’s 3-0 victory against Monaco before bagging two more against the side who almost signed him months ago, Paris Saint-Germain, in a 4-2 win. 

Despite scoring six goals in the five games since his reinstatement into the starting eleven, with Lyon possessing a perfect record during this stretch of matches, Fred was perhaps unjustly dropped from the starting eleven after failing to score in the league leaders 2-1 win against Valenciennes FC. The striker’s impact during this period of Lyon’s season can not be understated. Before he was selected to start against FC Metz, Les Gones only held a one-point advantage over Bordeaux. After the Valenciennes FC victory, their lead at the top of the league extended to nine points. 

Fred would not lead the line again until the final game of the season. In the six games between his starts, Lyon only managed to win twice. This poor run of form meant that the reigning champions’ nine-point advantage had evaporated to just two. Going into their final matchday clash against relegation-threatened RC Lens, second-placed Bordeaux was unbeaten in their last seven games, winning six and drawing one. Lyon knew they had to beat AJ Auxerre if they were to earn their record-breaking seventh consecutive Ligue 1 title. Fred immediately showed what his team was missing while he was relegated to the bench, assisting Benzema for the games opening goal in the first minute of play with a beautiful nutmeg pass. Nine minutes later, he got on the scoresheet himself, squeezing the ball into the net from a tight angle with his weak foot. Fred’s inspired performance guided Les Gones to a 3-1 victory, securing the championship by the closest margin since the 03/04 season. 


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Domestic Cup Success

In domestic and European cup competitions, Lyon had a mixed year. They fell at the round of 16 stage of the Champions League for the second year in a row. This time, their elimination was at the hands of the English giants Manchester United, losing 2-1 on aggregate. Fred could not be at fault for the French side’s failure to progress, as he only featured in 18 minutes of play over the two legs. The club also suffered a disappointing Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals exit after a 1-0 defeat to Le Mans, with Fred once again only playing limited minutes in the game. 

Unlike their Champions League and Coupe de la Ligue runs, Lyon’s Coupe de France campaign did not end prematurely or in disappointment. Instead, the side managed to achieve something they had not accomplished since 1973, winning the most prestigious knockout competition in French football. They defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the finals 1-0 after extra-time thanks to a 102nd-minute winner by Sidney Govou. Fred started four of the six games through their successful cup drive, only missing out on two matches through injury. He even captained the side for the first time during their semi-final clash against CS Sedan. Despite being the focal point of Lyon’s attack through the competition, the Brazilian disappointingly only managed to contribute to one goal, scoring against lower league opposition Croix de Savoie in the second round. 

In all competitions over the 07/08 season, Fred made 30 appearances for the second year in a row, starting 18 games. However, his goal return almost halved, only scoring eight times compared to the 14 in the last campaign. It can be argued that, despite scoring less, his goals in 2008 were far more valuable to his team. Without his strikes in the second half of the season, Lyon may not have been able to thwart Bordeaux from overtaking them. The Brazilian’s performances during that six-game spell were a significant reason behind Les Gones claiming their record-breaking seventh league title. The striker also managed to register five assists, his highest amount since joining the French side, and averaged 2.10 points per match. 


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Staying In France

Unlike the previous two transfer windows, there was little indication of Fred wanting to leave the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the summer of 2008. There was interest in the Brazilian striker from AS Roma, with Luciano Spalletti, the manager of the Serie A side, keen on partnering him upfront with Mirko Vucinic in Italy’s capital. It was reported that Lyon had been monitoring Roma’s winger Mancini, leading to speculation of a swap between the two teams. Despite the interest, Bernard Lacombe made it unequivocally clear that their hitman was not leaving. He told Il Romanista that, “There is nothing in the rumours about Mancini to Lyon and Fred to Roma. “Fred will not leave Lyon, he has a contract with us and he will respect it.” 

In a press conference at Lyon’s training ground just after the summer transfer window had closed, Fred revealed the reason’s behind his lost enthusiasm for the club and why he wanted to leave in January. The striker told the media, “I have had a lot of personal problems. Last year, I went through a divorce and my ex-wife left for Brazil with my little girl,”To stay near her and to be able to see her, I asked the club to loan me for six months to Brazil.” Jean-Michel Aulas made it clear that if he were to leave, it would have to be a permanent transfer. Likely due to his wage demands and the transfer fee the club would ask for, only fellow European teams were interested in signing the Brazilian. Fred was not interested in moving to another team in the continent, saying, “if I am going to play in Europe, I’d prefer to stay at Lyon.” 

Fred seemed more committed to Lyon than ever. The former Cruzeiro player even indicated his willingness to sign a new contract with the club. The striker’s original deal would run out at the end of the season, but he declared that he would like to stay at the Stade de Gerland beyond that. He admitted that he turned down an extension offer from the club last year. However, he said he had spoken to the president about arranging another meeting regarding the matter, and hoped it would happen before January. 


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Beginning Of The End

A knee injury forced Fred to miss the first three games of the 08/09 Ligue 1 season. He returned to the squad on matchday four durings Lyon’s 1-0 win against Saint-Étienne, although he was an unused substitute. He made his first start one game later as his side narrowly defeated OGC Nice 3-2. The Brazilian’s first goal of the season came on matchday seven, scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-1 triumph over AS Nancy. Despite starting three of the following five games, coming off the bench in the other two, the striker failed to find the back of the net or provide an assist in the french league.

Despite suffering a drought domestically, Fred did score two crucial goals in Lyon’s Champions League away victory against Romania’s Steaua Bukarest. With Bukarest leading 3-2 in the 67th minute, Lyon’s number nine entered the fray, replacing Abdul Kader Keita. It took him just two minutes to score the equaliser. Jérémy Toulalan’s quick feet in the area allowed him to pull the ball back to the Brazilian, who calmly controlled it before beautifully beating Steaua’s goalkeeper Róbinson Zapata with a finesse shot. Les Gones took the lead two minutes later, with Benzema converting from a Juninho Pernambucano freekick. With the home side looking for an equaliser, Fred sealed the game in the 91st minute. Zapata did initially saved his left-footed effort, following a cutback from Anthony Mounier. However, the striker pounced on the rebound, and converted with his right foot to make it 5-3.. This was arguably Fred’s last good performance in a Lyon shirt. 

Fred’s Ligue 1 goal drought came to an end during Lyon’s matchday 13 clash with AS Monaco. The forward’s 55th-minute strike proved to be the winner as the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes team emerged 1-0 winners. The Brazilian followed this up with an assist during Lyon’s 2-1 victory over Bordeaux a week later. This turned out to be the last time Fred would contribute to a goal in a Lyon shirt. Over the final six games in France, Fred failed to register a goal or an assist, despite starting four times. His last appearance for Les Gones came on January 10th 2009, in a 1-1 draw against FC Lorient. 


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Make Up Your Mind

Despite seemingly fixing his relationship with the club in the summer and publicly stating he would like to renew his contract, it appeared Fred merely papered over the cracks. His relationship with the backroom staff and president Jean-Michel Aulas finally came crumbling down entirely in December 2008. Even by the Brazilian’s standards, the last few months of his Lyon career were truly bizarre.

Due to his poor performances on the field, Fred had to endure whistles and jeers from his own club’s supporters during his final games for the side. This severely affected the striker, with his work rate and commitment on the field noticeably dropping. His frustration boiled over after Jean-Michel Aulas sided with the fans. He told Canal+, “When our players do not show the proper level of commitment required to the squad in comparison to the level of compensation they demand, it is our responsibility to punish them.” 

The striker was fed up with how Aulas ran the club and Claude Puel’s supposed lack of skill as a manager. Fred told L’Equipe that he felt that Puel, who replaced Alain Perrin in the summer after the former manager resigned due to unresolvable differences with the president, was the reason behind the team’s lack of motivation. He went on to say, “The way he spoke to me p****d me off sometimes. I was angry and I said, ‘But why does this guy not like me? Why does he not help me?’ This has happened with other players who have enormous potential.” 

Fred, once again, believed his time at the Stade de Gerland had come to an end. After publicly declaring his desire to return to his home country, the enigmatic striker reportedly requested his contract to be terminated, to make a move back to Brazil easier. Jean-Michel Aulas denied the request. While the president also wanted him to leave, after having enough of his attitude, he was unwilling to let him walk away for free. This meant if he were to depart, a club would have to pay for him, with Lyon reportedly putting a €5 million price tag on their wantaway number nine. 

It appeared Fred’s wishes had come true, as he was offered a way home. Aulas confirmed that Lyon had received a transfer enquiry from Palmeiras. However, the troublesome Brazilian inexplicably rejected the move, despite being the only bid from a team in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. Even more confusingly, it appeared the striker had changed his mind yet again and wanted to stay in France. The man who asked to be released from his contract just two weeks prior told Lyon Capital’s website that, “I’ll stay until June. I can’t say anything more but we will continue discussions over a new contract.”

To the surprise of no one, he lied.


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Out In The Cold

Lyon had finally had enough of Fred constantly changing his mind. The striker was frozen out of the team, forced to train with the Les Gones’ Under 18 side and was indirectly told to look for a new club by Aulas during the 2009 winter transfer window. The club’s president told Canal+, “That is what has happened with Fred. Things are not resolved. He is waiting to see where he stands. He wanted to leave and I replied through Marco Falcone [the administrative director of the club] that he could leave. Now he must find a club willing to take him during the season.” The Brazilian appeared to be in no hurry to engineer a move away from the French side. According to the Daily Mail, he stated that “I’ve heard the club would like to see me leave, but it is my decision. And if a club signs me to join at the end of my contract, and to stop Lyon from making money on me, then that is my problem.” 

It seemed like the Lyon outcast was expecting the European elite to be fighting for his services. Although this was not the case, he did have plenty of interest from mid-table teams from the English Premier League. The striker publicly declared he had entered talks with Stoke City. In a fairly condescending statement, he said, “I can confirm I am considering a proposal from Stoke City. They are not Arsenal or Manchester United but they are still a good Premier League club.” Fred could not resist taking a jab at Lyon’s president while discussing his potential move to The Potters, saying, “at least they have shown me more respect with their offer than Aulas has made me at Lyon.” Despite the talks, no move ever materialised between the two parties for unknown reasons. 

Tottenham Hotspur was the next team to pursue the Brazilian international. However, Fred once again complicated the situation. According to Goal.com, Spurs and Lyon had agreed upon a loan deal for the striker. He was scheduled to meet with the London club’s manager Harry Redknapp to discuss personal terms on January 27th, but he failed to show up for the meeting. When asked about what had occurred, a puzzled Redknapp said, “I don’t know what happened, the plan was for me to meet him and have a chat with him.” Jean-Michel Aulas later asserted that, while Fred was meant to meet with Tottenham to discuss a potential transfer, there was never a deal in place. The president confirmed that the striker no-showed his meeting as there was “a disagreement between Fred and the English club.” 

Aulas was furious with his indecisive striker and gave him a January 30th deadline to find a new club or fall in line. According to The Guardian, Lyon’s president said, “He must go to a European club by Saturday evening and there will be a transfer fee. It will not be too high, but there will be one. And he knows what is expected of him if he has to stay.” He went on to attack Fred’s behaviour over the past year and a half, declaring, “(He) is in the process of tarnishing his image, notably with the big clubs.” Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, Fred failed to find a club he found acceptable and remained a Lyon player as the winter transfer window slammed shut.  


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Au Revoir Lyon

With the window shut and the club now unable to make any money from Fred, Aulas and Lyon were left with a dilemma. If they truly wanted to dispose of their former starting striker, they would have to either wait until the end of the season and let his contract run out, or terminate it early. The club chose the latter, and that is precisely what Fred wanted. Whether he intentionally did not agree terms with a European club during the transfer window, or he simply could not attract a club he found suitable, is still up for debate. However, it did appear that the striker had his eyes on one club only, Fluminense. The Brazilian international understood that the most likely way he could join the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A side was to have his contract terminated and join the Máquina Tricolor on a free transfer. But, this is Fred we are talking about. There had to be one last twist before we wrap up his European journey. 

While Lyon was arranging for his contract to be terminated, Fluminense had already announced the arrival of Fred. According to Goal.com, the mercurial striker would “receive a little over €25,000 per week at the Brazilian club and will receive a signing on bonus of €1 million” as soon as Lyon confirmed his release. Fred and Fluminense outsmarted Jean-Michel Aulas and Lyon. They got exactly what they wanted. However, when it was time for Fred to sign his termination, he failed to show up. Aulas verbally eviscerated the Brazilian while describing the events of the day to the newspaper Le Progres, saying, “We waited until Saturday for him to sign his contract termination. But he did not come. He is unreal. What he does to his wife and his colleagues is unthinkable. It is not human.”

Fred was officially suspended from all club duties on February 20th. Aulas refused to play the Brazilian’s games anymore. The seething Lyon president wanted Fred gone and gone now. Without the striker being present, Lyon’s legal team continued to pursue alternative methods in which they could terminate his contract. Aulas told Le Progres that “We cannot remain inactive on such things. We are speaking with our lawyers at present and I cannot say anything about it.” While Aulas was considering which legal action to take, Fred had already returned to his home country to prepare for his Fluminense move, refusing to return to France.

On February 26th, Lyon officially announced that the club had managed to sever all ties with Fred. The statement read, “Lyon announce that Fred has taken the decision to terminate his contract during his time off in Brazil,” The termination of his contract with Lyon takes effect this evening and allows him to sign for a Brazilian club.” With this, Fred’s time in France had come to an end. After a hectic and bizarre last few months as a Lyon player, he could finally sign with a new team. The Brazilian international officially joined Fluminense on March 1st 2009. 


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Conclusion 

During his spell at the Stade de Gerland, Fred made 125 appearances for Les Gones in all competitions, scoring a respectable 43 goals and registering nine assists. He helped his team obtain three consecutive Ligue 1 championships and the 07/08 Coupe de France. The eccentric Brazilian will not go down as a Lyon club legend, but he certainly left his mark on the side. Whether it was the dummy celebration, the exquisite goal against Real Madrid, the five goals in six games that greatly aided his side’s title defence, the constant requests to leave, the headache-inducing constant change of hearts or the disrespectful way he departed. Fred will forever be remembered by the Lyon fans who witnessed his erratic three and a half years at the club. 


All Statistics/Match Information via:

https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/

Sources:

Author: Ross Paul

With three years of working as a freelance Sports Journalist and a degree from Sussex University under my belt, I decided that it was time to focus on a passion project of mine. I created Tales From Sport in the hopes of producing the most in-depth, high quality articles about the most interesting stories in the history of sport. My main focus is writing about the NFL, however, I also produced content on the MLB, NHL and Football. I am a die-hard Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs, Winnipeg Jets, Stevenage FC and AC Milan Fan and avid sports memorabilia collector.

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