The Bafetimbi Gomis transfer saga took a fresh twist on Tuesday night when Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said he had lodged a complaint against a number of French clubs for illegally approaching some of his players.
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Speaking after his club recorded a 2-0 aggregate victory over Grasshoppers Zurich in the Champions League, Aulas said he was now "very pessimistic" about the chances of Gomis, 28, being sold to Newcastle United.
Newcastle had negotiated a basic transfer fee of €8 million last week. The Lyon striker, who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, told RMC Sport that he had agreed terms with the English side three weeks ago.
But, depending on who you believe, a dispute over agents’ fees or a solidarity payment due to Gomis’ former club Saint-Etienne has threatened to scupper the deal.
Marseille have tracked Gomis all summer and the player himself is believed to favour a move to another French club.
Aulas does not want to sell to one of Lyon’s rivals and he seemingly hit out at Marseille on Tuesday night.
"I’m very disappointed that a deal with Newcastle hasn’t been finalised," he told the L’Equipe 21 TV station.
"I’m very pessimistic - it means that someone behind the scenes is pulling the strings. I think a certain number of people are going to reveal their true nature.
"Yesterday [Monday] for that matter I lodged a complaint with the commission for legal affairs over the destabilisation of certain players. Some clubs have made dishonest propositions.
"Although the situation is difficult, we respect the player. We’re one year away from the end of his contract.
"Some excessive demands made Newcastle hesitate, notably concerning compensation for intermediaries."
Aulas, 64, later told the club’s official TV channel that Gomis could end up staying at the club if he does not move to Newcastle.
"We’ve done our utmost," he told OLTV. "If things aren’t going to develop, you’d have to ask if he should not extend his contract and stay at Lyon."
The long-serving Lyon owner received a gentle reminder of league rules about illegal approaches in 2006, when his club were chasing then-Marseille player Franck Ribery, Aulas brought up that example with radio reporters after Lyon's match in Zurich.
"A few years ago when I had the misfortune to meet our favourite player, Ribery, during the holidays, I was criticised and had to appear before the commission for legal affairs," he said.
"You shouldn’t play that kind of game, especially when you’re a very big club like Marseille."
Aulas said that Newcastle were the fifth club that had reached an agreement with Lyon in recent months, with Rubin Kazan, Cardiff and Swansea having previously offered to pay more for Gomis.
Aulas suggested that someone was trying to make Lyon look bad so that the striker could force a move to another French club.
"Newcastle have agreed to give the player £70,000 per week, which is not only a lot more than he was earning at Lyon but also considerably superior to that which he could earn at other French clubs, except for Monaco and PSG.
"Given that Monaco and PSG are not interested, that means that things cannot continue. I think that there remains a small chance if certain people explain to Bafe that his future is to quickly join a big club. Newcastle are not a big French club but they’re a big Franco-English club."