Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez is leaving Lyon to join Qatari side Al-Gharafa.
Lopez, 30, is in the final year of his contract at the French club and had been linked with a move to the Middle East last month, but Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas frequently said that he wanted him to stay, with Newcastle target Bafetimbi Gomis, 28, widely tipped to leave instead.
However, that position clearly changed in recent days. Aulas hinted on Tuesday night that Gomis could potentially stay after all, before Al-Gharafa confirmed their move for Lopez on Thursday.
The Middle Eastern club, managed by Brazil legend Zico, said that the former Porto player would sign for them subject to him successfully completing a medical.
Lyon later confirmed the deal in a statement on their website, saying that Lopez had first requested a transfer at the end of May before again asking the club for permission to leave at the end of last month.
The French club said that the player had requested to leave “for personal reasons” and that he had flown to Doha on Wednesday night to finalise the details of his contract with Al-Gharafa. The statement added that Lopez will be at Stade Gerland on Saturday to say his farewell to fans during Lyon’s opening league game of the season against Nice.
“I’m sad to lose a man like Lisandro,” Lyon coach Remi Garde told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “His departure is significant but we have to respect it.”
Garde had recently indicated that further recruitment depended on the club selling either Lopez or Gomis, who is also in the final year of his contract. Lyon are now expected to approach Lorient striker Jeremie Aliadiere, while the latest development will cast further doubt over Newcastle’s move for Gomis.
Lyon initially expected Lopez to leave this summer but his sudden departure will come as a shock to many of the club’s supporters. They watched him in action for the final time on Tuesday, as Lyon qualified for the play-off round of the Champions League qualifiers by beating Grasshoppers Zurich.
Lopez has spent four seasons at Lyon after signing for €24 million from Porto. He scored 11 goals in 31 league matches for the club last season, and 82 in 167 matches in all competitions overall.