Rudi García joined Olympique Lyonnais as manager in October 2019 with the team struggling for form in Ligue 1 following the short-lived tenure of Sylvinho.
The Brazilian had failed to make an impact during his eleven matches in charge, having himself replaced Bruno Genesio at the helm. The club had been playing some attractive football under Genesio but were defensively frail and fan unrest ultimately led to his departure at the end of the 2018-19 season.
García’s immediate remit was to restore some solidity to the team and oversee their return to the upper reaches of the Ligue 1 table. However, he was an unpopular choice with some sections of the support due to his previous links with rivals Olympique de Marseille and Saint-Étienne.
As a player, García was a midfielder and came through the youth ranks at Lille before featuring in the first team for several seasons in the mid-1980’s. He subsequently had spells at Caen and Martigues before injuries forced him to retire from playing aged 28 in 1992.
After completing his coaching badges, García landed his first managerial position when he succeeded John Toshack as manager of Saint-Étienne half way through the 2000-01 season, having previously been the Welshman’s assistant. However, he oversaw their relegation to the second division and was soon dismissed.
García was handed his second chance at management a year later when he took the reins at Dijon in the National (France’s third tier) and immediately turned them from relegation strugglers into promotion chasers. He oversaw the club’s transformation from an amateur to professional outfit in 2004, the same year they reached the Coupe de France semi final and gained promotion to Ligue 2. Three seasons of finishes in the upper reaches of Ligue 2 cemented his reputation as a promising young coach and he moved on to Le Mans in Ligue 1 in 2007.
Under García Le Mans punched above their weight to finish ninth in Ligue 1 and when a managerial vacancy opened at his former club Lille in summer 2008 he jumped at the chance to return. It was over the next five seasons that he truly established himself as one of the leading lights in the new generation of French coaches and became a sought after name for big clubs across the continent.
His time at Lille was a resounding success, peaking with a league and cup double in the 2010-11 season whilst playing some attractive football with an entertaining side featuring a young Eden Hazard. Lille never finished outside the top six with García at the helm and although they couldn’t repeat their heroics of the championship season, García’s reputation was strong enough for AS Roma to come calling in summer 2013.
García’s first two seasons in the Italian capital were another success as he lead the Giallorossi to second place finishes in Serie A, albeit some way behind the champions Juventus on each occasion. This was a marked improvement for a club that had finished 6th, 7th and 6th again in the previous three seasons. However, despite his achievements, García hadn’t managed to buy himself much time with the club’s board and he was sacked in January 2013 with the club sitting in 5th place in the table after a mini slump.
His stock still high, García rebounded at Marseille early the following season and began reviving the fortunes of a club that had finished a lowly 13th in Ligue 1 in the previous campaign. He guided them to 5th place in the 2016-17 season and went one better the following year with an attacking side that also reached the Europa League final where they lost out to Atletico Madrid. However, the 2018-19 season saw a downturn in the team’s fortunes when they finished fifth, failing to qualify for Europe and were victims of a giant-killing in the Coupe de France. He left Marseille in the close season, hence his availability when Lyon needed an experienced manager at short notice to replace Sylvinho.
García oversaw a gradual improvement at OL during his first few months in charge prior to the Covid-19 suspension of football but the team remained inconsistent and had failed to break back into the European positions at the top of the table. He enjoyed more success in the cup competitions, taking OL into the knock-out phase of the Champions League, the semi-final of the Coupe de France and the final of the Coupe de la Ligue, but it remains to be seen whether he will be the coach who can re-establish the club as Paris Saint-Germain’s main domestic rivals.
Aside from the failure in his short-lived first managerial post at Saint-Étienne, García can be judged a success everywhere he has coached, although he hasn’t always managed to sustain that success over a long period of time at the bigger clubs. There’s no reason to believe that he can’t bring similar success to Lyon over the next few seasons, so the fans should forgive him his past with their rivals and allow his the time to demonstrate what he can achieve with the talented group of players that he has inherited.