The knock on French women's soccer is that there's no competition. It was one of the reasons expressed by French star Amandine Henry
in her decision to leave Lyon for the relative parity of the
NWSL. Alex Morgan
now makes the move six months later the other way to Lyon just as its domination is threatened if not the lopsided nature of French and European soccer.
to Paris St. Germain, 1-0, on Saturday to drop into second place, three points behind PSG, which is unbeaten, untied and unscored upon after 10 games. How rare was the defeat? It was Lyon's first
league defeat in almost three years and only second loss in its last seven seasons after going unbeaten in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and before that in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Saturday's loss, Lyon had played 13 games this season and won all 13 by a margin of 79-5. Lyon won every game by at least three goals except its league match before the PSG game, a 2-1 win over
Morgan will arrive to help Lyon not only in its bid for an 11th straight league title and sixth straight league-cup double but also its defense of the UEFA Champions League,
another lopsided competition.
Lyon beat Norway's Avaldsnes, 10-2, in the first round and it got worse in the second round when Lyon beat Switzerland's FC Zurich, 8-0 and 9-0. Most of the
other pairings weren't much better. Five ended with aggregate wins of five or more goals: 8-0, 8-1, 7-1, 6-1 and 5-0. To say the least, women's soccer in Europe, however romanticized, isn't very
But Morgan will jump right into the thick of things in Europe as Lyon's quarterfinal series against Germany's Wolfsburg in March will be a rematch of the 2016 Champions League final
Lyon won on penalty kicks.
The gap between Lyon, which has a budget of 5 million euros ($6 million), and PSG and the rest of French women's soccer is due to the extraordinary commitment
of the presidents of Lyon (Jean-Michel Aulas
) and PSG (Qatari Nasser Al-Khelaifi
) to back their women's programs.
As of a year ago, less than a third of the players in the
12-team Ligue Feminine were on full-time contracts, and half of them -- playing on what is called a "contrat fédéral" often paying as little as a couple thousand euros a month -- were
from Lyon or PSG.
SFR Sport reported
that Lyon will pay Morgan 25,000 euros
($30,000) a month, far more than the salaries of most of her teammates, who include captain Wendie Renard
, Camille Abily
and Eugenie Le Sommer
among 15 French internationals, plus
a foreign contingent that features Norwegian Ada Hegerberg
, the 2016 UEFA Women's Player of the Year, and Dzsenifer Marozsan
, the German national team captain.
coach Patrice Lair, for one, thinks that what Aulas, his former boss at Lyon, is doing in signing Morgan is crazy.
"They asked me about signing Morgan," Lair, who led Lyon to
European titles in 2011 and 2012, told 20 Minutes. "Management
was ready to take her. I didn't want her."
Lair's position is that bringing in a high-priced star like Morgan would destroy the chemistry of his team.
"We rebuilt our group,"
said Lair of first-place PSG, "and I don't want to ruin it in two weeks with her arrival." He added that PSG, backed by Qatar Sports Investments, could sign any women's player it wanted to, but
insisted such spending would kill women's soccer.
Aulas' motivations for signing Morgan go beyond winning more titles. Lyon has plenty of them. Tuesday's signing coincides with a deal
Aulas reached with China's IDG Capital to invest 100 million euros ($120 million) into Lyon in return for a 20 percent interest in the club.
Aulas wants to extend Lyon's brand in the
United States, in China and the rest of the world, and Morgan's international appeal -- with her 3 million Facebook likes and 2.8 Twitter followers -- will help Lyon's marketing efforts