What awaits Alex Morgan on and off field in France

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.

Lyon lost 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.

Before 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 Montpellier.

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 deep.

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.

PSG 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 enormously.

5 comments about "What awaits Alex Morgan on and off field in France".
  1. R v Mcgrath, December 21, 2016 at 8:09 a.m.

    No complaints here. Pro sports is about the money; ask LeBron or Kevin Durant. If the NWSL offered comparable money she might have stayed in America. They chose not to; so its their loss.

  2. Frank Fonte, December 21, 2016 at 10:45 a.m.

    also no problems with her moving to france. it will help her get better. she's getting paid well. just wish i could watch the euro games on tv. the champions league games are fun to watch.

  3. R2 Dad, December 21, 2016 at 11:30 a.m.

    The soccer will be the least of her worries. This is the Beckham situation all over again, so she will need some allies. Advice:
    1) Be demanding and imperious on the pitch, magnanimous off it. You were brought over to score goals, #1. Short of that, you are heartburn to this team.
    2) Learn some french, and don't stop trying. Because you're american, everyone has already made up their minds about you. Keep them guessing.
    3) If you like food and wine, you will love Lyon. Because you are from california, bring a case of your favorite red from home as gifts. Rosenthal?
    4) it's not just the cold, it's the humid cold weather that goes to your bones. you can't just step out on the pitch to warm up.
    5) Being married will not protect you from the advances of french men, especially with hubby away. Avoid going places tout seul.

  4. Allan Lindh, December 23, 2016 at 8:49 p.m.

    If the women don't get a new contract with USsoccer she'll have playing time, and a salary. And if she increases attendance and TV revenue, other players will like it just fine if all their boats float higher on a rising tide. Maybe BeIn or Gol will get a contract to show her games in the US. She's a smart lady and is already looking ahead to life after soccer.

  5. drew smith, August 10, 2017 at 5:12 a.m.

    I have a crazy story about them myself!
    I work at https://theautographbank.com and had the pleasure to meet Alex Morgan.
    They were the nicest person I've ever met!
    They took the time to take pictures, sign autographs and were truly very nice and approachable.
    That is the reason I actually wanted to read this article!

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