Lyon have reigned supreme in France since the 2001/02 season, stringing together seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles. Despite their dominance on the domestic front, however, Les Gones have failed to make quite the same impact in Europe, having yet to progress beyond the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League.

Birth of an institution
Lyon came into existence in 1950, following a merge between FC Lyon, who were founded in 1895, and Lyon Olympique Universitaire, set up some four years later. The new club won promotion to the French top flight the following year, but were promptly relegated. Three seasons later they were back in the elite and stayed there for the next 29 years, winning three French Cups in the process - in 1964, 1967 and 1973 - and reaching the semi-finals of the 1964 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, only to be knocked out by Lisbon giants Sporting in a play-off.

Lyon regularly occupied a mid-table position in the league, and were unable to break into the select group of clubs that held sway in France in the 1970s, among them arch-rivals Saint-Etienne. Such was Les Verts' local dominance that president Roger Rocher often taunted Lyon about their inferior status, once declaring, "In terms of football, Lyon has always been a suburb of Saint-Etienne."

Relegation eventually came in 1983 and was followed by six years in the wilderness, a period in which Jean-Michel Aulas took over as president and current France coach Raymond Domenech assumed the reins. Domenech it was who guided Lyon back into Ligue 1 in 1989, marking the start of an exciting new era in the club's history.

Making of a legend
Methodically and patiently, Aulas built a squad capable of challenging France's elite and acquitting themselves well on the continental stage. Lyon duly claimed the league runners-up spot in 1995, and later qualified for UEFA Champions League two years running.

The catalyst in Les Gones's eventual domestic pre-eminence was the arrival of Sonny Anderson from Barcelona in 1999, and over the next four seasons the Brazilian striker scored 87 goals in 156 games.

In 2002, Lyon won their maiden Ligue 1 crown, beating nearest rivals Lens on a dramatic final day, and they have not relinquished the trophy since. That proud record is due in no small part to the ability of former player Marcelo to attract top Brazilian talent in the form of Juninho Pernambucano, Cacapa, Edmilson and Fred.

One of the main factors to their lasting success has been the continual renewal of the squad, with star performers being sold each season to enable new talents to be brought in. That process of change has not been restricted to the playing personnel either. Jacques Santini, Paul Le Guen, Gerard Houllier and Alain Perrin have all come and gone on the bench without affecting the stability of a club run with a firm hand by its president and his special adviser, former striker Bernard Lacombe.

The present
The faces may have changed over the years, but Lyon remain the team to beat in France. That said, they have looked vulnerable in recent times and new coach Claude Puel has some problems to sort out at the back. The midfield engine room formed by Kim Kallstrom, Jean II Makoun and Jeremy Toulalan, who is undoubtedly the team's main strength, with inspirational captain Juninho Pernambucano continuing to add his invaluable artistry alongside. Up front, home-grown striker Karim Benzema continues to lead the way, adding a supply of goals this term to the 20 he scored last season.

The stadium
Owned by Lyon City Council and built in 1926, the Stade Gerland has been used by the club since its foundation. Renovated several times over the years and boasting a capacity of 43,000, the stadium is inspired to some extent by the Roman amphitheatres of old and features four huge archways designed by the architect Tony Garnier and recognised as historical monuments in 1967. The Gerland hosted several matches at 1984 European Championship, as well as the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in 1986. It then underwent a major renovation in preparation for the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™, during which it hosted six matches. Aulas is planning, however, to build a new stadium with a larger capacity in the city suburbs during the next decade.