Legend Juninho leaving Lyon
© AFP

Former Brazilian international midfielder Juninho will certainly play his last match for seven-time French champions this weekend ending a spectacularly successful spell there, club president Jean-Michel Aulas announced on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old has been the inspiration behind Lyon's seven titles, including last year's domestic double, since joining from Vasco da Gama in 2001. He notched up his 100th goal for the club - including 44 from free kicks - last weekend.

However, Aulas has reluctantly agreed that perhaps the greatest player in the club's history can leave prematurely. "Juninho is going to leave us," Aulas told a press conference. "We are going to allow him to terminate his contract early as there is still a year to go on it. He can go where he wants."

Everything that Juninho has brought to Lyon whether it be to do with the tactics, or his passion and professionalism, is reflected this evening by the highly charged atmosphere here.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas on the loss of Juninho

Aulas, who will endure a trophyless season for the first time in eight seasons, said that the strong emotions swirling round the club reflected the ties the 44-times capped Brazilian had established in his time there.

"Everything that Juninho has brought to Lyon whether it be to do with the tactics, or his passion and professionalism, is reflected this evening by the highly charged atmosphere here," commented Aulas. "Because we are coming to the end of a superb relationship which was shared equally by the club and the supporters with Juninho.

"It's the end of an era, of a story and it is hard to swallow."

Juninho, who reached three UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with Lyon and is their leading scorer in the competition with 18 goals, was so moved by the occasion that he left the press conference without saying a word.