Jean Makoun leapt into the arms of Sydney Govou, the two toppling to the ground. A few seconds later the two were covered in a pile of blue shirts as the stadium rocked around them.
Moments before, Makoun had run onto a loose ball near the half-way line, dribbled straight at Raul Albiol and unleashed a rocketing, out-curling lash with his right foot that eluded a diving Iker Casillas and given Lyon a 1-0 lead over Real Madrid in their Champions League tie.
That was last February. Lyon drew the return leg 1-1 at the Bernabeu and advanced all the way to the semifinals before bowing out to Bayern Munich. Makoun made 13 appearances for Les Gones in the Champions League, bringing his career total to 46.
Over the weekend he agreead to join Villa. And while work permit issues meant he missed Sunday’s derby against Birmingham City, the deal is expected to be completed ahead of next weekend’s match at home to Manchester City.
That Villa are about to sign a very, very good player goes without saying. Makoun’s CV speaks for itself. After joining Lille in 2002, he was the centerpiece of the diminutive Ligue 1 side’s runs to the Champions League knockout stages in 2005-06 and 2006-07. After joining Lyon in 2008, he proceeded to have his best season in club football, scoring nine goals in 47 appearances. All the while, he was busy amassing 54 caps for Cameroon.
In Makoun, Villa are getting a responsible, defensive midfielder with pace and an eye for goal. He won’t shy away from the physical stuff, either, and should adjust quickly to the Premier League. And at £5 million, he comes at a cut-rate rice. It’s good value for the club, and shows well on under-fire manager Gerard Houllier.
But Makoun won’t lift Aston Villa into the top half of the table on his own. The club entered the January transfer window needing upgrades in each third of the park. They have now addressed one of them. Two remain, and Houllier’s ability to make those upgrades will go a long way in shaping how he’s perceived.
Follow ESPNsoccernet's Football Correspondents on Twitter and Facebook