Fulham playmaker Steed Malbranque is being linked with a move back to France.

It is reported that French Champions Olympique Lyonnais have identified their ex-player as a replacement for Michael Essien, who was transfered to Chelsea for £24m after a protracted chase.

Malbranque was brought over to Fulham from Lyon by Jean Tigana after the midfielder found himself on the sidelines for most of the 2000/2001 season.

Then as now the French International had a clause in his contract which allowed him to leave if a team was willing to pay a fee of £4.5 million.

Malbranque is believed to have refused a move to Man City recently because there was no chance of Champions League football to compensate for the increased distance from his family who still live in France.

As current French League Champions Olympique Lyonnais are in the Champions League and family issues should be resolved.

So if Lyon make an acceptable offer Fulham will leave the final decision to Malbranque.