Olympique de Lyon: the machine that dominated football in Europe for more than a decade | Soccer | Sports

There are several common threads that symbolize Olympique Lyon’s success in European football for almost the last decade and a half. One of them is her coach, Sonia Bompastor, who in 2011 and 2012 won the Champions League as a player and in 2022, already on the bench, she became the first woman to win the title as a footballer and as a coach. The other two are the French Wendie Renard – the 1.87m tall centre-back with spectacular physical power – and the fabulous forward Eugénie Le Sommer, who was injured last April. Both have won the eight Champions Leagues – an individual record, two more than the Madrid legend Paco Gento – that the club has, the most successful in the history of football played by women. They were already in 2011 in the first final in which Lyon triumphed, they also played the one two years ago – when they won their eighth trophy by knocking down Barça in Turin – and they will continue there this Saturday in the decisive duel in San Mamés again against to Barcelona, ​​the team that challenges its hegemony on the continent and that is ultimately trying to impose a new era.

The combination between a stable base – Renard, Le Sommer, Ada Hegerberg, Delphine Cascarino, Dzsenifer Marozsán… – and a constant and smooth metamorphosis – with great signings to dominate for so many years – has been one of the keys for Lyon. “They have changed players and they have been remodeled season after season, but there is a bulk of that team that has been around for many years, many players who have won many Champions League finals together and many French championships, and that heritage has been passed on to the new ones. . Maybe now it is no longer such an all-powerful team, but it still has the greatest and best history of women’s football in Europe,” says the Spanish forward of Fiorentina Vero Boquete, who between 2016 and 2018 played for PSG, with whom she lost in 2017 Champions League final against Lyon in the penalty shootout.

Wendie Renard, the captain of Lyon, and Sonia Bompastor, the coach, on April 28 after beating PSG in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Christian Liewig (Corbis/ Getty Images)

For this almost decade and a half of hegemony to arrive, of breaking records again and again – five consecutive Champions Leagues between 2016 and 2020 – there is a key moment, the year 2004, when Jean-Michel Aulas, then president of the men’s club, absorbed FC Lyon, an amateur team. Aulas, who remained at the head of the management until the South Korean businesswoman Michele Kang took control of the best women’s team in history in May 2023, changed the biography of the entity by investing in the women’s section in a way in which no other club had done it before. “He opted for women’s football above anything else, and that made them win everything over the years,” says former Spain international Virginia Torrecilla, who played from 2015 to 2019 for Montpellier, where she was runner-up in the league (2017). and cup finalist (2016), always behind Lyon.

Aulas’ commitment was essential in the development of the club. She placed him at the forefront of football played by women in Europe. She made the boys’ sports facilities available to the soccer players and offered them all the technical and medical support of a professional structure that had its own workers from the beginning, from video analysts to physiotherapists and physical trainers. “It was the club that invested the most before anyone else did, and it attracted the best soccer players in the world, not only from Europe, but also from America,” recalls Boquete. Stars from the United States have passed through the ranks of the French team, such as goalkeeper Hope Solo, who signed in 2005; Megan Rapinoe, a global icon who won the Ballon d’Or in 2019; or Alex Morgan, who won the treble with the Lyonnais in 2017. For two years now, the international with the American team Lindsey Horan, world champion in 2019, has also been indisputable in the midfield.

Lyon’s successful model—betting financially and including players in the club’s professional organization chart—was copied in the last decade by other teams. “Barça followed a similar path, which was simply to invest and truly believe in the project. It has done it these last 10 years and has become the great reference at a Spanish and world level. Their best version is now superior to Lyon’s best version,” says Vero Boquete. The goalkeeper of the French team, the Chilean Christiane Endler, does not think the same. For her, there is no favorite nor will hegemony change for one match: “You cannot compare two Champions Leagues with eight. Although she has done an incredible job, Barça still has a lot to do. Comparing the results is very ambitious on the part of the people at Barcelona, ​​I say it respectfully.”

Ada Hegerberg celebrates her goal against Barça in the 2022 Champions League final, at the Juventus Stadium (Turin).ANP/ Getty Images

The Blaugrana threaten a team that has one of its greatest figures, the Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg, who has recently recovered from the injury she suffered in March. Hegerberg, the first woman to win the Ballon d’Or, has punished Barcelona with five goals in the four official matches they have played. Although Barça arrives with three titles this season, the Catalan club and PSG have suffered like few others from the dominance of Lyon. The Blaugrana fell to them in two Champions League finals (2020 and 2022) and have never beaten them – they also lost the two quarterfinal matches in 2018 – while the Parisians have only been able to win one league (2020/2021) and four cups (2010, 2018, 2022 and 2024) throughout its history due to the absolutism of its neighbors to the southeast, who managed to win 14 consecutive leagues between 2007 and 2020. It is part of the legend of a club that has reigned in its country and in Europe while its men’s section has not lifted a trophy since the 2012 French Super Cup due in large part to the injection of Qatari money into PSG.

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2024-05-24 03:15:00
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