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Proud Cornet loving life on Lyon trophy trail

Lyon forward Maxwel Cornet describes his journey from street footballer to the attacking vanguard of an OL side targeting success in the UEFA Europa League.

Attacking prodigy Maxwel Cornet celebrates scoring for Lyon this season
Attacking prodigy Maxwel Cornet celebrates scoring for Lyon this season ©AFP/Getty Images

In his second full season with Olympique Lyonnais, Maxwel Cornet is emerging as a valuable component in a currently prolific OL attack. With a UEFA Europa League quarter-final against Beşiktaş now beckoning, the 20-year-old discusses his career so far, what it means to play for Lyon, and the promise of European glory.

On growing up a street footballer ...
I was five when I came to France [from Ivory Coast] and I joined Metz aged seven. I always loved playing with a ball in the playground. It was pretty much non-stop on the pitches in our neighbourhood. You don't think too much about it – it's about having a laugh with your friends.

Playing in that sort of environment is great for your development – always pressing and improving your technical ability – but it's a massive step up to play at the top level. You need to be a lot more efficient, but I'd definitely say it helped.

On evolving as a wide attacker ...
I'm quick and powerful and like to get forward as much as possible. I want to attack and score as many goals as possible. I'm happy when I make the right run and get an opportunity for a shot at goal.

I always had a soft spot for playing as a centre-forward, but I enjoy playing out wide more: I'm more effective there. I'm trying to add more to my game, to become better at getting in behind the defence. I want to be able to cut in and shoot with my left.

Maxwel Cornet celebrates scoring against AZ
Maxwel Cornet celebrates scoring against AZ©AFP/Getty Images

On playing for Lyon ...
I was excited, coming from a smaller club like Metz to Lyon, and you see all these great players you're going to be training with – Alex [Lacazette] who's one of the best French strikers around, Mathieu Valbuena and so on. I'm really happy to be able to learn from them on a daily basis. We also have great coaches at Lyon. There's definitely a sense of identity here. You really feel that during the derbies [against St-Étienne].

I'm very proud to play for Lyon and to know I'm part of one of the biggest French clubs. We wear the shirt with pride and we do what we need to do on the pitch to repay the fans and the president for the confidence they have in us. It's also fantastic to play at a stadium like ours. We can feel the fans behind us, pushing us forward. We're also lucky to have the great facilities we have at our training ground. We have the right conditions to be competing at the top level.

On harbouring Europa League ambitions ...
We're managing to score lots of goals at the moment, particularly in the Europa League. We're in a good position. We're very ambitious as a group and we're going to do everything we can to go all the way. After the Roma tie, we discussed things among ourselves and said we had to keep our feet on the ground because there were plenty of matches ahead – especially if we are to go all the way.

We aren't putting ourselves under pressure or saying we're among the favourites. But I think we're doing well in terms of what we're producing on the pitch. We must stay humble and keep working. We know we've got something wonderful to play for, as we've got the chance to become the first French club to win this competition and then to play in the Champions League next season. We have to work hard to achieve our goal.