How brilliant is Lyon's record-breaking centurion Wendie Renard?
Tuesday, March 14, 2023
The first player to 100 UEFA women's club competition appearances and the holder of so many other records: we salute Lyon defender Wendie Renard.
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If one image sums up the decade since the UEFA Women's Champions League came into being, it is the towering Wendie Renard lifting the trophy.
She did it as Lyon captain for five seasons in a row and has played in ten finals and won eight titles overall since the UEFA Women's Cup rebrand in 2009/10. Previously level with her own long-time club and country colleague Sarah Bouhaddi, Renard's appearance in Lyon's 2022 final victory put her out on her own in those feats in Europe's premier women's or men's club competitions.
On top of that, in 2020 Renard was selected in the top ten of the UEFA Women's Player of the Year award for a record seventh time and finally made the shortlist of three, being named the first UEFA Women's Champions League Defender of the Season. Then, on 24 April 2022, she became the first player to reach 100 appearance in the competition, yet another landmark for a defender who features in the all-time top 15 for goals scored.
She struck in both legs of that tie, a semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain, to send Lyon to their and her tenth final. And ahead of that game, where she won her and their eighth title, she signed a new contract until 2026, at the end of which she would have spent 20 years with Lyon.
What they say
"Wendie Renard is an exceptional player. Wendie cannot be categorised and cannot be replaced."
Jean-Luc Vasseur, former Lyon coach
"I don't think there's anyone quite like her in the women’s game."
Maren Mjelde, Chelsea and Norway player
"I don't think all the media or public are sufficiently aware of the impact that Wendie Renard can have on a game, by her quality of play, her leadership qualities and her professionalism. I leaned on Wendie and it was not easy because she has a hell of a personality and we didn't always agree, but we had a common goal."
Gérard Prêcheur, former Lyon coach
"She is a young woman who suffered a lot when she was young, who lost her father when she was eight. She was a little disoriented when she arrived at Lyon. She was able to climb the ladder and earn her place with great athletic qualities and a lot of personality. Today, she is for me the best defender in the world."
Jean-Michel Aulas, Lyon president
"She is a great player; she provides a lot of experience, serenity. She deserves all these distinctions. It's another great moment for her and I'm happy for my captain."
Griedge Mbock Bathy, Lyon central defensive partner, on Renard's 100th UEFA match
Claims to fame
• Renard is from the Caribbean French territory of Martinique, the youngest of four daughters.
• The teenage Renard flew to mainland France for a trial at the national-team academy in Clairefontaine; she was not successful but got on a train to Lyon and earned a contract there ("It was destiny," she later wrote), joining when she was 16 in 2006.
• Renard soon broke into the team, playing twice in their first French title-winning season of 2006/07 and becoming a regular in the following campaign, playing in OL's debut UEFA Women's Cup game against Slovan Duslo Šala on 9 August 2007.
• Renard at centre-back has been the fulcrum in Lyon's rise from ambitious French league hopefuls to the dominant club in European football over the last decade, taking over as captain in 2013.
• She is the club's appearance-record holder and sixth in their all-time goalscoring list, notably providing an aerial threat at set pieces – as with Lyon's first-ever goal in a Women's Champions League final when they defeated Turbine Potsdam 2-0 in London in 2011.
• So far during Renard's time at Lyon, along with their eight Women's Champions League successes, they have claimed 14 French league titles and nine French Cups alongside several other invitational tournament victories. She has been captain for most of them, including the run of five Champions League final wins in a row (also being selected in the official UEFA squad of the season on all five occasions and named the first UEFA Women's Champions League Defender of the Season in 2020/21).
• She started 2021 with an incredible scoring streak: her penalty for the 1-0 Women's Champions League quarter-final first-leg win at Paris made it nine goals in nine games for club and country.
• Lyon ended up losing their European and French titles in 2020/21, and later in 2021 Renard suffered a spell out through injury.
• However, she returned in full force in 2022 and in April became the first player to 100 UEFA women's club competition appearances, scoring her 31st European goal in a 3-2 win against Paris. It was 32 thanks to her second-leg clincher at Parc des Princes.
• With a tenth UEFA Women's Champions League final in prospect, signed a new Lyon contract until 2026.
• She might not have got into Clairefontaine but Renard soon earned a place in the France youth set-up, playing at the 2008 and 2009 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final tournaments as well as the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
• Renard's senior debut came on 2 March 2011 against Switzerland in the Cyprus Women's Cup and by that summer's FIFA Women's World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals, she was established as a regular in central defence, which she remains.
• She captained her country between 2013 and 2017.
• Renard was named in the official squads of the tournament at both UEFA Women's EURO 2013 and the 2015 World Cup.
• Renard got three goals for the hosts at the 2019 World Cup, and although she is not yet in France's top ten appearance-makers, the defender ranks seventh among their all-time scorers. Aided France to the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 semis.
What you might not know
• She was watching the French women's team play on television in Martinique when Marinette Pichon came on the screen. Renard told her mother, "One day, you'll see me on TV wearing that jersey."
• When asked at school what she wanted to do for a living, her two choices were professional football player and flight attendant. Her teacher made her cross out the word professional, explaining, "That job doesn't exist."
• Renard finished seventh and sixth in the voting for the first two women's Ballons d'Or in 2018 and 2019, both times the highest-ranked central defender. She also reached the top 20 in 2021.
What she says
"It was rare for girls to play football in Martinique, so it was even rarer that it was the women in my family who pushed me to play. They were the ones who loved football as much as me. My aunt was a referee on the island. My mum played a little and watched matches all the time. So when my sisters and I got into fights about the TV, I always had the judge on my side."
"I joined [Lyon] at a really young age, and I met players who naturally had that [winning] DNA, so you gradually begin to learn. Training sessions are war; you play a little training match and you want to win. You progress by mixing with great players, players who hate losing, and even coaches who drum it into you. When a coach keeps telling you to win, win, win, win, you can't go thinking about losing, losing, losing."
On Lyon's first UEFA mini-tournament in North Macedonia in 2007... "I remember we played hide-and-seek in the hotel. Some of us even hid on the hotel roof. A wedding was taking place in the hotel and the forfeit was to give a kiss to the bride and groom. I don't remember who had to do it! It was good fun. We would meet and play in the corridors. After winning our three games we went to the hotel pool, where music was playing. We just relished the moment since it was the first time the club had got through to the next round."
"Growing up, I had this objective of winning titles, but more importantly of succeeding in mainland France. I'm enjoying the moment but I know I need to keep being self-demanding, as it can all vanish if I make a mistake. I'm aware of my development but I achieved that within a team and with fully committed people. We did this together and it's not over yet. I'll keep writing history."
On her 100th European game... "My first match was in North Macedonia a long time ago with other players and other coaches. ... I said before the game that 100 is a nice number. It shows my regularity at European level with OL. Now it is anecdotal because I am focused on the team. Yes, it's beautiful – there is work behind it."
What she might achieve yet
• With Lyon, all Renard can do is extend the records she and they already hold, and are unlikely to relinquish any time soon.
• France are yet to win a major senior trophy and the 2023 World Cup is the next chance for Les Bleues and Renard.