Renard on Lyon: from no shirts to European dominance

The only player to have been part of all 11 of Lyon's consecutive French title wins, Wendie Renard speaks about their evolution into a European powerhouse and Thursday's final.

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Just one player has been at Lyon for all 11 of their French title wins since 2006/07 – and on Thursday defender Wendie Renard will aim to add a record fourth UEFA Women's Champions League with the club.

Renard joined Lyon's youth system aged 16 in 2006 and soon graduated to the first team. Still only 26, the tall France centre-back is a fixture for club and country – making her well qualified to tell UEFA.com about OL's evolution into a European powerhouse, what this competition means to her, and the Cardiff showdown with Paris Saint-Germain and her former club coach Patrice Lair.

On how the club have changed since she has been at Lyon ...

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I arrived here in 2006. I was with the youth team in the training centre, I played three months with the Under-19s and then started as a professional. The team only went professional in 2009, and I've been here for 11 years, so I've seen the evolution.

Between 2006 and 2009 we were not very organised, we didn't have shirts to train in, for example. So I can see the club's evolution. When I signed my first professional contract in 2009, it was a dream. But I knew it was the beginning of a new era where I needed to perform and work harder to perform.

On the UEFA Women's Champions League ...

It's the best club competition there is. It's very intense. You remember the games and finals, even if you lose them. Yes, everything that happens around those matches is so special. You prepare differently for the games and you can feel all the attention it attracts.

Wendie Renards lifts the Champions League trophy in 2016
Wendie Renards lifts the Champions League trophy in 2016©Sportsfile

When it's time for the Champions League, I'm very excited and I watch most of the games, both men and women. It's a very special moment, and I feel really proud to play in this competition, and that I've won it. I've played in six finals already and it's fantastic. I hope to win this one too.

On scoring in the 2011 final victory against Turbine Potsdam ...

I felt great! It was actually the same opposition as the year before, so it was a lot of excitement, because 12 months earlier we'd lost after being two penalties ahead [in the shoot-out] – we lacked a bit of experience compared with the German team at that time.

I was really thrilled to score that opening goal [in a 2-0 win], especially because my mum was in the stands, having made the trip from Martinique. There are no words to describe the joy we felt when lifting the trophy together at the end – it's something you've got to experience, it's such a strong feeling.

On beating Frankfurt in the 2012 final in Munich ...

It was 50,000 Germans against us. It's a really fantastic stadium, it was packed to the rafters, and there were around 1,500 Lyon fans there, compared with almost 50,000 supporting Frankfurt. I remember us having a tough start and conceding three corners in quick succession. I asked myself what was going on!

2016 final: Lyon defeat Wolfsburg on penalties
2016 final: Lyon defeat Wolfsburg on penalties

But we gradually settled into the match, and eventually we scored a couple of great goals. The lob by Camille [Abily] was a wonder strike, and 'Shishi' [Shirley Cruz Traña] did really well to win the penalty.

It brings back good memories. Like I said, I can't describe the happiness you feel at the end of a game like that. There are plenty of smiles and even tears too, because it's a long season and you work hard for these things, so when you lift trophies like that together, you say to yourself: "All that sweat wasn't for nothing!"

On facing Paris in Cardiff ...

They're a club who have been trying to beat us for several years. This season they appointed our former coach [Patrice Lair], who knows us well and knows all about how we play.

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He's fiercely competitive, just like all of us here at Lyon. I think they've got a pretty well-balanced side. We know their coach inside out, so I know how he likes to approach certain matches, but we're going to be up against some great world-class players who have won things and made their mark in women's football. They're a quality team, but I think we've got quality too and we've got what it takes to match them. It's true we lost to them in the league, but leagues aren't won or lost in two games, they're about the long haul.

In fact, I think it was beneficial for us to lose to them, in a sense, even though we don't like losing. Heading away for the holidays after that defeat [on 17 December] was a wake-up call. You can often take a lot from defeats, and we were able to weigh up our pros and cons and kick on in 2017.

The results are plain to see: we've won the French title and French Cup and are in the Champions League final. We've built up momentum and although it's going to be tough, we've got what it takes to beat them.

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