On the evening of 12 August, following France’s 1-0 defeat by Canada, Louisa Cadamuro was the last player to leave the pitch at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, seemingly wishing to soak up every second of her final appearance as a professional footballer. After a successful career with Lyon and France, during which her Algerian roots, childhood in Marseille, playing position and incredible ball skills drew constant comparisons with Zinedine Zidane, the talented midfielder, who boasts 148 caps and 38 international goals, has decided to hang up her boots.

“I made the decision when I realised that I couldn’t juggle my private life and my sporting career any more,” explained Cadamuro to French newspaper L’Equipe prior to the start of this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. “If I have to make the choice between my career, which has been wonderful, and my husband, it’s not going to take very long. Many people make long-distance relationships work perfectly well for them, but that’s not the way I view life.”

Although it was under her maiden name, Necib, that she rose to prominence, the name that adorned the back of her jersey for the first time at Rio 2016 is not altogether unknown in the world of football either. “Cadamuro” arose from her marriage to Algerian international Liassine Cadamuro in June 2016. The defender was recently called up by Fennecs coach Milovan Rajevac for the latest 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.

“We’re going to miss her, there’s no doubt about that,” France captain Wendie Renard, who has played alongside Cadamuro at Lyon for almost a decade, told FIFA.com after Les Bleues’ quarter-final loss. “From a personal point of view, she’s a very close friend; from a footballing point of view, I’m a big admirer of her play. What she’s constantly been able to do with the ball is exceptional. She’s one of the best players in the world.

“She’s made the decision to stop, and so we can only wish her lots of happiness in her new life. It’s her choice, and it’s her right to make that choice. And as she pointed out to us, she been able to experience World Cups, European Championships and Olympic Tournaments, and has won everything there is to win with Lyon.” 

Indeed, Cadamuro has one of the most bountiful collections of winners’ medals of any female French footballer. At Lyon, for whom she has been a key player since her arrival in 2007, the creative playmaker captured three UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and no fewer than nine French Division 1 Feminine crowns. On the international scene, however, her honours have been limited to two Cyprus Cups.

“It’s a little sad to see her leave after a defeat like that,” said fellow midfielder Elise Bussaglia. “She’s a winner. It would have been so great to have helped her pick up an Olympic medal.” France centre-back and club team-mate Griedge M'Bock Bathy echoed that sentiment: “She’s a great player. We’re going to miss her at Lyon and in the French national team. It’s a shame that we weren’t able to celebrate her retirement by earning a medal.”

Dominant versus New Zealand
For the last-eight clash with Canada, France coach Philippe Bergeroo unexpectedly left Cadamuro on the bench, despite her having been one of the team’s best performers in the group stage. “I wanted to rotate the squad – I was keeping a careful eye on my players’ physical fitness, and I decided to start the match without Louisa and bring her on in the second half,” said Bergeroo, who did just that in the 62nd minute.

He continued: “I’m sorry for her – and for the other players – that we’ve been eliminated. We’d had such a good start to the Games, beating Colombia 4-0, playing well against USA despite the defeat, and then winning 3-0 against New Zealand.”

And it is likely that, rather than the Canada-France match which French supporters and players will all want to forget, the duel with the Football Ferns will stand out as the gifted No14’s veritable swansong. Having already put in a fine performance versus Colombia in France’s opening game in Group G, she lit up the encounter in Salvador with two goals and a classy all-round display.

“When she plays at that kind of level, you can see that her departure is going to leave quite a void,” said team-mate Camille Abily after the New Zealand match. “You don’t come across many players like her,” added defender Sakina Karchaoui. “And now we’re going to have to make do without her. It’ll be tricky, but we’ll have to manage.”

Before the Olympic Games, Cadamuro had reiterated where her priorities lay: “The greatest memory of my career is my marriage! At Lyon, things ended in the best possible way; I couldn’t have hoped for more. The only way it could get better would be if France won a medal at the Games.”

Unfortunately, that was not to be, but Cadamuro will take pleasure from her compatriots’ accolades as she embarks on a new chapter of her life.