Spotted performing acrobatics in goal for a local team in Nice by former French international goalkeeper Dominique Baratelli, Hugo Lloris joined his hometown club at a very early age. Working his way up through the different levels, he made his professional debut during the 2005/06 season, playing in all of Nice’s League Cup matches right up to the final, eventually won by Nancy. Still only 19, he was already displaying such quality between the posts that, the following season, he relegated his more mature team-mates Damien Gregorini and Lionel Letizi – both rivals for his position – to the bench, securing the goalkeeping slot in the team for himself at just 20 years of age.
Strong in every area of goalkeeping, he is decisive too, whether coming out for crosses or narrowing the angle in one-on-ones with opposing strikers. Such assets naturally made him a target for several major European clubs, including AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, but he opted to take things one step at a time and instead signed for Lyon in 2008, charged with the tricky task of succeeding Gregory Coupet in the champions’ line-up. A former Lyon player himself, France coach Raymond Domenech was also won over by the young goalkeeper at this stage, calling him up for the first time in November 2008, even though at that point his first-choice keeper remained Marseille’s Steve Mandanda, Ligue 1’s other young phenomenon.
Lloris first ‘victory’ of sorts in the healthy rivalry that has developed between the two shot-stoppers was the title of goalkeeper of the year for season 2008/09 bestowed upon him at the expense of his peer, who had picked up the same award the season before. Continuing to put in top-level performances while his fellow goalie experienced a dip in form, Lloris has been recognised as France’s first choice since a friendly match against Turkey in June 2009. He was replaced in goal on just one occasion since then, having been suspended following a red card he received in Serbia in a qualifying match for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, hence earning the dubious honour of becoming the first-ever keeper to be sent off while playing for France.