Thursday 10 December 2020, 07:50

Abily: Renard deserves to be The Best

  • Lyon set to feature prominently at The Best FIFA Awards with seven finalists

  • Assistant coach Camille Abily is already a club legend

  • Abily gives her predictions for the awards

With no fewer than seven finalists across three different categories, Olympique Lyonnais’ women’s team is the most widely represented club in nominations for The Best FIFA Football Awards 2020. This, of course, should come as no surprise in light of the incredible season that OL have just had, with another league, cup and UEFA Women's Champions League treble in the bag. "A winning culture is part of the DNA of this club,” Camille Abily told

The former France midfielder, who scored 37 goals in 183 internationals, certainly knows what she is talking about. Abily has achieved legend status at OL – in the history of the club, only Wendie Renard has played more matches (380 and counting, with 326 for Abily). She has been there for all of the glory years, as a player from 2006 to 2018, and now as assistant to Jean-Luc Vasseur, who has been nominated for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach. Who better to talk to, therefore, with the FIFA Gala just a few days away? Is the 2019/2020 version the strongest Lyon team ever?

Camille Abily: I don’t know about that. There were some years where we were at least as strong as we are now. And it’s not easy to compare one year to another when you realise that we always manage to keep the spine of the club intact to a certain extent – and that’s one of the secrets of our success. Either way, the 2019/2020 version of Lyon certainly stepped up when they had to. It wasn’t easy, particularly with the new way that the Champions League was run. We knew how to be efficient and avoid falling into traps.

Rarely in the history of the game has one team been so dominant. Do you get the impression that people fail to realise just how incredible this team’s performances have been?

It’s true that you don’t necessarily realise that what the team is achieving is actually extraordinary. Plenty want to see us fall from our pedestal, and that’s only to be expected – you always want to see the best taken down. The competition is getting tougher and tougher and, in that respect, it's true that Lyon’s success doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Lyon have been on top of the French league for the past 14 years. What is the key to this consistency?

A winning culture is part of the DNA of this club. We always want to win every match, even every game at training. This constant desire to outdo ourselves is what has kept us at the top. We never tire of success, and we hate losing. I think the girls hate losses more than they enjoy victories. I certainly do in any case.

Camille Abily of Lyon celebrates scoring her sides fourth goal with Ada Hegerberg and Dzsenifer Marozsan of Lyon

Lyon recently lost their first league match since 2016, to Paris Saint-Germain. How damaging was that defeat?

It’s by no means a catastrophe because we’re still alive and kicking. It would have been more disappointing if it had come in a knock-out competition… It’s still tough to swallow though, but defeats are what make you take a step back and analyse things, so it’s a good thing. It spurs us on to keep on working – both the players and the coaching staff!

You are Jean-Luc Vasseur’s assistant. Do you think that he deserves to be chosen as The Best FIFA Women’s Coach?

Yes – when a team wins, the coach always has something to do with it. This new-look Champions League meant that we were in danger – we couldn’t afford to have an off-day, and the coach was able to steer the team both to this title in particular and to other ones besides. He deserves to be recognised for that.

You also know Sarah Bouhaddi very well, having played alongside her for a number of years. Is she currently the best women’s goalkeeper in the world?

She is definitely one of the best. I get to see her day in, day out and she’s a fierce competitor. And her qualities as a keeper are exceptional. Her kicking game is very good, and the only downside is that she likes to play the ball at times when she could be a little more direct. But that’s just a minor fault and one that she’s all but eliminated from her game. To be honest, I’ve seen a lot of goalkeepers and I think that Sarah is one of the best – if not the best – in the world.

Olympique Lyonnais manager, Jean-Luc Vasseur celebrates

According to Camille Abily, which of the Lyon nominees is…

The most shy and reserved? Saki Kumagai The quickest? Delphine Cascarino The most technically gifted? Dzsenifer Marozsan The most determined? Wendie Renard The cheekiest? Delphine Cascarino The one who likes to prank the most? Sarah Bouhaddi The one who arrives late most often? Delphine Cascarino The best at FIFA? Dzsenifer Marozsan The funniest? Lucy Bronze The most rebellious? Sarah Bouhaddi The most intellectual? Saki Kumagai

 Wendie Renard of Olympique Lyonnais celebrates

No fewer than five OL players from the 2019/2020 season – Saki Kumagai, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Lucy Bronze, Wendie Renard and Delphine Cascarino – are among the 11 finalists for The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award. Who do you think will end up being the winner?

Being the most objective that I possibly can be, I think that Wendie Renard deserves the title. What she does in her position is simply exceptional. Take nothing away from the immense qualities that the others have, but Wendie has been the most consistent. She has had a decisive impact in some of our most important games, in particular the semi-final of the Champions League against PSG when she got on the scoresheet. For a defender, it’s always more complicated to stand out from the pack, isn’t it? I think she really deserves it!

You were one of the finalists for The Best Women’s Player Award in 2016. What does this type of nomination represent to a player or a coach?

It’s a wonderful form of recognition. We obviously tend to focus on team achievements and titles, but a nomination like this is a reward for the work that you carry out on a daily basis. Being a player requires a lot of determination and just as many sacrifices, so it’s always nice to be recognised for your efforts.

Do you think that we will see you nominated for Best Coach one day?

I hope so – why not? My main aim in any case is to become a head coach one day, and if awards were to follow, I don’t think I’d turn them down (laughs)!

Would training a men’s team be a challenge that would interest you?

To begin with I was against the idea, but the longer my career goes on, the more it appeals, particularly youth players. But we’re not at that stage just yet!

Speaking of men’s football, do you have a favourite for The Best FIFA Men’s Player and Coach?

For the Best Coach, Jurgen Klopp! The season he had with Liverpool was exceptional and it’s a shame that COVID slowed down their progress a little. But the relationship that he has with his players is great, he’s a real inspiration. For the Best Player, that’s a little harder... I’d have to say Robert Lewandowski in recognition of the great season he had with Bayern.