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 has done it as Lyon captain for the last five seasons, and in all since the UEFA Women’s Cup rebrand in 2009/10 has played in nine finals and won seven titles; the only other person who can match the second or third feats in the premier European women’s or men’s club competitions is Renard’s own long-time club and country colleague Sarah Bouhaddi. Now she is in the top ten of the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year award for a record seventh time and finally has made the shortlist of three.
We salute a player who has made more UEFA women’s club competition appearances than anyone else, a defender also in the all-time top 20 for goals scored.
What they say
“Wendie Renard is an exceptional player. Wendie cannot be categorised and cannot be replaced.”
Jean-Luc Vasseur, 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, in 2013
Current tally (to 13 September 2020)
International: 120 appearances, 24 goals
UEFA club competition: 88 appearances, 26 goals
Domestic competition: 282 appearances, 91 goals
Claims to fame
• Renard is from the Caribbean French territory of Martinique, the youngest of four daughters whose father (to whom she was particularly close) died when she was eight.
• 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), moving 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, a particular aerial threat at set-pieces, as with Lyon’s first-ever goal in a UEFA Women’s Champions League final in their 2-0 defeat of Turbine Potsdam in 2011 in London.
• So far in Renard’s time at Lyon, along with their seven UEFA Women’s Champions League successes, they have claimed 14 straight French league titles and nine French Cups alongside several other invitational tournament victories. She has been captain for most of them including the current run of five UEFA Women’s Champions League final wins in a row (and was named in the official UEFA squad of the season on all five occasions).
• She might not have got into Clairefontaine but Renard soon was 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 was 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, was established as a regular in central defence, which she remains.
• She captained her country between 2013 and 2017.
• Renard was named in the squads for the tournament for UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 and the 2015 World Cup.
• Renard got three goals for the hosts in the 2019 World Cup, and although she is not yet in France’s top ten appearance-makers, the defender ranks tenth among their all-time scorers.
What you might not know
• She was watching the French women’s team play on television in Martinque 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 has 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.
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 on the weekends, 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. When you’re doing a rondo drill you don’t want to end up in the middle, and that’s how you learn. 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.”
“We have equalled this record [Real Madrid’s five European titles in a row] but now we have to go for the sixth to beat it. I’m never full, you can count on me to be there next year.”
What she might achieve yet
• With Lyon, all Renard can do is extend the records she and they already hold. At 30, there is plenty of time if she decides to stick with the only senior club she has ever played for.
• France, on the other hand, are yet to reach a major final despite having had so much talent to call upon, not least Renard and her Lyon colleagues. UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 in England and the 2023 World Cup in Australia are her next chances.