'Exceptional' Renard a towering presence for Lyon

Lyon (AFP) –


Wendie Renard towers above almost everyone else on the field, just as her club Lyon have towered above their rivals in France and in Europe in recent years.

Lyon dominate women's football on the continent, winning the last two Champions League titles and four since the start of the decade.

If they are to win an unprecedented fifth crown in Thursday's final against the Germans of Wolfsburg in Kiev, their captain -- who stands 1.87m (6ft 1in) tall -- will have a major role to play.

Lyon coach Reynald Pedros proudly describes Renard, a 27-year-old from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, as one of the best defenders in the world.

"She has exceptional potential and is an exceptional competitor. She is one of the best in the world in her position and can still get better," said Pedros, himself a former French international, earlier this season.

Renard has skippered Lyon through another remarkable season, including a narrow victory over Manchester City in the semi-finals, when England star Lucy Bronze scored the crucial goal.

Before that they ousted Barcelona in the last eight, while they have romped to a 12th consecutive French league title without being beaten.

They will face great rivals Paris Saint-Germain in Strasbourg in the French Cup final a week after Thursday's continental showpiece.

"The motivation does not change, and we manage to keep winning trophies every season," said Renard on Tuesday, ahead of a season climax that she hopes will bring more glory.

"Every match is just as important, whether it be a final or a league game, and the ambition is always to win. We know we can make even more history because nobody has won five European Cups."

- Stripped of France captaincy -

Renard, who became a professional with Lyon in 2007, recently won her 100th cap for France.

She captained her country until losing the privileged role after Corinne Diacre took over as coach last year.

That decision did now go down well with her club, especially with outspoken Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas.

"It is not very elegant given what Wendie Renard represents," said Aulas, who in three decades at the helm has turned Lyon into a formidable side in the men's game as well as creating a monster in the women's game.

"Wendie will show on the field that she is ready, not just to play for France but to be the captain."

At Lyon she is a key player in a team of stars and has always been greatly respected, regardless of who is coach.

She has been captain since 2013 and has played more than 300 times for her club, scoring some 88 goals from the back, her height making her a big threat at set-pieces.

Pedros, a 46-year-old ex-France midfielder who starred for Nantes, was delighted when she ended speculation over a possible move to England last year.

Renard signed a new contract, tying her to Lyon until 2022.

At international level she is dreaming of helping France to glory at the 2019 World Cup on home soil, but for now her focus is yet another Champions League crown with her club.