Tuesday 15 December 2020, 05:23

Renard: Defenders should be highlighted a bit more

  • Wendie Renard has been nominated for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2020 award

  • Last year, she was featured in the first-ever FIFA FIFPro Women’s World 11

  • In 2020, the Frenchwoman led her club to European and domestic glory

Is there any other player in women’s football with a medal collection to rival that of Wendie Renard?

With 14 French league titles, nine French Cups and seven UEFA women’s Champions League crowns to her name, the long-serving Lyon captain is the respected leader of a team that has already left a significant imprint on the history of the women’s game. There is one individual accolade that has so far escaped her, however: The Best FIFA Women’s Player award.

Nominated once again in 2020, the Martinique-born centre-back is hopeful of further enhancing her footballing CV by scooping the prestigious prize. FIFA.com caught up with the French international (122 caps, 25 goals) ahead of the much-anticipated ceremony on Thursday.

FIFA.com: Wendie, you’re one of the nominees for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2020 award. How does it feel to be recognised for your individual performances after winning so many team trophies?

Wendie Renard: It’s always an honour to be nominated for this type of award. I’m not the only Lyon player in this position, which shows that, collectively speaking, we had an incredible season. Of course, there are always highs and lows over a season, but the goal is to win as much silverware as possible. This sort of trophy, even if it’s an individual one, is extremely gratifying. It’s a bonus. Just being on the shortlist is already a great honour. As for what happens next, we’ll find out soon!

Lyon have been head and shoulders above the rest in Europe for many years now, yet no player from the club has ever won this award. Why do you think that is?

That’s true. As far as the last few years are concerned, perhaps a Lyon player should already have won it. But it didn’t happen. It’s up to us to keep working hard and being successful together, and if we continue performing as a team and, of course, individually, then recognition will come. For me, there’s nothing better than winning something as a team, though, especially in terms of the shared joy that you feel.

Speaking of teamwork, for ten years Lyon have enjoyed successes right across the board. And while the club has been very active in the transfer market, some players, like you, seem irreplaceable. You’ve been there for all the landmark victories.

It all started in 2004, when club president Jean-Michel Aulas decided to invest in and take over the women’s division of FC Lyon. Year after year, all of the players who passed through the club have played a part in lifting it up to where it is today. From a personal point of view, it’s a vote of confidence. That means I know that, to remain at that level, I have to put in the work.

It’s a demanding club, with a president who gives us the means to accomplish things, but who expects that we always put in top performances in return. There’s no resting on our laurels. I also set high standards. I push myself so that I’m always at the top of my game and can achieve excellence.

You’ve been captain of your team for several seasons. How do you go about passing on that winning culture to young players and new arrivals?

It’s done through the work and the way you handle yourself on a daily basis. When you sign for a new club, you tend to always know what you’re getting yourself into. But each player who arrives wants to create a bit of history with the club. I believe that, if you cheat in life, it’ll come back to haunt you. In my mind, there are no easy matches. We’re the ones who have to ensure they’re easy.

As for the young players, you have to give them a lot of support, encourage them and instil a work ethic in them. They need to realise that nothing will come to them in life by chance, that only hard work pays off, and rewards will follow, even if it doesn’t happen straight away. You have to be disciplined and fight hard. It’s not like the lottery; it’s not a case of “today I win and tomorrow I lose”, because you can’t say “today I’m going to play at 100 per cent and tomorrow I’ll take it easy.”

Wendie Renard (France - OL)

You get on the scoresheet quite regularly, and you did it again this week against Juventus. It’s quite unusual for a defender to be so prolific in front of goal – what’s your secret?

I’m a pretty down-to-earth person. I know what I’m capable of, especially from free-kicks and corners. At the beginning of my career, I saw my height (1.87m) as a negative aspect; I struggled to deal with it. But over the years, after working with coaches and physical trainers, I realised that I had to use it to my advantage. Now I know that I’m a huge asset in dead-ball situations. And it’s also about the understanding you have with the team-mate who delivers the ball. If I time my run right, it’s in the back of the net.

It’s rare for a defensive player to pick up an individual award. Would it be a good sign if you won?

Over the last few years, it’s been mainly attacking players, that’s true. I wouldn’t say that defenders get forgotten about, but it’s often the final touch, the fantastic shot or the beautiful goal that get recognised. But before it gets to that stage, there’s a job that gets done, and it deserves to be highlighted a bit more. As an example, look at Virgil van Dijk last year. He had an incredible season, but he was up against two giants of the game in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. But it’s not my place to say “Vote for me, vote for a defender.” My job is to perform well, and after that the experts can assess me. And if they decide that I deserve the award, I’ll be absolutely delighted.

The Best 2020 Women's player three finalists

All winners, including those of the FIFA Fan Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award, will be crowned on 17 December 2020 in a TV show broadcast live, starting at 19:00 CET.

To keep up with the latest news about The Best FIFA Football Awards™, visit FIFA.com, The Best FIFA Football Awards™ official Facebook page, FIFA on Twitter and FIFA on YouTube.

Join the discussion about who should win this year’s awards by using the hashtag #TheBest.