Lyon lost their Champions League crown for the first time in five seasons this year. They may yet lose the domestic title they’ve held for 14 years as well.
While other teams have evidently improved and narrowed the gap, perhaps the main reason for the French giants’ fall from grace is the absence of star striker, Ada Hegerberg.
Since joining Olympique Lyonnais in 2014, Hegerberg has a simply unparalleled goalscoring record. In just 182 games, she has amassed 220 goals, with more than 50 coming in a single campaign on two occasions.
The Norwegian is also the all-time top Women’s Champions League scorer and the inaugural recipient of the Ballon d’Or Féminin in 2018.
Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the forward’s innumerable personal accolades is she’s still only 25, having been out injured for the last 18 months. If her numbers were already impressive, there is plenty of time to add more individual honours to her name.
But, just how crucial is she to Lyon? The French side won five consecutive champions leagues between 2015 and 2019, of which Hegerberg started four. Indeed, the one game she didn’t start was last year’s final, due to injury, though the striker still managed to score nine goals in the competition that year.
It’s no coincidence, therefore, that Lyon’s failure to win a trophy so far this season is a result of the Norwegian’s absence. Because, despite registering unprecedented scoring stats, she is more than just a goal threat. Her vision, hold-up play and ability to galvanise the team are just some of the traits which make the forward so special.
Hegerberg has long been the heart of the French side. The poster girl. The first name on the team sheet. For all Lyon’s star quality, they just haven’t been able to find goals elsewhere.
Nikita Parris has tended to play through the middle and has 13 goals this year, but defender Wendie Renard is the only other player to register double figures so far.
You can try and find the positives. Parris has proved herself to be versatile and a highly worthwhile signing. Catarina Mascario has scored six goals in her last five games. And, crucially, there is still a chance Lyon might actually win the league title.
Yet, all eyes will still be on Hegerberg’s return. The 25-year-old has extended her contract to 2024 and should be back in time for the new season. For all the speculation linking the club with the likes of Vivianne Miedema and Lindsey Horan, the return of the Norwegian will feel like a new signing.
They may have to wait a few more months yet, but when the former Ballon d’Or winner does return, Europe’s most formidable team might finally get their mojo back.