Clément Grenier 22 Midfielder Lyon France
2013 has been…
More of the same from a maturing midfielder. Clément Grenier – a player named in Joey Barton’s Ligue 1 team of 2012/13, no less – is a highly rated young man. Juninho Pernambucano, a Lyon legend in his own right, says that Grenier is a formidable talent with “everything to get to a great level”. No wonder, then, that Grenier’s future was in doubt this summer.
Reports of a huge wage demand locked horns with his agent’s claim that he isn’t obsessed with money, and all the while a few Premier League teams, most notably Arsenal, were paying close attention. For all that, both Lyon and those close to Grenier were in no doubt that when the player decided in June where he would sign in the summer transfer window, he meant a new deal with L’OL.
Grenier’s father, Michel, told French television that he expected junior to stay. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, who once said that Grenier was worth €37m, was even more robust. His reasoning was that Grenier “was educated at the club and is reaching maturity”.
There’s value in that belief. Grenier started 2013 on the sidelines with a thigh injury but really came into his own in the second half of the season. His influence on Lyon is already vital, though Remi Garde’s brief experiment with a new formation suggests he’s not the finished product just yet.
Nevertheless, Grenier is credited with a large impact as Lyon rescued a Champions League playoff place (an opportunity they later squandered), finishing third with Grenier ending the season with a fruitful run in front of goal. He shoots well with both feet and has scored some spectacular goals in 2013, including free kicks against Rennes in the crucial game at the end of May and in September against Nantes.
But it’s not great goals that make Grenier a future France regular; it’s an efficient, creative and disciplined midfield fulcrum, who, while not exactly a perfect passer and a sufferer of the occasional lapse in concentration, rarely passes backwards and yet takes only calculated risks.
When it goes right for Grenier he’s got everything a midfielder of his type needs. He can play a beautifully weighted through pass, as evidenced by his assist for the equaliser against Sochaux earlier this season, just as soon as he’ll put in a perfect cross or score a vital goal. He takes set pieces, has plenty of bite in the tackle and a little bit of a chippy streak. More importantly, he works hard when defending high up the pitch, allowing others to take on much of the burden behind him.
He’s difficult to pick up and finds space well, habits that outweigh the rough edges that can result in a lazy pass or a mistake in possession. Those edges will be ironed out and the future’s bright for Grenier, both for club and country. Midfielders at his level by 22 are hard to come by.
Grenier’s short-term future may be secure at Lyon, but interest from elsewhere will eventually lead to a move. However, his progress is impressive at Lyon and the smart decision for the time being is possibly to wait it out another year. Another failure to reach the Champions League group stage might well force his hand.
Wherever Grenier plays his club football from next summer, he’ll be hoping he’s doing so with plenty more national team appearances under his belt. First selected for the squad at the end of last season, Grenier is now a handful of caps into his international career and Didier Deschamps named him in the squad for France’s recent World Cup qualification playoff against Ukraine.
If the minor concentration and execution issues with his game can be rectified, Garde and Deschamps will have a very impressive prospect on their hands.
"Ended last season in superb form. Comparisons to Juninho Pernambucano were merited. Now the best player in a struggling Lyon side. Classy, poised, graceful, wonderful player." Andrew Gibney, French Football Weekly
"Since the start of last season, only Bafetimbi Gomis has been involved in more league goals for Lyon than Clement Grenier (18; nine goals and nine assists)." - Opta
C+ Steady progress and more caps will follow