Lyon’s 3-0 victory over Toulouse on the weekend saw the French side take over at the summit of Ligue 1.
Between the sticks for the table toppers was Portuguese goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, who kept another clean sheet to further improve an impressive record of just 17 goals conceded in 20 matches this season.
PortuGOAL profiles the man many believe will soon be competing with Rui Patrício for Portugal’s number one shirt.
Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes has come a long way since he was called up as an emergency replacement for the injured Rémy Vercoutre. That Ligue 1 match against Saint-Étienne in April 2013 was only the youngster’s third senior start, and his first in the French top flight.
He was expected to vacate the starting position once Vercoutre returned to action, but excellent displays at the beginning of the 2013/14 season convinced the then-manager Rémi Garde that Lopes deserved to keep his place. He established himself as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, playing 32 league matches last season, despite suffering a back injury that forced him to miss several weeks.
This year, the 24-year-old has been a vital part of a strong Lyon side. Paulo Bento gave him his first senior Seleção call-up in September 2013 and he has made the national team squad several times since, although he is yet to earn a cap.
Born in Givors, France, to Portuguese parents, Lopes joined the Lyon academy at a young age. In 2009 he made the decision to represent Portugal, accepting an invitation from the U19 squad. He would also play for the U21s, accumulating a total of 28 caps at youth level.
Hugo Lloris’s departure to Tottenham in the summer of 2012 pushed Lopes closer to the first team, although he remained the deputy goalkeeper behind the more established Rémy Vercoutre. Lopes made his senior debut in December 2012 in the Europa League against Kiryat Shmona, playing the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 victory, helping to secure victory by making several key stops.
Prior to Lyon’s league match against Saint-Étienne, Vercoutre suffered a serious knee injury in training. Lopes was thrust into action in a match that would end in a 1-1 draw, and he held his starting berth for the final four matches of the season. It was the start of something special. With Vercoutre still out injured at the start of 2013/14, Lopes began to consolidate his place in goal. His solid displays were rewarded with his first senior international call-up for Portugal’s World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland.
His season almost came to a premature end when he fractured vertebrae in his back in a league match against Guingamp in November. Lopes was initially expected to miss several months. However, the injury was not as serious as first feared, and just five weeks later he was between the posts in a Europa League match against Vitória Guimarães, which Lyon won 2-1. Since then, he has established himself as one of Ligue 1’s best goalkeepers.
He was particularly impressive in Lyon’s Europa League quarter-final match against Juventus last season, keeping his club alive in both matches before they were narrowly eliminated. This season, he has continued to impress. On 26 October Lopes was outstanding against league leaders Marseille, making several important saves in a 1-0 victory, prompting Lyon manager Hubert Fournier to say post-match: “It took the talent of Anthony Lopes to keep us in the match.” Lyon went into the Christmas break only two points from the top of the table in Ligue 1.
In December, he was named the best goalkeeper in the first half of the season in Ligue 1 by L’Équipe. He ranked third in the league in saves with 27 in the first 19 matches, and registered 40 blocks, placing him sixth among goalkeepers. Blessed with excellent aerial ability and cat-like reflexes, Lopes would appear to have the tools for a glittering career.
The expert verdict
BBC, Guardian and freelance journalist Andy Brassell (Twitter: @andybrassell) is a specialist in European football and pays particularly close attention to Ligue 1 and Lyon having resided in the French city for a year. PortuGOAL asked him about Anthony Lopes.
What are Anthony Lopes’ strengths and weakness and his style of goalkeeping?
He’s not especially tall for a goalkeeper, so he has to make up for it with his reactions, anticipation and bravery, and he does so in all of those aspects. He learned a lot from Hugo Lloris from playing under him and that’s evident in the way he plays – he’s quick off his line and (like Lloris) has been exposed occasionally in the past coming for crosses, though he’s improved a lot in the latter discipline over the last year, and his handling’s excellent now.
Has he progressed much this season?
Lopes has been excellent this season but I wouldn’t say it’s a particular indicator of improvement this season. He was already one of the very best goalkeepers in Ligue 1, so he’s just continued on the path that he was already on. He still saves his share of penalties (often by moving off his line quite early!) and is one of Lyon’s key players, without a doubt.
What is his career potential? Do you think he will play for a bigger club? Could he be Portugal’s future number 1?
There’s little doubt he’ll go on to have a big career, and he’ll surely become Portugal’s number one at some point in the future. Allied to an already huge natural talent, he has always had the nerve to deal with big occasions (he stepped in for his first-team debut, in the derby v St Etienne, at very short notice), and is a positive person to have around the dressing room.
Our thanks to Andy. So there you have it. Another name to add to a long list of exciting young talents who appear primed for an elite career at club level and very possibly for the Seleção. Lopes’ above-mentioned reflexes, athleticism and bravery are clearly exemplified in the following highlight reel.
Name: Anthony Lopes
Date of birth: 1 October 1990 (24 years old)
Place of birth: Givors, France
Height: 1.84 m
Weight: 81 kg
Current club: Olympique Lyonnais
Portugal caps: 0
By Rui Miguel Martins