Lyon Féminin 2016/17 is part of 90min’s 20 Greatest Teams of the Decade series.
There is one club in women’s football that is synonymous with success – Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, winner of six Champions League titles in the last nine seasons alone and 13 consecutive domestic French league titles.
Time and again, Lyon have proven impossible to topple in France and have now translated that unprecedented dominance onto a European stage as well when, in 2016/17, they became the first club to successfully retain all three elements of a treble.
‘La Triplé’ has become their hallmark. But if the first league, cup and European treble is tough, the second is harder. And to then later do it back-to-back and retain all three trophies from one year to the next is unbelievable. In 2016/17, they managed exactly that.
Before Lyon, only one other club – Umea of Sweden – had ever retained the Women’s Champions League, or the UEFA Women’s Cup as it was previously known until 2009.
The French side were the first in eight years to manage it, taking consecutive European crowns in 2010/11 and 2011/12. Wolfsburg followed suit in the two years after, but Lyon regained the trophy in 2015/16 and have never relinquished it since.
The club’s first treble came during the landmark 2011/12 campaign. The second was in 2015/16 when a 20-year-old by the name of Ada Hegerberg scored 54 goals in all competitions and Lyon beat Wolfsburg on penalties in a Champions League final of titanic proportions.
But they hadn’t been able to retain ‘La Triplé’ the first time around, losing the 2013 Champions League final against Wolfsburg, despite keeping hold of both of their domestic trophies.
By 2016/17, they were ready to take that dominance to a new level. Umea, Frankfurt, Arsenal and Wolfsburg had all previously won a treble, but none had fully retained it. Lyon changed that.
Staying on top of the pile in France proved to be straightforward. Lyon won 21 of their 22 games, an improvement on 19 wins the season before, and averaged 4.7 goals per game. Their defence was ‘leakier’ in that they conceded six goals instead of just the four in 2015/16.
The result was an eight-point cushion over second place Montpellier and a 14-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain, both of whom also made fairly light work of the rest of the competition.
The Coupe de France final saw Lyon emerge victorious over PSG by a 7-6 penalty shootout score-line at the end of a 1-1 draw – perhaps a spooky precursor as to what followed a fortnight later. For Lyon, it was a sixth consecutive domestic cup triumph since 2012.
The 2017 Champions League final was held in Cardiff to coincide with the men’s final in the city two days later and pitted Lyon against PSG in a rematch of the Coupe de France final.
Having recorded 10-2 and 17-0 aggregate victories in the early rounds of the competition, Lyon had then been made to work to keep progressing in the competition. They beat Wolfsburg 2-1 over two legs in the quarter finals, doing the hard work away from home in the first game, before another slender 3-2 aggregate win against Manchester City in the last four.
Highlighting the scale of depth in the squad, the five Lyon goals across those quarter and semi final ties were scored by four different players.
Olympic gold medallist Dzsenifer Marozsan, who was new at the club in 2016/17 after joining from Frankfurt, was the only player to score in both rounds.
Lyon had also signed powerhouse Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan midway through the season, as well as USWNT icon Alex Morgan on loan. Together with Marozsan, they joined an impressive squad that already boasted the aforementioned Hegerberg, Japanese star Saki Kumagai, Sweden legend Caroline Seger and a who’s who of French internationals, including Wendie Renard, Camille Abily, Eugenie Le Sommer, Elodie Thomis and Griedge Mbock Bathy.
The Champions League final against PSG proved to be a repeat of the Coupe de France in more than just name only, with penalties again required to separate the domestic rivals. Remarkably, it was the same 7-6 score-line in Lyon’s favour that decided the contest.
Morgan, who had been struggling with injury ahead of the final, lasted only 23 minutes, while Hegerberg was also not herself and was withdrawn after only an hour. But, again, it showed the depth of quality to lose two genuine superstars during the game and still go on to win.
Two days before the final, Hegerberg had been named 2017 BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year. The following season the Norwegian would go on to score 53 goals in all competitions and eventually claim the first ever Women’s Ballon d’Or award, although Lyon fell short of three-peat treble when they lost in the 2018 Coupe de France final in yet another rematch against PSG.
The Champions League and domestic title came, as usual, and then again in 2018/19, which also saw the return of ‘La Triplé’, a fourth overall.
Lyon’s 2016/17 campaign perhaps wasn’t as spectacular as those that surrounded it, but for the historic achievement alone of being the first club to retain a treble, it deserves to be saluted.