Lopes during the Coupe de la Ligue final against PSG - JEE / SIPA
From our special correspondent in Lisbon,
Anthony Lopes is back in Portugal. The goalkeeper returns to his country of origin at the bend of Final 8, where OL will challenge Manchester City on Saturday (Estadio de Alvalade). He played again against Benfica in the group stage of this same edition of the Champions League, but his last match in the Peninsula with the Portuguese shirt dates from 2017. In 2018, after the World Cup, he decided to put his career international on a break, to spend time with your children. "I am very family," he said then.
The pandemic and the postponement of the Euro have reshuffled the cards. Noises from the corridors evoke a desire to come back for the next big deadline, if Fernando Santos still wants him. There is no reason that he does not accept, basically. Lopes told him about his international leave and there was no hitch. He is a goalkeeper appreciated in the country, although not well known to the general public as explained to us the former assistant coach of Portugal and former coach of Sporting, Leonel Pontes, who nevertheless advises him to aim higher than the OL to take a final step.
What image does Anthony Lopes have in Portugal?
He has a good image here. I know him personally from working with him. I think he has made incredible progress over the last five or six years. He became leader in Lyon, captain of the team. He is a player who already has a presence and a strong status. Obviously he has never been able to win in the national team, because he has always had in front of him Rui Patricio, who is having an extraordinary career. And as long as Rui is in the cages it will be difficult for Anthony to be the holder of this team. But here those who know football know the value of Anthony because they watch the games of Lyon and he is captain. For us who know him, he is a great guardian.
What is the media coverage of Anthony Lopes in the country? For example, when a Portuguese player or coach wins, we often read headlines like “Nuno's Wolverhampton wins in Manchester”. Do we see that with Anthony too?
Yes, most of the newspapers are about internationals who are in top level clubs. There is a column in some newspapers specifically for the results of international players abroad, and Anthony is one of them. Afterwards, it is obvious that he does not have in Portugal the status that the holders of the selection have. Because he is not a holder. And very often he was the third goalkeeper. And so it affects his aura. Those who are given more importance are part of the base eleven. But the newspapers speak of him occasionally, yes. Because basically he is one of the players who have been regularly called for the final stages of recent competitions.
Is it more difficult for a Portuguese-descendant like Anthony Lopes, or even Guerreiro who is now the holder, to win in Portugal?
Note that it is one thing to arrive in the selection already formed, already "ripe", and it is another to have been part of the Selecção from U16, U17. After that it has to do with the context. When Raphaël enters the team, he seizes an opportunity and then gives continuity to his game. Unlike Anthony who never really had an opportunity because his position has always been occupied. Especially since goalkeeper is a much more difficult position because coaches don't like to change it. And of course, when you have a Rui Patricio in the cages, you're not going to replace it. Anthony's bad luck is being part of this selection at a time when the position he occupies is taken. And from there follows less media coverage.
It's true that he made a big mistake against Benfica, but that's part of a player's growth.
What has marked you in the evolution of Anthony? What is your analysis of the keeper today?
He has matured a lot as a goalkeeper. I think where he has really evolved is that he is playing more and more out of his cages. He is in this role of third central defender, but I think it is also in relation to the way of playing of OL, which is a possession team, a team that favors high pressure with a high defensive line. And him in a way that pushed him to improve his kicking game and to venture out of his cage.
It's true that he made a big mistake against Benfica, but that's part of a player's growth. It was a mistake that probably made him realize that sometimes you have to know how to make other decisions. And so the other evolution as I said is that he plays more out of his cages. He was a very good goalkeeper between his posts and today he is a player capable of playing further. And of course being a captain and having some recognition from his teammates in this role gives him more strength.
#Benfica 2-1 #OL
All the Lyonnais came to comfort a prostrate #Lopes. #TeamOL #SLBOL pic.twitter.com/JquBEubfVm
Where then is the difference with its rival in Portugal with Rui Patricio?
(Hesitates) It's hard to say. I think Rui showed great consistency in the cage and a lot of confidence. He left Sporting for Wolverhampton and there is an extremely high performance in the Premier League. I think Anthony is better in terms of kicking, that he has had a significant progression but Rui is very cold in his cage. But it's hard to see the differences between the two. Anthony is playing further from his goals than Rui. But afterwards they play in different teams and sometimes the goalkeepers are shaped by the team in which they play.
Anthony's new challenge would be to be able to find a team of an even higher level in the short or medium term.
You said Patricio is cold. Conversely, we have often criticized Lopes for his volcanic temperament? Is that something you were discussing with him?
As an assistant coach, I didn't talk to him about that, he was under the direction of the goalkeeper coach. We never talked about that but at that point he was a bit more impulsive player, that's true. Rui is much quieter. They are two players of the same age but of different maturity. The captain's armband in Lyon brought him to this side. But yes, he was an impulsive player, a player who reacted quickly to the highlights of the game, who wanted to play fast, all the time. And there are times when you can confuse speed and haste. And when you rush, you put yourself at risk of making mistakes. And in this area of the field, it is fatal.
According to you, he can continue to progress at OL or will have to leave to continue his progress?
Lyon are a great club but it is true that there are times in a career when the player needs new challenges. And Anthony's new challenge would be to be able in the short or medium term to find a team of an even higher level. If he has demonstrated his talent and his qualities in Lyon, I am sure he will be able to do so elsewhere where he will also have the place to continue to grow in a team with other ambitions.
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