in Lille, a spring synonymous with rebirth for striker Loïc Rémy

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On May 5, 2019, Loïc Rémy scored, for Lille, the goal of the equalizer (1-1) against Olympique Lyonnais, match that ended on the score of 2-2.
On May 5, 2019, Loïc Rémy scored, for Lille, the goal of the equalizer (1-1) against Olympique Lyonnais, match that ended on the score of 2-2. EMMANUEL FOUDROT / REUTERS

It has long been desired, but the man has the sense of timing and aesthetics. In this Saturday, May 12, Lille receives Bordeaux with a great goal: to win the victory that would validate his second place in Ligue 1 championship, and therefore the qualification for the next Champions League football. As we approached the half-hour mark, his leader, Jonathan Ikoné, rushed to shoot a free kick twenty-five meters from the goal. The sequel is an inspiration: a small balloon stung over the Bordeaux wall, Loïc Rémy volleyed.

The striker Lille will be the only one to find the way to the nets that night. Eight days later, his goal is elected the most beautiful of the season to the trophies of the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP).

If the season of the Dogues has all the fairy tale, Loïc Rémy has never really been the hero. Arrived in summer 2018 with a CV (30 selections in France team), experience (32 years) and ambitions ("I'm going to have a major role in this team", he had launched during his presentation), he first aroused skepticism, or even misunderstanding.

Frustrated by an administrative problem, which prevented Lille to homologate his contract during the first two days of the championship, the rookie wanted to gain confidence in the way all the attackers do: by scoring. So, for his first tenure, the 1stst September 2018 in Angers, he did not hesitate to take the ball from the hands of Nicolas Pépé, designated shooter, to try the penalty equalizer – "To build confidence"he will say afterwards.

Verdict? Big anger of his partner, failed attempt and exit the field three minutes later. The next day, Pepe will score three goals, including two penalty, Remy entering only in stoppage time.

Negative spiral and hierarchy in frozen attack

Made anecdotal by the good results of Lille, the event carries all the symbols of the season of the newcomer, voluntary but often out of season. A negative spiral, out of step with the rest of the offensive players and an excellent match against Lyon early December 2018 does not stop. Opposed to his training club, the striker is scorer and decisive passer. His coach Christophe Galtier sees it "A very strong signal sent to its partners".

But Rémy does not follow and Rafael Leao, thirteen years younger, replaces him advantageously. Carefree, the Portuguese do everything better and faster. In the heart of winter, it marks especially important goals that freeze the hierarchy in attack.

This is where the story could have rocked. For Galatasaray, who is looking for an attacker, directly contacts the player in the transfer window of January. The person refuses, redoubles efforts in training. "Seeing the session the next day, I quickly realized that he did not really want to leave", confirms his coach once warned of the approach, without embellishing a complicated situation: "He has a little less smile than before. Loïc is happy when his partners score, but it is obviously unfortunate not to play. "

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In February, Rémy scores his second and third goals of the season. But they arrive at the end of stoppage time, in meetings where the victory is already assured. Never again in the starting lineup, he gives everything as soon as he has a little playing time. In the vivacity as in the technical accuracy, difficult yet to distinguish the one who disputed a quarter-final World Cup with the Blues in 2014, or scored, in a friendly match two months later, the only goal of a victory against Spain – a first since the 2006 World Cup.

Three games that change everything

And then everything – or almost – has changed. On March 31st, to everyone's surprise, Loïc Rémy holds for the first time since the beginning of December. If Leao scores from the outset, it is still losing its place. Because Remy will open the scoring against Nimes at the 34e day April 28, will equal in Lyon the following Sunday and end with this famous volley against Bordeaux, May 12.

In the space of a few weeks and a few games, the striker is reborn and changes the fate of his team. And his in passing, he who still has a year of contract in the North. "I knew that Loïc was going to be present on these matches, ensures Galtier. Over the weeks and the training sessions, he returned to his level and was able to follow the work cycles. "

But if the attacker has been relaunched, it is not only thanks to his performance in training. His trainer assumes it, he also wanted to send a message to Leao, in decline with the return of good weather. "Rafael was a little more in trouble, he had a very upward period, but at 19, he had a backlash behind to maintain the requirement. He may have had a moment of relaxation. This is normal at his age, but Loïc showed in the sessions an aptitude to come and compete with him. "

In a season in Lille where even the bad news ended up becoming good, the few injured being replaced advantageously, this rebound will have been a gamble. A psychological spring that, if he a little upset Leao, mainly revived Remy.

"I would have liked to play more and score more, but with my playing time, I try to do my best and give it back to the coach, philosopher the player. There is no reason to change when it's going well, I think any coach would have done the same thing. Leao had this hatching and it was a bit more difficult for me, but my strength of character is always the same, my motivation and my desire too. " An abnegation that ended up paying.

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Christophe Kuchly

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