Considered one of Olympique Lyonnais’ best prospects, Houssem Aouar has shone and showed his qualities at the high level. The versatile midfielder has managed excellent performances, been clinical, and has been praised by many and heavily solicited. This has not put off the 19-year-old who has remained grounded. He gave the following interview to the club’s official website.
Houssem, how do you deem the first part of your season?
I am rather satisfied. Perhaps that’s a bit strong, but I’ve come a long way. Let’s not forget, I wasn’t even in the group to begin with. That period of time was a form of motivation for me to catch lost time.
Statistically, I can do better, even if the central midfield position means that I’m not in front of goal as often. It’s up to me to show that I can do better. But the most important thing is what I contribute to the team, not necessarily the stats.
Am I surprised to have earned my spot this quickly? Kind of, yeah. It happened very quickly for me. I wasn’t in the group to begin with, then I would get five minutes of playing time, and then suddenly, I was starting. Things happen very quickly in world of football. We hear that very often, but when it happens to you, you tell yourself how incredible things are.
My performances are what earned me those five minutes of play. When that’s the amount of time you’re given, you have to give it your all. The coach gave me other chances and I was rewarded. I didn’t give up. Perseverance pays off!
How did you cope last season when you had limited playing time?
That was a season for me to adapt, transition, and progress. I went from the amateurs to the professional world. I had to adapt. There were a lot of great players from whom I learned, especially in regards to understanding the professional world. It was an important year. It wasn’t difficult psychologically speaking, even if training with the others and seeing them play matches without me was a bit hard. The experience really brought me a lot.
How have you coped and how are you coping with the hype around you?
It wasn’t difficult to cope with. I knew I was popular on social media. But when I’m on the pitch, I forget about all that. All that matters are your performances and what happens on the pitch. It feels good to be so followed. My fans are behind me, which is great. Especially during the not-so-great periods.
Which figures around you have helped with managing this hype?
My family helps a lot. In reality, nothing has really changed for us. I’m still the little one. My mum still decides what to do with me. If there’s something to do around the house, I have to do it, and it’s no problem for me.
After playing in front of thousands of fans, I go home and spend time with my family, like I’ve always done (smiling). It allows me to stay grounded. The coach also talks a lot with me. We meet up after games to go over the games.
This allows me to re-evaluate myself. Claudio Caçapa speaks a lot to me, and tells me what I need to do and improve. It’s important to also hear positive things.
How did you adapt to this central midfield role?
It’s more mental than anything. Often times, it was the stronger guys ahead of me in that position. But I think that everything happens in one’s head. The desire to win the ball back is the most important. I do my best defensively speaking, all while contributing offensively. It isn’t an unnatural position for me. I played there while in the youth teams. You have to be even more focused, and not make mistakes. I’m on the ball more, controlling play, which allows me to position myself better.
Can you tell us a bit more about your personal objectives?
I like to keep my objectives to myself. Of course I have objectives, but I’m quite reserved on that topic (smiling). In certain aspects, I need to progress. For example, when playing it long. These are very specific objectives. I may be young, but I need to learn quickly.
How do you feel before the match on Sunday?
It’s very important. We’re doing well, but we can’t mess up this weekend. We have to give it our all at home. We know that most teams won’t drop any points. In regards to our ambitions for the end of the season, we want to be on the podium. The club and the players really want that. It’s definitely an objective. There is also the Europa league final in Lyon.
We want to go all the way, like with every competition. We are in a very big club with great players. The French cup tie against Monaco is gonna be difficult. For us, like for them. We won against them earlier on this season, and we won against them last year away from home. If we want to go all the way, we have to come up against the big teams.
Was the last call up with the French youth team a sort of relief?
It was a relief, seeing as I haven’t played much with the national team. I’d performed well with the Lyon youth teams. And other players would get called up, while I stayed here. I feel rewarded following my performances. I’m proud to be called up. The last gathering with the French youth team went very well.
According to UEFA, you are amongst the 50 most promising players…
I am happy because it is a form of recognition on the European stage. It is a reward following my good start to the season. It’s good, but it also doesn’t mean much. I still have to show what I’m worth, and meet those expectations. That is the most difficult part. The club and my entourage will guide me along this path.