PROFILE | Lucas Chevalier, once Mike Maignan’s understudy at Lille, ready to challenge for the France No.1 jersey

As Mike Maignan continues to grow into his new role as France’s No.1, the queue of talented youngsters lining up to replace him at some point continues to grow. Among them is Maignan’s former understudy at Lille OSC, Lucas Chevalier.

It was during this loan spell for the 2020-2021 season that Chevalier began to make a name for himself as a goalkeeper of real talent, keeping an impressive nine clean sheets in 30 matches for a club that finished a lowly 16th in the table.

He returned to Lille for the beginning of last season, which he began on the bench before Paulo Fonseca decided to throw him in at the deep end, handing him his debut at the Velodrome in September 2022.

Chevalier ended the season with 10 clean sheets in 32 matches, the 2023 half of the campaign yielding six clean sheets from 22 with 21 goals conceded.

Chevalier embodies the modern keeper

After representing France’s U21s in the summer’s European Championship he has continued to improve during the first half of this season. In Lille’s 17 Ligue 1 matches, he has kept a hugely impressive nine clean sheets and conceded only 14, helping make Les Dogues the joint-second-best defence in the league. He has also been between the sticks for four of Lille’s Europa Conference group stage matches as the team has qualified for the knock-out stage.

Although a proven shot-stopper, Chevalier has particularly impressed with his comfort on the ball and his passing, encouraged by Fonseca, whose style very much promotes the keeper as the deepest lying of 11 out-fielders. This of course has its risks but also its rewards: after a mistake against Rennes, Chevalier noted “I have the position of death – I am the player most at risk – but I also find solutions. It’s a double-edged sword.” In 2022-2023 he led the goalkeepers’ table for short passes and only Gianluigi Donnarumma made fewer long passes per match – a factor in Lille completing the season with the second-highest possession percentage in Ligue 1.

Although he still sees himself as the stereotypical goalkeeper with a “mad side” to him, his vision of the game has now expanded: “My role is to provoke the opposition’s press, as behind every goalkeeper who breaks position, a space opens up for a teammate and a pass becomes available. I find solutions in risky areas and it’s as satisfying as it can be nerve-wracking. But each time I have the ball at my feet, I try to make something special happen. For Lille and maybe soon for France, Chevalier is a keeper!

GFFN | Jeremy Smith 

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