As Mike Maignan continues to develop in his new role as Les Bleus’ No. 1 goalkeeper, the number of talented young goalkeepers lining up to replace him at some point in the future continues to grow. Among them is Maignan’s former “disciple” at Lille, Lucas Chevalier.
It was during his loan spell in the 2020-2021 season that Chevalier began to establish himself as a truly talented goalkeeper, keeping nine clean sheets in 30 matches for the club that finished 16th in the Ligue 1 rankings that year.
He returned to Lille at the start of last season, starting on the bench before Paulo Fonseca decided to bring the goalkeeper on, handing him his debut at Stade Pierre Mauroy in September 2022.
Chevalier finished the season with 10 clean sheets in 32 matches. In the second half of the 2023 season, he had 6 rounds of clean sheets from 22 starts, with only 21 goals conceded.
After representing France U21 at last summer’s European Championship, the young man has continued to improve in the first half of this season. In Lille’s 20 matches in Ligue 1, he did not concede 9 goals and only conceded 14 goals, helping Lille become the second best defense in the tournament. Chevalier also successfully defended the wooden goal in four matches in Lille’s Europa Conference group stage when the team reached the knockout round.
Despite being a goalkeeper with proven shot-stopping skills, Chevalier particularly impressed with his comfort with the ball and passing, encouraged by Fonseca, whose style helps the keeper became the best football player among the 11 names on the field. This of course has risks but also many benefits. After a mistake against Rennes, Chevalier told the French press: “I am often put in dangerous situations – I am the player at highest risk – but I also find solutions. It’s a double-edged sword.” During the 2022-2023 season, he led the goalkeepers’ rankings for short passes and only made fewer accurate long passes per game than Gianluigi Donnarumma – a factor that helped Lille finish the season with second highest possession in Ligue 1.
Although Chevalier still considers himself a “a bit crazy” keeper, his vision of the game has now expanded: “My role is to stimulate the opponent’s pressure, because behind each goalkeeper plays wider than his position, a space opens up for a teammate and a pass disrupts the opposition formation. I find solutions in risks and that makes me feel fulfilled, but it can also be stressful. But every time I have the ball at my feet, I try to do something special.” For Lille and possibly soon for France, Chevalier will be a top choice.
Dang Nguyen | 20:33 February 6, 2024