Forget Real Madrid: Why Lyon are the greatest Champions League team of all time

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Wendie Renard Lyon Wolfsburg UEFA Women's Champions League final 2020
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The French side face Barcelona in the women's final in Turin on May 21 and victory would mean a staggering eighth European Cup in 12 seasons

The 2022 Champions League final between Lyon and Barcelona is about more than a trophy. 

For Ada Hegerberg, it's also about respect.

"There was women's football before Barcelona, ​​and it was played here for years," the Lyon legend told L’Equipe last month. 

"We have to win again to regain our place in world football and we have the chance to do it this season. We have never lost against Barcelona."

It's clear that Lyon are irked by the fact that the Blaugranes not only took their title last season, but also their status as the darlings of the women's game. 

For the past year, the whole football world has been astounded by Barca's dominant displays and record-breaking attendances.

Hegerberg & Co. evidently feel that their remarkable feats have been overlooked, forgotten almost.

That certainly shouldn't be the case, of course. 

After all, we're not just talking about the greatest team the women's Champions League has ever seen.

Lyon are the greatest team the tournament has ever seen full stop.

Remember, the most successful men's side in the Champions League era is Real Madrid, who won three in a row between 2016 and 2018.

Lyon matched them every step of the way but then added two more titles for good measure, in 2019 and 2020.

Of course, the Madrid of Gento, Puskas and Di Stefano also claimed five European Cups in a row.

However, not even that legendary side have dominated the tournament quite like Lyon have for more than a decade.

Madrid won six European Cups in 11 seasons between 1955 and 1966, while also finishing as runners-up twice.

Lyon, though, have won seven since making their first final in 2010 – also losing two along the way – and are now bidding for what would be an eighth triumph in 12 years.

Their longevity is truly astounding, a testament to not only Jean-Michel Aulas' admirable willingness to invest in top talent, but also the club's culture of excellence.

"We have had a squad for a number of years and a president who believes in this, who has given us money and resources to build a top level side," captain Wendie Renard said. "Players come and go but we try to keep this Lyon DNA."

Indeed, it has been integral to their sustained success. 

Renard is one of only three players remaining from the side that lost on penalties to Turbine Potsdam in their first Champions League final, all the way back in 2010, along with Sarah Bouhaddi and Amandine Henry.

However, Lyon instilled a work ethic that has never changed, meaning their standards have never dropped.

Alice Sombath, for example, came through the ranks at Paris Saint-Germain, who have begun to invest heavily in their women's team in recent years, yet she says she only "realised what it meant to be a professional" after arriving at Lyon.

Kenza Dali, meanwhile, says that every day she spent at the club was a test of her quality and commitment.

"When you work at Lyon, you understand why they win everything," the West Ham midfielder explained. 

"Every training is so hard, really hard, they train so hard. You have to win your place every day."

There is no let-up, essentially. Even on the rare occasions they lose, they return better than before, which is exactly what they'll be aiming to prove against Barcelona in Turin on May 21.

As former Lyon forward Lotta Schelin told GOAL, "Winning, that's hard enough, but losing and then coming back? That's when you can see the real winners.

"That's why Lyon's history is perfect in a way.”

And that's also why they are the greatest side in Champions League history…

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