Canadian Kadeisha Buchanan has been swimming with the sharks for four seasons now, helping anchor the Olympique Lyonnais defence as the French powerhouse cruised to one trophy after another.
The hard-nosed centre back from Brampton, Ont., has shown she belongs with an all-star roster that has no equal in women’s club soccer. Lyon won the treble in 2020, claiming the Champions League and French League titles as well as the French Cup.
Her performance for Lyon, as well as helping Canada book its ticket to the Tokyo Olympics, has earned the 25-year-old Buchanan her third Canadian Women’s Player of the Year award.
”A great year, (despite) all that’s going on in the world,” Buchanan said in an interview Friday.
“I’m proud to get such results after being off for a few months (due to the pandemic). To really put that effort in after and to go after the (Champions League) trophy was very rewarding.”
Lyon had gone an amazing 73 matches without defeat prior to a 1-0 league loss at Paris Saint-Germain last month. PSG was the last team to beat Lyon in any competition, 1-0 in the French Cup final in May 2018.
The streak was even longer — 80 matches — stretching back to December 2016 in French league play.
Like Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, voted Canada’s top men’s player on Thursday, the 25-year-old from Brampton, Ont., lifted the Champions League trophy this year. But while it was a first for the 20-year-old Davies, Buchanan is a four-time winner of the European club competition.
“For Kadeisha to have played an integral part in her fourth UEFA Champions League speaks to one of her many accomplishments and contributions to both club and country in which she should be very proud,” Canada women’s coach Bev Priestman said in a statement. “It has been a fantastic season for Kadeisha and it has been great to see her performances and the goals she has scored, too.
“She has world-class qualities that any country would be proud to have and she is a highly valued member of the squad both on and off the pitch, so we are thrilled for her personally in receiving this well-deserved recognition. As a team, to know you have a centre back that opposing forwards hate to play against, it fills the group with confidence.”
Buchanan finished ahead of Canada captain Christine Sinclair in voting by Canadian coaches and media. Manchester City’s Janine Beckie and Paris Saint-Germain’s Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema completed the top five in voting.
Sinclair also had a memorable year.
The 37-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., moved atop soccer’s all-time goal-scoring list — for both men and women — on Jan. 29 at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Edinburg, Texas.
Sinclair, a 14-time winner of the Canadian Player of the Year award, notched goals No. 184, 185 and 186 at the tournament to pass retired American Abby Wambach.
While Sinclair is a soccer legend, one can argue that Buchanan is Canada’s most decorated soccer player, among men and women.
She has won the women’s European club crown and French league title all four years since making her pro debut in 2017. She has also hoisted the French Cup three times. A winner of the Canadian Player of the Year Award in 2015 and 2017, Buchanan’s trophy case also includes an Olympic bronze medal (Rio 2016) and three CONCACAF silver medals.
At the 2015 World Cup, she won the Hyundai Young Player Award and was chosen to the tournament all-star team.
Buchanan has remarkably lost just four competitive club matches since joining Lyon from West Virginia University in January 2017.
Lyon’s dominance was shown by the fact that the club provided 12 of 50 players — including Buchanan — shortlisted for the 2020 UEFA Team of the Year. The number is 13 if you include English star Lucy Bronze, who left for Manchester City during the summer.
Lyon is the 14-time defending champion of France and has won the French Cup nine times and the Champions League seven times.
An athletic, physical defender who is good in the air, Buchanan has been paired with France captain Wendie Renard at the heart of the Lyon defence. French international Griedge Mbock, another key cog in the Lyon backline, underwent surgery in June to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Renard, Bronze and four other Lyon players are among the 12 shortlisted for FIFA’s Best Women’s Player award this year. Renard is also one of six nominees for the BBC World Sport Star 2020 Award.
The internal competition at Lyon is intense. Buchanan started in her first and fourth Champions League finals, while she was among the substitutes in the finals in between.
Buchanan featured in 17 games for Lyon this year, scored three goals and was a major part of the team’s 20-match unbeaten streak across all league, cup and UEFA competitions from Jan. 12 to Nov. 13.
Buchanan played in all seven of Lyon’s Champions League matches in 2019-20. And she played every minute at centre back in August when Lyon dispatched Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals, Paris Saint-Germain in the semifinals, and VfL Wolfsburg in the championship game in San Sebastian, Spain.
Buchanan helped blunt Wolfsburg’s Ewa Pajor and Pernille Harder, the Bundesliga’s back-to-back scoring leaders, in a 3-1 win as Lyon completed a 2019-20 treble.
“The game wasn’t easy,” Buchanan said. “It was very intense … To hear the final whistle was a great moment.”
Lyon is also proving to be an enjoyable home away from home.
“(I’m) still loving it, said Buchanan. “I’m getting more and more intertwined with the culture each year, speaking more and more French. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent as yet but I’m getting there … I’m definitely settling down in France. At the moment I feel very comfortable here.”
Buchanan was 14 when she made her debut in the Canadian youth program in 2010 and 17 when she made her senior debut in January 2013.
She featured in six internationals with Canada from January through March this year before the pandemic hit. She was named Canada’s player of the match against the U.S. in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship final, which also marked her milestone 100th international.
Buchanan, whose cap total now stands at 101 including 96 starts, was named to the CONCACAF tournament’s Best XI.
The Canadian Player of the Year award is presented by Allstate.
Past winners of the Canadian Players of the Year Award
2020: Kadeisha Buchanan and Alphonso Davies
2019: Ashley Lawrence and Jonathan David
2018: Christine Sinclair and Alphonso Davies
2017: Kadeisha Buchanan and Atiba Hutchinson
2016: Christine Sinclair and Atiba Hutchinson
2015: Kadeisha Buchanan and Atiba Hutchinson
2014: Christine Sinclair and Atiba Hutchinson
2013: Christine Sinclair and Will Johnson
2012: Christine Sinclair and Atiba Hutchinson
2011: Christine Sinclair and Dwayne De Rosario
2010: Christine Sinclair and Atiba Hutchinson
2009: Christine Sinclair and Simeon Jackson
2008: Christine Sinclair and Julian de Guzman
2007: Christine Sinclair and Dwayne De Rosario
2006: Christine Sinclair and Dwayne De Rosario
2005: Christine Sinclair and Dwayne De Rosario
2004: Christine Sinclair and Paul Stalteri
2003: Charmaine Hooper and Pat Onstad
2002: Charmaine Hooper and Jason deVos
2001: Andrea Neil and Paul Stalteri
2000: Christine Sinclair and Craig Forrest
1999: Geraldine Donnelly and Jim Brennan
1998: Silvana Burtini and Tomasz Radzinski
1997: Janine Helland and Mark Watson
1996: Geraldine Donnelly and Paul Peschisolido
1995: Charmaine Hooper and Alex Bunbury
1994: Charmaine Hooper and Craig Forrest
1993: Alex Bunbury
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press