Despite helping her Olympique Lyonnais team equal the continental record with a fifth successive UEFA Champions League victory earlier this year, Kadeisha Buchanan welcomes more pretenders to the throne.
In fact, the Canadian national team defender encourages it, if only to strengthen the game of both her and her teammates.
The English clubs in particular made a global splash ahead of the 2020-21 season, with Manchester City and Chelsea echoing the free-spending ways of their men’s teams. City added U.S. World Cup winners Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, while the Blues grabbed Australian forward Sam Kerr and the reigning UEFA women’s player of the year, Pernille Harder of Denmark.
“Every year, we try to get better because we know that clubs are investing in players,” Buchanan says. “A club like Chelsea putting a lot of money towards their players and getting better, that’s really great for the league, and for women’s football.”
The Brampton, Ont., native, who was chosen Canada’s player of the year for the third time earlier this month, was very much ahead of the curve with regards to her transatlantic shift. She signed for Lyon in 2017 just a couple of months after finishing up her senior season at West Virginia University, despite being a top draft prospect for the U.S.-based National Women’s Soccer League.
More established players have since made the move, with the likes of U.S. national team stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press leaving the NWSL for Manchester United last summer. Canadian national team regulars such as Janine Beckie and Adriana Leon have also followed suit, joining Man City and West Ham United, respectively.
Fearing being left behind, storied European teams such as Real Madrid, whose record of five consecutive European Cups was matched by Olympique Lyonnais Féminine back in August, got in on the women’s game with the founding of Real Madrid Femenino last July.
“That’s a pretty cool thing to see,” Buchanan says.
While 2020 has seemingly tested the mettle of every man, woman and child on the planet, it was very much business as usual for Lyon, which wrapped up a fifth consecutive trophy treble of French league, French Cup and Champions League. The league title was also the 14th consecutive domestic championship for the club.
Buchanan certainly played her part, playing 17 matches between January and November this year, and scoring three goals. While she regularly battled with French international Griedge Mbock for a starting place in the team, the times she did play she formed a dominant centre-back pairing with French international and club captain Wendie Renard, voted the UEFA Champions League defender of the year.
The pair started the Champions League final against Wolfsburg together, and the Canadian defender holds her captain in high regard. Although she admits they are different players, with Renard holding more of an attacking bent, Buchanan hopes to duplicate her leadership qualities.
“She’s a big name in Lyon at the club, and she has a lot of responsibility, but she handles it super well,” Buchanan says. “And I really admire her for that.”
Between all the club commitments, the 25-year-old defender also found time to pull on a senior Canadian national team jersey for the 100th time in 2020, taking the field for the final of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament against the United States back in February. Even though the team lost that game 3-0, the delay of the Tokyo Games because of COVID-19 gives Buchanan and her teammates more time to prepare for the Olympics, where Canada will be hoping it’s third time lucky and can improve on the bronze medals it has won at the past two Games.
It will have to do so with a new head coach, with Kenneth Heiner-Moller stepping down to take a position in his native Denmark and being replaced by Bev Priestman, who returned to work with the Canadian Soccer Association after two years coaching England’s under-17 women’s side.
With Priestman having already coached Canadian women at the under-17 and under-20 levels before her England stint, Buchanan says that familiarity will be a bonus.
“I think it’s nice that Bev is coming back because we obviously have known her for a very long time,” she says. “So I think it’s cool that there is really no change. And you say it’s a new coach, but for us, she’s not a new coach to us.”
Knowing the environment, team tendencies and squad expectations going into Tokyo will be important, too, Buchanan says. Having been a part of the 2016 squad that took home a bronze medal after a 2-1 win over the host country, Brazil, the Canada’s 2020 player of the year knows what an Olympic Games is all about. Given the competitive environment she lives in day in and day out at Lyon, there’s only one type of medal that she’s after in Tokyo.
“Obviously a few of the players have two bronzes,” Buchanan says. “I have one bronze, so just looking to change that colour and get gold [next] year.”