Islam Slimani was signed by Olympique Lyonnais in the January 2021 transfer window to bolster the squad’s attacking options in the light of Moussa Dembélé‘s departure on loan to Atletico Madrid.
The thirty-two year old Algerian international striker arrived on a free transfer from English Premier League club Leicester City on an eighteen month contract, having cost the English club £27.9 million back in 2016.
After a promising first season with the Foxes, Slimani became increasingly marginalised and was farmed out on loan to Newcastle and Fenerbahçe with equally disappointing results. However, a subsequent loan spell in Ligue 1 with AS Monaco in 2019-20 rekindled his form and revived his reputation somewhat as he plundered nine goals and provided several assists.
That spell in Monaco and the fact that he was available for free made him an attractive prospect for the OL recruitment team and his attributes as a striker should nicely compliment the existing options in the Lyon front line. He will bring a more physical presence to the attack and offer more of an aerial threat than Depay, Kadewere or Toko Ekambi, permitting Lyon to ask some different questions of opposition defences.
Slimani began his career with amateur club JSM Chéraga in a suburb of his native Algiers and his goal-scoring exploits in the lower echelons of the Algerian football pyramid soon earned him a move to CR Belouizdad, one of the capital’s big clubs.
His four seasons with Belouizdad in Algeria’s Ligue Professionnelle 1 brought 9th, 5th, 4th and 6th placed finishes in the league table and a consistent return for Slimani in front of goal. It was during this period that he made his debut for the national team as a substitute in a friendly against Niger in May 2012. He opened his account for the Fennecs in a World Cup Qualifier against Rwanda a week later and has gone on to score 29 goals in 68 appearances, making him second in the all-time top scorers list for Algeria behind Abdelhafid Tasfaout.
Slimani’s burgeoning reputation earned him a move to Sporting Clube of Lisbon in Portugal in summer 2013. He spent three full seasons in the Portuguese capital, winning the Taça de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) in 2015 and the subsequent Super Cup. He picked up the man of the match award in the cup final, having scored in normal time and again in the penalty shoot-out victory over Braga.
The 2015-16 season was when Slimani, aged 27, was at the peak of his powers. His return of 27 goals in 33 league games spearheaded Sporting’s title push and, whilst they ultimately missed out by two points, finishing second behind Benfica, his performances were making waves across Europe and it was Leicester City who won the race for his services.
He has struggled to recapture that sort of form during the past four seasons and, at 32, his spell at Lyon could be his last chance to make an impact at one of Europe’s top clubs. His best years may well be behind him, and he hasn’t scored a competitive goal in over eleven months, since netting for Monaco against Montpellier in February 2020, but he has hardly played since then, in part due to the pandemic, and could still be a useful addition to Lyon’s squad.
He joins up with his international team mate Djamel Benlamri in Lyon and the pair can reminisce on their Africa Cup of Nations triumph of 2019, which counts as the biggest prize of Slimani’s career to date. He made three appearances during that tournament, scoring a goal in the group stage against Tanzania, and penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out win against Côte d’Ivoire. However, he was only deployed as a late substitute in the final against Senegal.
Date of Birth: 18/06/1988
Place of Birth: Algiers
Joined OL: 13/01/2021
JSM Chéraga (2008-09)
CR Belouizdad (2009-13)
Sporting Clube (2013-16)
Leicester City (2016-21)
Newcastle United (Loan) (2018)
Fenerbahçe (Loan) (2018-19)
AS Moncao (Loan) (2019-20)