Jeff Reine-Adélaïde signed for Lyon from Angers for €25 million in August 2019, but in the three years since then, he has only made twelve starts in Ligue 1 for the club. The story of his time so far in Lyon has been one of regular set-backs and frustrations, but it’s easy to forget that he’s still only twenty-four and should have his best years ahead of him if he can finally find fitness and consistency.
He arrived from Angers amidst much fanfare as Lyon’s marquee signing of a transfer window in which they had lost the heart of their midfield in Tanguy Ndombele and Nabil Fekir. The weight of expectation was, therefore, heavy on his shoulders as fans looked to him to mitigate the departure of those two club legends. Adding to that pressure was the size of his transfer fee, which remains Lyon’s record outlay to this day.
Needless to say, things didn’t turn out as he might have hoped. He started brightly enough, scoring and assisting some important goals, but in December 2019 disaster struck when he tore the cruciate ligament in his right knee in the first half of a match against Rennes, just minutes after teammate Memphis Depay had suffered the same injury. Reine-Adélaïde was out for eight months and didn’t feature again until August 2020, when he was able to contribute from the bench in the final three games of Lyon’s run to the semi finals of the Covid-19 delayed Champions League.
However, his return to fitness didn’t herald a fresh start at Lyon and he soon grew frustrated at a lack of playing time in the early part of the new season. Speaking publicly of his desire for a future away from the club caused a bit of a backlash against him amongst some of the Lyon faithful, and when he moved to Nice on loan with an option to buy on deadline day in October 2020, many assumed that he had played his last game for the club.
Reine-Adélaïde’s career finally seemed to be getting back on track on the Côte d’Azur when history repeated itself. In an eerie echo of his injury at Lyon, he again tore a cruciate ligament in his fifteenth Ligue 1 appearance of the season to curtail a promising start at a new club. This time it was in his left knee and the damage happened in added time at the end of a defeat at Monaco in early February 2021. Faced with another long period of rehabilitation, it was no surprise when Nice decided not to retain his services at the end of his loan.
This time ‘JRA’ was out of action for a whole calendar year, making a tentative return in the Lyon reserves in National 2 in February 2022, before returning to first team action as a late substitute in a 4-1 win at Lorient in March. A few more substitute appearances and one start followed as he felt his way back into the reckoning during the final weeks of the season. Now, with a full pre-season under his belt, perhaps he’s finally ready to make his mark in Lyon.
Born in Champigny-sur-Marne in the Île-de-France, Reine-Adélaïde was on the books of Lens as a youth player, but never made a first team appearance for them before Arsène Wenger plucked him away to Arsenal in 2016. His playing time for the Gunners was restricted to a handful of cup appearances before he was loaned out to Angers for the second half of the 2017-18 season. He impressed enough there to earn a permanent move the following summer and flourished during his full season at the club, evidently catching the eye of the Lyon recruitment team.
Reine-Adélaïde has represented the French national team at every age group level since the Under-16s and was named in the team of the tournament when they won the European U17 Championships in 2015. He earned 21 caps for the Under-21s, captaining them on several occasions, and had been due to play at the 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship before his second ACL injury brought his U21 career to a premature end.
A tall, rangy, midfielder with pace and an effortless mastery of the ball, as well as an eye for goal or a killer pass, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde has the skill set to make it at the top level of European football if he can avoid any more bad luck on the injury front. After everything that he’s been through, he deserves some good fortune, an hopefully the best is yet to come.