Rémy Riou joined Lyon in the summer of 2022 on a free transfer from Ligue 2 club Caen, as cover for first choice goalkeeper Anthony Lopes. Riou had been the regular starter in goal for the Normandy based club over the previous three seasons but, approaching his thirty-fifth birthday, he was now prepared to settle for a role on the bench in the top flight of French football.
The move was actually a return to his roots some fifteen years after he had departed his hometown club in search of first team football, for Riou is Lyon born and bred. He was on the club’s books for many years as a junior, and signed his first professional contract with Lyon in January 2005, aged seventeen.
During that period, Riou was a regular member of age-group squads within the French national team setup and in the summer of 2004 he had been the reserve goalkeeper (behind Benoît Costil) as France hosted and won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship.
However, his opportunities at Lyon were limited at the time and he went out on loan to Lorient for the 2006-07 season, where he experienced his first action in Ligue 1. Auxerre were impressed enough by his performances to pay Lyon €800,000 for his services the following summer and he spent four seasons at the Stade de l’Abbé-Deschamps, playing regularly in the first two, but having fallen out of favour thereafter.
A free transfer and a season at Toulouse followed, but Riou again found himself relegated to the bench and made just a single appearance for Les Violets, in the Coupe de la Ligue. Salvation came in the form of another free transfer, this time to Nantes, in Ligue 2. He was installed as first choice goalkeeper for the Canaries and helped them to promotion via a third place finish in his first season there.
Riou enjoyed some of the best years of his career during his five-year stay at Nantes, even becoming club captain as they re-established themselves in the top flight. He went on to make 166 appearances for the club before being sold to Alanyaspor in the Turkish Süper Lig for €1 million in summer 2017.
Playing time was once more at a premium for Riou in Turkey and he only made a handful of appearances for Alanyaspor before another free transfer took him to Charleroi in Belgium the following summer. However, he was yet again used sparingly by his new employers and was on the move for a third time in three years in summer 2019, when he returned to his native France to join Caen and rediscover regular first team football.
And so his career turned a full circle when he re-joined Lyon upon the expiry of his Caen contract. Unexpectedly, some seventeen years after first signing terms with them, Riou finally got the chance to pull on a Lyon goalkeeper’s jersey and make his long-awaited debut for the club in the first game of the 2022-23 season when Lopes was sent off in the 27th minute. He played three more games during Lopes’ suspension, and featured again when Lopes was injured in early 2023.
Appearances are likely to be just as sparse in the future, but for now Riou seems to be happy playing second fiddle to Lopes and acting as a mentor to the club’s youth team goalkeepers. He’s a reliable pair of hands ready and waiting for whenever the club needs to call upon him.