Alphonso Davies made some history when he became the first Canadian men’s national team player to win a UEFA Champions League title. He still has a long way to go though to top the list of most Champions League titles won by a Canadian.
That distinction goes to Kadeisha Buchanan, who boasts three winner’s medal as a regular for the best club team in women’s soccer, Olympique Lyon. She will attempt to win her fourth UEFA Champions League title on Sunday, when Lyon faces familiar foe Wolfsburg in the final.
Buchanan is the present and future at centerback for both the Canadian Women’s National Team as well as Lyon, where she has spent the last four seasons. In that time she has formed a partnership with French star Wendi Renard to give Lyon an imposing defense that has anchored the French powerhouse’s current run of four consecutive Champions League titles.
Buchanan was already a well decorated player when she arrived in France in 2017. She burst onto the scene during the 2015 World Cup when she was named the tournament’s best young player. Buchanan continued that success in college soccer when she won the MAC Hermann Trophy in 2016, her final season at West Virginia University. She played every minute of Canada’s run to the bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and was named Canadian Player of the Year twice before she signed her first professional contract with Lyon, turning down the NWSL, where she was a highly regarded draft prospect.
That reputation gave Buchanan high hopes heading into her first season with Lyon, but she struggled to earn minutes thanks to Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock Bathy holding down the center of defense. That’s all changed now, however, with Buchanon and Renard holding down the fort in the Lyon back line throughout their run to a fifth consecutive Champions League Final. An injury to Mbock Bathy this season has allowed Buchanon to step into the starting role, but that’s not the only reason she’s seeing the field much more in 2020.
Buchanan also earned her starting spot thanks to her responsible play at the back and her ability to jump start attacks from her position in defense. She is a little reckless at times, but her quickness and strong tackling ability allow her to recover from mistakes. It also helps that Renard, arguably the best defender in Europe, is there to cover.
Buchanan’s varied skill set comes from playing every position on the pitch during her youth. She started off as a striker, the same position her father played growing up in Jamaica, and she eventually transitioned to central midfield in high school before settling in as a defender. She credits that diverse positional upbringing for turning into a multi-dimensional defender.
“The fact is I’ve played in every position on the pitch: winger, holding midfielder, full-back…” she told FIFA.com before last summer’s World Cup. “I just think that centre-half is the position best suited to me. Everything comes into it: my height, my body and my natural defensive instinct. I’ve always got that desire to get forward and score goals deep inside of me, but the fact is I can do that too, so I’m very happy. I’ve come a long way and it’s a position that’s opened a lot of doors for me.”
Buchanan was the first Canadian national team player, male or female, to win a Champions League title, and has racked up three titles in a row. Her steady play helped earn her a contract extension in 2018 that made her one of the highest-paid defenders in women’s soccer.
Buchanan will have another chance to showcase her status as one of the best defenders in the world on Sunday against VfL Wolfsburg, one of the most high powered attacks in Europe. Her main duty will be slowing down Pernille Harder and Ewa Pajor as Wolfsburg looks to hit quickly when they get possession.
With Alphonso Davies having joined Buchanan in the exclusive club of Canadian Champions League winners, it will be up to Buchanan now to push the bar even higher by adding her fourth title on Sunday.