Pau Lopez has established himself as Olympique de Marseille's undisputed No.1 this season, and the Spanish shot-stopper widely regarded as one of the leading goalkeepers in Ligue 1 Uber Eats.
The 28-year-old had doubters after a patchy first season, but this term he's won everybody over with nine clean sheets and a consistently confident, calm aura.
Lopez: 'I feel better than last season'
"I feel good. I feel much better than last season," he told the Ligue 1 Show on beINSPORTS. "I feel comfortable at the club, they've trusted me from day one. This is my second season in Ligue 1, which is different to other leagues I've played in. I know the players better; I feel better in the dressing room because I can communicate with my teammates. It's a bit of everything really. This might be my best ever season."
Signed from Roma in 2021, initially on loan, Lopez asserted himself impressively. Jorge Sampaoli, the former Marseille boss, created a stir when he dropped club legend Steve Mandanda to give Lopez a chance early in the campaign. The Spaniard kept his place and Igor Tudor has renewed faith in him this term.
Tudor demanding but good
"He's a very demanding coach," Lopez said of Tudor. "That's a fact, he says so himself. The team has really improved through the season. We understand what the coach wants from us, everyone can see that if we play like he wants us to play, we'll win more matches. We have to adapt. That's important when you're a player, having that ability to adapt to the coach's demands. The good players can do that. Play long when he wants us to play long, tiki taka when he wants tiki taka."
Lopez is enjoying life at the Orange Vélodrome, where the Marseille fans remain behind the team - even after the 3-0 loss to Classique rivals Paris Saint-Germain last month.
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"It was a difficult night for everyone, but what happened at the end was quite beautiful. The fans stayed behind to applaud us, we went over to see them, it was unbelievable. Every time I play at the Vélodrome it's a sell-out, that's fantastic for us to see. They can see that we're giving everything we've got, and that's so important for the people who love Marseille. I think they're very pleased with us."
In replacing the legendary Mandanda, Lopez has had to show mental strength. The Marseille fans weren't happy to see the former France 'keeper on the bench at first, but Lopez has now won them over.
"Mandanda was among the best two or three goalkeepers in Ligue 1 for a decade, that's the truth. So I'm going to try to stay here for as long as possible, until my level drops and I'm told I have to leave. Honestly, I feel very good here. I want to stay and I hope to have a very long spell at this club."
Lopez probably won't break Mandanda's club record of 613 appearances, but he is showing he has what it takes to become a Marseille great.
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