Aouar: 'I used to love watching Lisandro'

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This season Houssem Aouar has adopted a new way to celebrate his goals...

The youngster runs towards his family in the stand and points proudly to the side of his head.

"Everyone here knows that Lisandro López used to celebrate like that. He was a great player and I used to love watching him at the Stade de Gerland," Aouar tells The Ligue 1 Show on beIN Sports.

"So it's a tribute to him, but it's also a way of saying to my family 'look, I've been mentally strong enough to get back into the team."

Aouar is indeed a key member of the Lyon side once again, but he briefly lost his place back in August following an uncharacteristically poor display against Stade de Reims.

'Very demanding'

"The coach decided to leave me out. You have to accept these things and work hard to bounce back. I managed to do that," Aouar says.

"It hasn't always been easy for me, so I know I have to keep working in order to reach my objectives. I'm very hard on myself, very demanding, but I think that's something you need to get to the top. I'm hard enough on myself, so it would be nice if other people were a bit more indulgent with me. but that's just the way it is."

Watch Aouar score against Marseille

Like so many Lyon first-teamers, Aouar started his career with the youth team, earning a promotion to the seniors in 2016.

"I started training with the pros two years ago. Lyon already had a young squad at the time, not quite as young as this year, but there were still a lot of young players, players from the youth team.

"I was lucky, I got a lot of help. Alexandre Lacazette took me under his wing. Alex talked to me a lot, pointed out the stuff I needed to work on, notably my finishing. We worked a lot on that. Mapou Yanga Mbiwa was also important for me, and he still is. I talk to him a lot, and the fact you have these top players looking after you really helps."

Tougher second season?

That support helped Aouar explode last season - the graceful playmaker started 27 league games, scoring six goals. But he knows that the second season is often even tougher.

"Of course I can sense that people are more demanding with me, people expect more and that's normal considering what happened last year. But if people are that demanding this is a good thing because it means I did well last season."

The latest gem to come through Lyon's extraordinary academy, Aouar is being billed as the next Karim Benzema, Corentin Tolisso, Lacazette or even Nabil Fekir. Yet the baby-faced 20 year-old feels no pressure.

Aouar in action in Friday's game against Nîmes

Wearing the famous number eight

"Every footballer wants to have a career like those guys. I want to do great things with this club, but I don't feel any pressure because of that. I don't go out on the pitch thinking I have to be as good as someone else. I don't worry about that, I just focus on doing what I do and trying to get better.

"Fekir is a real example because of what he's done and is still doing for the club. We come more or less from the same neighbourhood. We have a lot of mutual friends, so we have a bit of a special relationship."

Lyon showed their confidence in Aouar by handing him the famous number eight shirt, worn in the past by Clément Grenier, Tolisso and of course the great Juninho.

"The players who wore this number in the past are real examples for me, and well, the fact Juninho wore the number eight...he was such a symbolic figure at Olympique Lyonnais. If I can make him proud by playing well then I will, but I'm not thinking too much about the number, I'm just concentrating on doing my job as well as I can."

Elegance on the ball

Aouar certainly has the talent to become Lyon's next big star, his elegance on the ball setting him apart.

"When I was a boy, like most kids, I used to pretend to be another player. It was usually Zidane, sometimes Messi because he was already brilliant when I was a kid. I like the way Iniesta plays too. He's someone I try to watch, I look at what he's really good at and try to learn from him.

"I like his technical skills, his tricks, he does everything with fluidity and total control, so I do sometimes have fun in training by trying to copy him, but I'm not there yet."

Like Barcelona and Spain great Iniesta, Aouar has the ability to play any midfield role, and Lyon coach Bruno Genesio has recently been using him on the left flank.

Watch: Aouar nets against Nantes

"I feel better in the middle. That's where I've always played. Throughout my youth I played as a central player so of course that's where I feel most comfortable, and I think I'm most useful to the team when I play as a number six.

'Mixed bag'

"I still need to improve the defensive side of my game when we lose the ball. That's something the junior coaches used to say to me all the time, but I know I have already made progress in that respect."

Like most Lyon fans, the France Under-21 international has been frustrated by the team's inconsistency this term. Capable of beating Olympique de Marseille, or even Manchester City one day, but then dropping points to SM Caen the next.

"It's been a mixed bag really. We've turned in some really big performances but there have been games where we simply haven't performed. Subconsciously we're not approaching games against smaller teams in the same way as we did, for example, Manchester City. We want to win every game, but we need to be better in the games that are a bit less glamorous than the one in Manchester."

>> PLAYER PROFILE: Houssem Aouar

>> THE LIGUE 1 SHOW: More from the show

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