Steed Malbranque seemed destined for retirement after he left AS Saint-Étienne following just one 27-minute substitute appearance in August 2011, but a return to the club where it all began for the midfielder has prompted a revival in his career and helped Olympique Lyonnais progress in the UEFA Europa League.
The former French Under-21 international has thrived since his return and it is no coincidence that he has featured in all of Lyon's Group I games as they booked their place in the next round with two games to spare. "I was very happy to come back to the Gerland," he said. "I came here with no special aim other than to bring some of my experience to the team regardless of where I play and to enjoy the season."
Malbranque started out at Lyon as a 16-year-old and was at the club until 2001, when he moved to the Premier League, spending five seasons at Fulham FC before enjoying spells at Tottenham Hotspur FC and Sunderland AFC. However, after an unsuccessful return to Ligue 1 with Lyon's rivals St-Etienne, the 32-year-old joined Les Gones' training camp in the summer and impressed enough to secure a permanent return.
"It's as if he never left Lyon," said Bernard Lacombe, special adviser to club president Jean-Michel Aulas. "His success is not a surprise to me. Steed gained a lot of experience in the Premier League. He has found his place in the dressing room and he expresses himself on the pitch. Physically, he is also impressive."
Malbranque's versatility has also won him the praise of Lyon coach Rémi Garde, who has not only used him frequently in Europe but also during Lyon's impressive start to the domestic season. They have lost just once in 11 games and went top of Ligue 1 with a 3-0 victory against Stade de Reims Champagne on Sunday. Garde said: "He is a player who brings a lot to us because he can patrol in front of the back four, play further forward and on a wing as well."
Malbranque's penalty in Ligue 1 against SC Bastia on 4 November was his first goal for the club since scoring against FC Nantes more than 11 years ago. With top spot in Group I guaranteed with a win against AC Sparta Praha on Thursday, do not rule out seeing his name on the scoresheet again.
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