Rony Lopes believes Lille are capable of claiming silverware this season as the former Manchester City youngster also sets his sights on breaking into the Portugal set-up.
Lopes is back on loan at Lille from Monaco – his third spell with the club having spent the second half of last season in northern France following a previous stint in 2014-15 – and the 20-year-old is dreaming big both at club and international level.
The attacking midfielder scored two goals in 12 Ligue 1 appearances as Lille finished fifth last term, securing a spot in the Europa League in the process, though they were eliminated by Qabala in qualifying this month, while Frederic Antonetti’s men reached the Coupe de la Ligue final.
Lopes already has two goals to his name in 2016-17, following his double in the season-opening 3-2 loss at Metz, and he wants to win a trophy in his latest stint at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
“Lille has a solid squad and last year we managed to finish in the top positions and be in the final of Coupe de La Ligue – an important competition,” Lopes told Omnisport.
“This year I feel we can battle to win a competition here in France and that’s one of my goals.
“Personally I do want to keep improving my game and become an important member of the squad. Besides that, I will keep on working to be part of the national teams of Portugal.”
Asked about whether the aim is to qualify for Europe again, Lopes said: “Definitely, yes. A club with the history of Lille must aim to the top positions of Ligue 1 and do well in the cups. The squad is strong and ready to fight.”
While he is still owned by Monaco, Lopes – who continues to be monitored by Leonardo Jardim at the Stade Louis II – insisted he is solely focused on helping Lille.
“My plan is to do a great season for Lille, I owe this to the club and to the fans who have been backing me since my first time here,” he said.
“Monaco is the club who owns my rights and my future will always depend on what they intend, but my focus is on the present day. Today I’m in Lille and I’m going to fight for LOSC.
“[Monaco head coach] Leonardo Jardim trusts me and my capacities, but he can’t decide 100 per cent everything about the squad. Besides, Monaco at the time had several players for the attack and I need as much game-time as possible at this stage of my career.
“So I was informed that I’ve been working well and they expect me to keep evolving during this season, which I absolutely respect.”
A prodigious talent in Manchester, having been lured to England from Portuguese giants Benfica in 2011, Lopes featured in City’s League Cup-winning squad in 2013-14.
However, Lopes did not get the necessary first-team action at the Etihad Stadium, with the Brazilian-born star eventually making the permanent move to Monaco in last August, having been sent out on loan to Lille by City in 2014.
City, though, remain close to Lopes’ heart, with the player continuing: “Manchester City will never be a closed chapter in my life. The club was very important in the early days of my career, I learned a lot there and developed a strong connection with the supporters.
“Fortunately, I can say similar things about the clubs where I’ve been playing such as Lille or Benfica, they are in my heart too. Here in France I was for a few months in Monaco and got the respect of everyone there and also LOSC fans made me feel home since day 1 in Lille!
“I know I’m a professional and inside the pitch I defend my squad until the end, which doesn’t mean I can’t support my formers clubs as well.
“It actually makes me proud and very happy to know that City fans keep an eye on me and are very present in my social media and even when I go back to Manchester, where my mom and my brother still live, they treat me as if I never left. It means they liked my work there and that I have defended the club with honour.”
As for his international aspirations, Lopes – capped at every youth level up to the Under-21s with Portugal but still awaiting his first senior cap – hopes to one day hoist the European Championship aloft like his compatriots did in July.
He added: “The Portuguese national team is a dream and a goal, for sure, but I can’t be obsessed with that. I focus on doing my best every day and keep my track with Portugal national teams where I have been since the U15 up to the U21 squads.
“I’m 20 years old now, so still eligible for the youth teams, but if the chance to play on the first team comes up I will surely take it.
“I’ve been pre-called for the Portugal A team, so it’s a sign that [coach] Mr Fernando Santos watches me and keeps me on the radar and that’s where I want to be: eligible for whatever the technical team of Portugal needs.”
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