“Thierry shook me and told me to always question myself, which we tend to forget to do when we’re young. It hit me hard. When a player like Thierry Henry speaks to you, you can’t ignore what he says. I realised that becoming a great player was a permanent job. When you see a guy like him, who has always sought to progress, and you look at the career he had.”

Alexandre Lacazette told this to the Le Parisien in 2013 when the hype around him was dying down after he was deemed by his nation to be the successor to Henry. The noise around him began in 2010 when Alexandre scored the game-winning goal over Spain for France to win the UEFA European Under-19 Championship. After that, he didn’t produce as much for his club until last season when he had 15 goals and three assists in 34 league appearances.

His progress blossomed even more this campaign as the 23-year-old is the main man behind Lyon being top of Ligue 1, despite clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco being amongst the wealthiest in the world. Even though the French international is only 175cm, he is great at holding up the ball so his midfielders can make runs. He also makes many key passes which creates chances for his side. Similar to Henry, Lacazette also has successfully converted himself from being a pacey winger to a lethal striker. Currently, he’s third in European Golden Shoe race only behind icons Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi with 21 goals. His former manager is pleased with his performances this season.

“He’s a complete player. He’s not just a goalscorer – and that makes him a rarity. In addition to being a great finisher this season, which was not previously the case two or three years ago, he is also a real football player in the fullest sense: he likes to take opponents on or occasionally come to the heart of the game, allowing him to effectively deliver assists and influence the play of his team,” said Remi Garde to Goal.com.

Alexandre went through a setback earlier this year when he suffered a thigh injury against Metz on January 25. He missed three league games. His team drew all three times, including on the road against Monaco and home against Paris Saint-Germain. Ironically, since he’s returned Lyon has lost twice and now their lead in the league is only one point. But if Lacazette can find his form again then he’ll put his side in a good position of maintaining their slim margin. His team is very young and their captain believes that they can probably become similar to how Lyon dominated Ligue 1 at the beginning of the 21st century, winning seven league titles in a row.

“The young lads still have a lot to learn; the world of professional football isn’t easy, either on, or especially, off the pitch. There are lots of different parameters to take in to account. But I’ve always said, if the club is capable of holding on to all the young players, I think that in two or three years we’ll have a really formidable team, because we have quality players and good people,” said Maxime Gonalons to BeIN Sports.

The most important young player they have to keep to potentially take that next step of course is Lacazette. Teams like Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are rumored to want to sign him in the summer but Lyon’s board are adamant in keeping him at least for one more year. Either way it’s inevitable for Alexandre to leave his homeland soon to continue his progression as a footballer, but he must always remember what Henry told him because being the pursuit of being great is truly a permanent job.