Cameroon's Njie delighted with "breakthrough season" at Lyon

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport
Clinton Njie
Clinton Njie

Cameroon international Clinton Njie says he is looking forward to the start of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, after a "breakthrough season" at French side Lyon.

The 21-year-old, who emerged as a key player for Lyon this season, struck late as the second-placed side beat a lacklustre Rennes 1-0 on the road, in the final match of the campaign.

His season ended on a high after scoring eight goals and racking up nine assists in 33 matches for the seven-time Ligue 1 champions.

"It's always a pleasure to score goals and make assists because that's what defines my game. A truly breakthrough season for me and I am really delighted how it's turned out," Njie told BBC Sport.

"The record shows it's been the most productive season for me since I've been here and the plan now is to carry on and take it to the international stage."

Born in Buea, the capital of the Southwest Region of Cameroon, Njie moved to France in August 2011 and was placed in the Lyon reserves to give him time to adapt to a new brand of football and environment.

He was a stand-out performer for Lyon's B side and his effort was rewarded with promotion to the first team where he made his professional debut against Reims in the 2012/2013 season.

Njie, who scored his first league goal for Lyon same day he signed a contract extension until 2019, hopes to keep improving.

"I have enjoyed a great support from the staff, players, the club president and our fans," said Njie.

"However, I'm not surprised by my own rise because I have been playing football for a long time now.

"It's always been my ambition to be where I am today so it's not a very big surprise."

Njie made a superb start to his international career with the Indomitable Lions last year during the 2015 Africa Cup of Nation qualifying round.

He scored on his debut on 6 September in a 2-0 win away to Democratic Republic of Congo and four days later he grabbed a brace to help Cameroon beat Ivory Coast 4-1.

They qualified for the continental showpiece without a losing a game and topped a group that contained Ivory Coast.

But while the Elephants went on to win the tournament, Cameroon were eliminated at the first hurdle.

"We had a very good squad unfortunately we could not give our best in Equatorial Guinea," he added.

Njie believes Cameroon will have to survive Africa's "trickiest group" if they are to reach the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.

The Central Africans will need to top Group M ahead of South Africa, The Gambia and Mauritania in the qualifiers if they are to be sure of a place at the finals.

"I think it's a difficult group but we can make it because we have a very strong squad capable of doing so.

"Our coaching staff too is very good and I know if everyone focus on one goal we'll definitely make it."

Four-time African champions Cameroon were a dominant force in the century's first decade, winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2002 and finishing runners-up in 2008.