The Blues: Five French World Cup winners who’ve fallen on hard times at club level

The Blues: Five French World Cup winners who’ve fallen on hard times at club level

France were crowned as champions of the world for a second time just two years ago following their World Cup victory in Russia, a talented team securing football’s biggest prize after beating Croatia in Moscow.

Winning the World Cup undoubtedly stands as the pinnacle of a player’s career, though for several of that victorious squad that high has been followed by a steep decline, their fortunes post-Russia having faltered back at their respective clubs.

We’ve decided to look at a group of players who have struggled of late, here are five of France’s World Cup-winning squad who have fallen on hard times at club level.

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann was one of the key figures in the tournament with only England’s Harry Kane outscoring the Frenchman, the forward scoring four times at the World Cup including a penalty in the final victory over Croatia.

Following the tournament, the star memorably announced his intention to stay at Atletico Madrid with a bizarre and dramatised video message amid reported interest from Barcelona, though just a year later he completed a big-money move to the Camp Nou.

It looked like the perfect move for both club and player with Griezmann having starred in Spanish football, scoring 94 goals in 180 league appearances for Atletico before moving to Catalonia.

The French forward’s arrival was hoped to add a new dynamic to a Barcelona attack including the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, though Griezmann has so far struggled to find his position or role in the side and has scored just 17 goals in 57 appearances.

The departure of Suarez has failed to see Griezmann flourish amid extra responsibility and rumours persist regarding a difficult relationship between the 29-year-old and club captain Messi, a situation unlikely to lead to a positive outcome for the World Cup winner.

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Griezmann has played from an unfavored position on the right and in a central role, but his desire to drop into positions often occupied by Messi has led to too many cooks spoiling the Barcelona broth.

After an underwhelming start to his second season, it remains to be seen whether Griezmann can salvage his career at the Spanish giants.

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Raphael Varane

France captain Hugo Lloris this week launched a staunch defence of under-fire compatriot Raphael Varane, a player who has seen his status as one of the world’s best defenders slip significantly of late.

Varane was a bedrock of the side which were crowned World Cup winners in 2018, starring at the heart of the defence and scoring in the 2-0 victory over Uruguay in the last eight.

The Real Madrid centre-back had arrived at that tournament having helped the Spanish side to four Champions League victories in the past five seasons, his class and composure marking him out as one of football’s finest in his position.

Varane’s career has been one of huge success throughout much of his nine-year spell at the Bernabeu but he has struggled to recapture his best form in recent months, a nightmare performance in Real’s Champions League exit to Manchester City last season the nadir of his malaise.

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His performances since have largely underwhelmed in a difficult period for both club and player, struggling during humbling defeats to both Shakhtar Donetsk and Valencia during an indifferent start to the campaign for Los Blancos.

There were encouraging signs from the 27-year-old during France’s win over Portugal last weekend as Varane helped repel a dangerous Portuguese attack, and both club and country will be hoping it is the start of a much-needed renaissance.

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Samuel Umtiti

Samuel Umtiti partnered Varane at centre-back during France’s triumphant tournament in Russia, though has become somewhat of a forgotten figure at Barcelona due to a succession of injuries.

Umtiti has started less than a third of Barcelona’s league fixtures since returning to the Spanish side as a World Cup winner two years ago, suffering foot and calf injuries in addition to a host of knee problems.

The 27-year-old is currently sidelined once more with his latest knee injury, with reports suggesting that Barcelona were open to selling the defender during the summer, only to find a lack of suitors given Umtiti’s concerning fitness record.

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Umtiti is a fine player when at full fitness but has now suffered 11 separate injuries in just four seasons since signing from Lyon, and now faces a fight to convince new head coach Ronald Koeman he can be a player to be depended on.

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Paul Pogba

Manchester United‘s club-record signing has largely flattered to deceive since his record-breaking arrival into the Premier League four years ago, though his performances for France – including a key contribution to their World Cup triumph – have showcased his undoubted talents.

Pogba scored during France’s final victory over Croatia and formed a fine midfield partnership with N’Golo Kante, though his performances have often been inconsistent and uninspiring at club level.

In a transitional time for the Red Devils the most expensive player in British football history has failed to be the transformative signing they had once hoped, a League Cup and Europa League double won in his debut campaign the only honours to have headed to Old Trafford during that time.

His current fortunes are perhaps as low as they have been at any point, the 27-year-old having fallen out-of-favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, failing to command a regular first-team position in a side struggling for form over the opening weeks of the campaign.

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Bruno Fernandes has cemented his position as United’s key figure in an advanced midfield position, whilst Solskjaer has largely opted for the security of Scott McTominay and Fred in deeper roles over the hot and cold performances of Pogba.

Those performances have been more frequently colder in recent months, with little sign of Pogba fulfilling his potential in his current environment in Manchester.

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Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud remains a firm favourite of France manager Didier Deschamps who hugely values the selfless contribution of the veteran forward in attack, though his attributes are not quite as appreciated at club level with Chelsea.

Giroud has struggled to convince since moving to Stamford Bridge from London rivals Arsenal, failing to earn regular opportunities despite a brief resurgence over the second half of last season.

The west London side’s expensive summer spending has pushed the 34-year-old further down the pecking order with the likes of Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham preferred by Frank Lampard, and Deschamps has encouraged the star to consider his future if he wishes to retain his international place.

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Giroud has enjoyed a fine career with Les Bleus and has scored 42 goals in 104 appearances, with only Thierry Henry having ever scored more goals in the colours of France.

In the twilight of his career, there will be precious few more opportunities for Giroud to further add to his legacy, and the experienced star will need regular first-team football ahead of next summer as the world champions bid to add the European Championships to their World Cup triumph.

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