The country of France has produced some generational talents throughout its footballing history. When one king became too old there were other French rulers ready to pounce on his position and get silverware for Les Bleus.
The 1998 and 2018 World Cup Winners will once again bring glory back to their country. But we take a look at who all have been the grandmaster of football for France.
FootTheBall takes a look at the best eleven to have ever donned the Blue and White outfit.
Fabien Barthez is a player underrated by many football fans, dismissed as a clown that can only be relied upon to eventually make a mistake. While it is true that he had his moments, what shouldn’t be forgotten is his outstanding record as a goalkeeper.
— The Goalkeepers’ Union Podcast (@GKUnion) May 6, 2020
Throughout France’s victorious 1998 World Cup campaign, Barthez was an integral part of the team, letting in just two goals in the seven matches Les Bleus played.
The two times recipient of the Euro Goalkeeper of The Year, Barthez was an exceptional shot-stopper. He was a trustworthy man whenever he was the main force between the posts.
Blanc was a colossal centre-back who remained a key member of The Blues. He played a key role in conquering the 1998 World Cup for his country and his partnership with Marcel Desailly established a foundation of a gruesome defensive partnership. He was renowned as La Presidente because of his authoritative attributes on the football pitch.
— Inter (@Inter_en) November 19, 2018
“For me, playing football means having the ball, conjuring moves, harnessing your strengths, posing problems to your opponents, scoring goals, and taking risks,” Blanc said.
Despite being hauled out in the 1998 World Cup championship Desailly had established himself as an important member of the team, a position he proceeded to play admirably in the European Championships of 2000. After Didier Deschamps resigned from top-flight football after directing the French outfit to international silverware, he was elected the skipper.
He became the most decorated French footballer of all time in 2003 when he was featured in his 116th match. A record which was later broken by two legends, Henry and Thuram.
Lilian Thuram has more or less engraved his place in the annals of World football. The 1998 World Cup victory, describes Thuram’s importance for Les Bleus. Making almost 150 appearances for the French National team, Thuram was nothing short of a brick wall. The defensive rock was a crown-winning centre-back because of his propensity to operate with power, quickness, grace, hard tracking, and relentless charging.
In a record 142 France appearances, he scored just twice
It just so happened that both those goals – scored within 23 minutes of each other – fired France to their first #WorldCup final
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) January 1, 2021
Facing Thuram was a daunting task for any striker, he wasn’t shy to go in for tackles and would have preferred a broken nose rather than a goal. Not to forget that Thuram also has 2 thunderous goals for France and both of them came in the World Cup itself.
A whole book can be written describing Zinedine Zidane’s exceptional, outstanding and world-class playing career. His main villain moment came when he headbutted Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final, a headbutt that turned out to be iconic. But still, despite these lows, Zidane’s career mainly had highs.
Zidane’s career began as an offensive player but his playing style was unrivalled. He was noted for his artistry and creativity, as well as superb distribution, dribbling skills, and accuracy. The galacticos strategy at Los Blancos started with his arrival but he surely left Madrid as a legend. And to top it, the Greatest French Footballer of All Time managed to win the 1998 World Cup for his country.
Nicknamed ‘Le Roi’ or ‘The King’, Michael Platini indeed was a conqueror on the football pitch. With an unimaginable leadership quality, his dominance on the pitch was an unsaid threat for rivals. A fulcrum in the French midfield, he guided Les Bleus to the 1984 Euro title while capturing numerous silverware with his club, Juventus.
He was renowned for his superb distribution and responsibility to net precise spot-kicks and set pieces. After Platini hung his boots he wasn’t able to enjoy the best retirement. Though accused in a few scandals, Platini was a midfield maestro and the 3 Ballon D’Ors he received are synonymous with his magic.
The next French midfield wizard who makes it to the top eleven is Raymond Kopa. Kopa turned out to be an aggressive midfielder who could score important goals for his team. Kopa guided France to the bronze medal in the 1958 World Cup but his performances for Los Blancos made him a prominent star. He was known for his excellent playmaking abilities, as well as being a prodigious goal-scorer.
Hommage à Raymond Kopa qui est décédé ce matin. Le 1er Ballon d’or était considéré comme un des 3 plus grands joueurs de foot français. pic.twitter.com/mNjMUSe9e3
— FFF (@FFF) March 3, 2017
Kopa was swift, athletic, and enjoyed shooting. In his 46 appearances, he managed to net in 18 beautiful goals for his country. The Blue and White jersey always looked beautiful on Kopa whenever he made those unimaginable turns wearing it.
Another part of France’s boom period, Vieira, a staple in the Les Bleus team sheet during his heyday. In the 1998 World Cup, he was a huge underdog, but by 2000, he had cemented himself as a first-team playmaker, guiding France to the Euros crown.
Happy birthday to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, who turns 44 today.
French Footballer of the Year: pic.twitter.com/OUjpchpQYH
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) June 23, 2020
Vieira was a mouth-watering player during his time at Arsenal. Scoring crucial goals and being a fulcrum in midfield, Vieira soon became a fan-favourite at the Emirates. Vieira was a muscular and tactical beast who could win matches with a single chainsawing challenge or a seeking ball for his strikers to chase.
Thierry Henry is a pioneer in the field of football. His capacity to perform with outstanding acceleration, accuracy, and poise, as well as his remarkable shooting abilities enabled him to outmanoeuvre his rivals.
Which emoji best sums up this cheeky finish? pic.twitter.com/R0W2Xt8xGp
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) September 26, 2018
The ex-Gunners striker made his debut in 1997 and in just one year of playing for his national team, he helped Les Bleus to conquer the FIFA World Cup. Henry knew how to control the momentum of the game and had a vision like no other. The 4-time Premier League Top Scorer helped Arsenal’s ‘Invincible Season’ dream to turn into reality.
Undoubtedly, Fontaine belonged to the list of the best attackers in history. A performer who will survive forever in the mind of both fans and historians. The French striker was the sole sailor of his country’s ship. In the 1958 World Cup, Fontaine netted a world record of 13 goals.
France was guided to a podium finish by Fontaine when he ripped apart and crushed the defending kings, West Germany as the former’s team finished third. Fontaine earned just 21 caps for his national side but interestingly scored an amazing 30 goals throughout his international career.
Cantona, the traditional flamboyant Frenchman, was regarded as a master at Manchester United, but he couldn’t replicate his heroics. While his 45 games provided the audience with a peek of his brilliance, he was soon replaced by younger French talent. He made a big-money move to the Theatre of Dreams and soon became one of the best no.7 in the Red Devils squad
#OTD 28 years ago Eric Cantona signed for Manchester United!
The rest is history! pic.twitter.com/dUQ7sCwLWU
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 26, 2020
But whenever he had the ball in his feet, he would change the mood of the game. An attacking threat, Cantano could turn a game onto its head at any point in time. Though Cantona played only a few games for France, he had managed to score 23 goals too.