Top 10 French soccer players
*Originally published by Tristan in March of 2020, Updated by Emma in June of 2021
In France, the most popular and widely followed sport is, by far, soccer. The French national soccer team has pretty much always been part of the 10 best teams in the world and has won two World Cups and two European Cups. We are very proud of our squad, and very touchy when someone has the nerve to criticize them.
The top 10 French soccer players of today are also a great symbol for the country, with players that come from immigration, the team itself being a symbol of cultural diversity. Every two years, the whole country goes crazy over any major tournament that takes place, be it the World Cup or the European Cup, and every time we lose, the country that beat us gets a bad reputation among the population.
The French national team has had a lot of amazing and iconic players, and here is a list of the Top 10 French Soccer players of today and yesterday. While our team used to have very experienced and older players, it is now a squad of very young players, with the average age barely surpassing 25 years.
After the 2018 World Cup in Russia, our country will be celebrating a new generation of heroes.
The team has never felt so strong and so powerful. Didier Deschamps, the French head coach, counted on many talented players and they managed to become World champions for the second time in our history.
The first time it happened was in 1998. In the amazing Stade de France in Paris, the French captain lifted the trophy in front of 80 000 fans and this man was… Didier Deschamps himself.
He became the third man in history to win la Coupe du Monde as a player and a coach. A true soccer legend!
1.) Paul Pogba
The first player on this list is probably the most famous French player at the moment: Paul Labile Pogba, a brilliant defending midfielder. He is a superstar who started playing for the French international team in 2013 and played during the World Cup in 2014, where he was elected the best young player of the tournament.
The young man who was born in 1993 in the suburbs of Paris rose to superstar status at an alarmingly fast rate, becoming one of the most popular players in the Italian Soccer League, where he played for the Juventus of Torino, a team he led to the first place in the league in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016! Last fall, he was transferred to Manchester United for an astounding amount of money: 105 million euros, making him the most expensive player in History! He definitely deserves his place in the top 10 French soccer players, today and maybe even eventually of all time (buy Paul Pogba Manchester United home jersey on Amazon).
In 2018, Manchester United star played an amazing tournament in Russia and he was a key player to help France winning a new title, 20 years after the first one. Often criticized by soccer experts both in France and England, he showed everyone that he is still a world-class player. Merci Paul!
Supporting France today? France National Team Soccer Jerseys are also available on Amazon. Allez Les Bleus!
2.) Antoine Griezmann
The second player on this list is Antoine Griezmann, a player that while slightly older than Pogba (he is 26 years old), rose to fame a bit later. During the European Cup last summer, he made a huge difference in the way the national team played and led the squad straight to the finals, defeating some of the best teams in the run like the World Champions, Germany.
He became incredibly popular, and almost every French kid now has a jersey with his difficult-to-pronounce name. He was born in Mâcon, a beautiful city in the East of France, in 1991, and was first selected to play for the French national team in 2014, during the World Cup. Outside of the national team, he plays a leading role with the Athletico Madrid (Find “Grizou” jersey on Amazon), a team he helped lead to the Champions League Finals in 2016. He plays at the center forward position.
The French hitman was strongly linked to FC Barcelona but he decided to keep playing for Athletico Madrid. We were already imagining the success it would have been alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi … maybe next time!
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he landed three man of the match awards – the most noticeable one during the final against Croatia (4-2). Will he win the Ballon d’Or 2018 in a few months?
3.) Raphaël Varane
The third player of the top 10 French soccer players is the center back Raphaël Varane. He is a perfect representative of the rise of brilliant young players in the French national team: he started his first game in 2013, when he was still nineteen years old, but showed a surprising amount of resistance against some of the best and most experienced opposing forwards. This amazing player was born in Lille in 1993, and became a major league player incredibly early, being stated as one of the 10 most promising players by the Guardian in 2014. He plays for the European Champions, Real Madrid, and has had a primary role there from the time he was nineteen.
Raphael Varane is well known for his maturity and his intelligence. What was he doing while completing his transfer to Real Madrid at 18 years old? He was taking his final high-school economics exam! Education first…
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the entire country will be counting on him. The 25-year old French star is finally ready: pressure doesn’t scare him anymore. Since 2014, many rumours are sending the Frenchman to the English Premier League, but his transfer would cost a fortune. In 2017, Real Madrid announced they reach an agreement regarding Raphael Varane’s contract extension with the club. His new deal will keep him at the Santiago Bernabeu until 2022.
4.) Hugo Lloris
The fourth player in this top 10 of French soccer players is a more discreet one: our goalkeeper and captain since 2009, Hugo Lloris. This amazing goalie is very discreet outside the pitch, never causing any kind of trouble with the media, but is a true leader on the pitch, which earned him his role as captain (buy France soccer shirt on Amazon). He played for the first time with the national team in 2008 and has been the main goalkeeper since the 2010 World Cup, protecting our goal during two World Cups and two European Cups since then.
At 31 years, he almost seems like he is a veteran in this very young French team: he was born in 1986 in Nice, in the South of France on the Mediterranean coast. After having played for Nice and for Olympique Lyonnais, he joined the Tottenham Hotspurs in 2012 and has helped them to keep a major role in the Premier League ever since.
5.) Karim Benzema
The fifth player on this list has a particular status: while technically being a French soccer player, he doesn’t play with the national team anymore, partly because he made some comments that weren’t appreciated by the public and has shown an ambiguous relationship to the country.
Nevertheless, Karim Benzema deserves his place in this top 10 of French soccer players for he has been playing at a very high level for the better part of a decade now, and has been an outstanding center forward for the French team in the past, for instance during the 2014 World Cup in which France went to the quarterfinals. This incredibly talented yet controversial player was born in 1987 in Lyon, which was also the first team he played for when he was nineteen. He joined Real Madrid in 2009 and has won four Champions Leagues and two Spanish Championships since then.
Viewed as inconsistent by the media, he has the support of his manager, Zinedine Zidane. In addition, Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is counting on him to continue his role of being “the perfect teammate”.
6.) Blaise Matuidi
The sixth player of this top 10 of French soccer players is Blaise Matuidi, an incredibly athletic midfielder who played for the Paris Saint-Germain, the best team in France. This player was born in 1987 in Toulouse, in the South West of France, and has been playing for the PSG from 2011 to 2017. Before that, he played for the AS Saint-Etienne and for the ESC Troyes, two lesser teams in the French championship. Matuidi led the PSG to win the Championship four times and has been a key player for the French national team since his first game in 2010.
Today, Blaise Matuidi is key player for Juventus in Italy and his reputation has never been that high. When he joined the Italian champions last summer for €20 million, his manager had to change the whole strategy of the team to adapt to Matuidi’s position on the pitch!
7.) N’Golo Kante
The seventh player of this top 10 of French soccer players is N’Golo Kante, a fairly small midfielder at 5 feet 6 inches, who was born in the Parisian suburbs from Malian parents. At 26 years old, he is about the average age of the national team and started his rise to fame last year, a lot later than other players mentioned in this list.
He was selected for the first time with the French national team in 2016 at age 24 and played for small French clubs until he joined Leicester City in 2016. After winning the English championship in a spectacular and absolutely unique season, he joined Chelsea (purchase Chelsea FC shirt on Amazon) for 38 million euros and won the Championship again, definitely putting his name in the history books of soccer.
His nicknames are “the octopus” and “the bubble-gum”. Why ? N’Golo has excellent ball-winning abilities and he seems to have more than two legs !
8.) Kylian Mbappe
Next on the list is the latest French soccer wonder, a forward who is barely older than eighteen, but has already shaken up the soccer world quite seriously. Kylian Mbappe was born in 1998 in the Parisian suburbs, 5 months after France won the World Cup. Rumor has it that it played a role in the making of an incredible soccer wonder, who just exploded last season.
Trained in the prestigious Clairefontaine Academy (as Thierry Henry and Olivier Giroud) he played for AS Monaco from 2015 to 2017. His astounding performances both in the French League and in the Champions League have earned him various propositions from the best teams in Europe, including one for 40 million euros when he was still only 17! At the end of the 2016/2018 season, rumors were sending him to Real Madrid for a shocking amount of 120 million euros, which was categorically refused by Monaco, a team that realized the crazy potential of this player.
But the big surprise happened in August 2017, when Paris Saint-Germain announced the signing of Mbappé from Monaco. Transfer fees could reach €150 million, making Mbappe the second most expensive player of all time!
In July 2018, he became the yougest player to score in the World Cup final since Pelé – the King – in 1958. Best Young Player of the World Cup in Russia, the new soccer star is ready to take over. He impressed throughout the tournament and has shown incredible abilities. The Golden Boy was praised for his speed, technique and maturity by many football experts such as Gary Lineker, Pelé or Jurgen Klinsmann.
For the last two players of this top 10 French soccer players, we are going to look into the stories of two legendary veterans of French soccer, Thierry Henry and the best player in French history: Zinédine Zidane.
9.) Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry was born in the Parisian suburbs in 1977 and started playing soccer professionally at the age of 17 with the AS Monaco. After three years during which he won the French Championship once, he left for Arsenal after a quick unsatisfying stay at the Juventus in Torino. Arsenal is where he left a huge print in History, becoming the best scorer in the history of the team, and by far one of the best forwards in the world. From 2007 to 2010, he spent three years with the FC Barcelona, before leaving for the American soccer league for two years.
His first game with the French national team was in 1997, and his last 13 years later, making him the only French player to participate in four World Cups, one of which he won, as well as three European Cups of which he won one, in 2000. His retirement caused a huge stir in the soccer world, leading to a statue of him being erected in front of Arsenal’s stadium. He is one of the best center forwards in history, and therefore definitely deserves a space in this top 10 of French soccer players, even though he doesn’t play anymore.
10.) Zinédine Zidane
The last player in this list is an absolute legend: France’s captain for two years, he led the team to win the finals of the World Cup in 1998 by scoring two goals and has been without a doubt the best player in France’s history. Zinédine Zidane was born in 1972 in Marseille, in the South East of France, and played as a midfielder. His amazing international career came to a sad end in 2006, when he was ejected from the World Cup finals against Italy for hitting an Italian player towards the end of the game: the fact that France ultimately lost that game threw a bit of shade on the end of his career.
Nevertheless, he had an outstanding career and is to this day the most popular player in French soccer history. Outside of the national team, he played for the AS Cannes and the Girondins of Bordeaux, before rising to fame with the Juventus of Torino and finally exploding at Real Madrid. After a short absence in the world of soccer, he became the coach of Real Madrid. And what a success… he already won three Champions League as a manager (2016, 2017, 2018), making all the other managers jealous! This incredible and iconic character in the football world is the subject of numerous movies, documentaries and books. “Zidane, the biography” (book available on Amazon) written by two French journalists, tells you everything about the master (it’s a must-read!).
As a legend of soccer, universally accepted as one of the absolute best to ever play this game, Zidane more than deserves to close out this top 10 of French soccer players!
Bonus: let’s make it 18!
11.) Olivier Giroud
We all know who is Olivier Giroud: he is a big, strong and technical striker – some people say he is slow. However, not many know how he became famous in France.
He was part of the fantastic team of Montpellier that won the Ligue 1 title in 2011/2012, beating the rich and Qatari-owned Paris Saint Germain. During this great season, Giroud was the main man. He scored 21 goals this season (top scorer) and just after this historic title, he decided that he needed a new challenge to improve his game and to win more titles.
New challenge and a new team: in June 2012, Giroud signed for Arsenal for a fee of around €12.5 million. The starting point of an incredible adventure for him, for Arsenal and for the French national team. The best moment of his career being the 2018 World Cup and the final victory.
In 2018, Olivier Giroud joined Chelsea for a new adventure. Even if he doesn’t play as much as he wants to, Chelsea’s new manager Frank Lampard has some positive thoughts about the 33-year-old striker.
“I always respect all the players, particularly of his age. I was in that sort of low-30s age. I love his professionalism.” – Frank Lampard, October 2019.
Today, Olivier Giroud is getting more time on the pitch with Chelsea and his impact is really positive in 2020.
According to me, Giroud is probably one of the most underrated players in modern times, but his numerous successes with Montpellier, Arsenal or “Les Bleus” are exceptional and rare achievements.
12.) Kingsley Coman
“Brilliant on the field, but injured all the time” would be the best – but sad – way to describe Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman. The 23-year-old French winger is a brilliant player and he has the potential to do amazing things on the pitch. Coman is quick and he has some of the best dribbling skills in the German League.
When he was playing for the Paris Saint Germain youth academy, he impressed all his managers and he was almost too good to play within the youth system. Consequently, he made his debut for PSG in Ligue 1 in February 2013 at only…16 years!
Today Kingsley is only 23 years old – but he already played for Paris Saint Germain, Juventus, and Bayern Munich now. Not too bad I guess?
However, the Frenchman suffers a recurrent left ankle injury and he has already undergone two surgeries on the ankle. If you listen to Coman, it’s not difficult to understand that he wouldn’t accept a new surgery in the future. Indeed, he admitted and that he was already considering an early retirement from professional football if he suffers another bad injury again.
Fun fact: Kingsley Coman is the fastest-ever player in the Bundesliga.
In September 2019, the French winger broke a record in the German League: 22.16 miles/hour during a game against Paderborn.
13.) Lucas Hernandez
Lucas Hernandez is a French professional soccer player who currently plays for center back for Bayern Munich in Germany and the France national team. Beginning his senior career at Atletico Madrid, Hernandez has earned nearly 90 appearances for Atletico Madrid and 42 appearances for Bayern Munich since joining in 2019. For his country, Hernandez has already earned 28 caps at just 25-years-old, showing what a young talent he is and how many more years he has left in his tank!
14.) Ousmane Dembele
Dembele is a French professional footballer who plays as a striker for the infamous club Barcelona and the French national team. Beginning hsi senior career at Rennes II, Dembele has since made appearances for the Rennes senior team, Borussia Dortmund, and Barcelona since joining in 2017.
Dembele is well-known in the soccer world for his ability to use both feet equally, technical prowess, blazing speed, and off-the-ball agility and movement. At just 24-years-old, Dembele is still a young player who has his best years ahead of him.
15.) Jules Kounde
Jules is a professional center back who plays for Sevilla since signing in 2019. Earning 63 appearances for Sevilla, 55 appearances for Bordeaux, and 30 appearances for Bordeaux B, Kounde is just 22-years-old and already has an impressive soccer resume.
His transfer to Sevilla in 2019 was for €25 million, showing how wanted this young player currently is on the market.
16.) Benjamin Pavard
Pavard is a 25-year-old footballer who is capable of playing both center back and outside back for any team he plays for. Currently used as a right back for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga, Pavard made his international debut in 2017 and was a member of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
He began his career at Lille II in 2014, when he was just 18 years old, and has since made 21 appearances for Lille, 84 appearances for VfB Stuttgart, and 56 appearances for Bayern Munich since joining in 2019.
Fun fact: Pavard was awarded with the Knight of the Legion of Honour in 2018, an award that is the highest French order of merit.
17.) Eduardo Camavinga
Eduardo is an 18-year-old young talent who will soon find his place in the name of French greats. Starting his career for Rennes B in 2018, Camavinga has since made 67 appearances for the senior side Rennes after his move in 2019. He made his first international appearance in 2020 for the senior France side, having made 3 appearances after his debut in August of 2020.
Fun fact: Camavinga is the youngest player to ever be called up to the French senior team!
18.) Anthony Martial
Last, but certainly not least, we have Anthony Martial – a French professional soccer player who currently is a striker for Manchester United and the French national team. Making his debut for Lyon B at the senior level in 2012, Martial has since played for Lyon, Monaco B, Monaco, and Manchester United – the club where he has spent the last 6 years and the majority of his career.
Martial has amassed 167 appearances for the English Premier League club, scoring 55 goals in the process.
Fun fact: Martial’s oldest brother is also a professional soccer player who has represented France at the U-20 level!