With two World Cup victories in the last 20 years, France is producing some of the best players in world football. From Zidane to Henry to the team’s latest starlet Kylian Mbappe, let’s take a look at the best Les Bleu of all-time.
A football legend, Zinedine Zidane led France to its first World Cup ever in 1998. Two years later, the majestic midfielder led France to its second Euro trophy where he was named the player of the tournament. Zizou fell short on penalty kicks in the World Cup 2006 final in which he famously got ejected for the head-butt to Italian defender Marco Materazzi. With 108 caps and countless club trophies as player and coach, Zidane is an obvious choice in France’s best 11 of all time.
‘The King’ as Arsenal fans called him, Thierry Henry earned 123 caps over his 13-year international career, notching 51 goals and winning both a World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000. The combination of Henry’s pace, dribbling and finishing skills made him a defensive nightmare at both international and club level.
A three-time Ballon d’Or winner, Michel Platini used his playmaking ability and incredible vision to take took his national side to the European championship in 1984. Platini captained Les Bleus in 49 of his 79 appearances, scoring 41 times before Thierry Henry broke his international scoring record.
A part of France’s World Cup 98 run when he was just 22 and a subsequent winner of the Euros in 2002, Patrick Vieira was the complete footballer. He who possessed incredible technique and athleticism combined with defensive prowess. While he captained the French side in Euro 2008, he nonetheless fell out injured and retired in 2010, altogether earning 107 caps and firing six goals.
With 142 games played, Lilian Thuram is the most capped French player to date. An industrious defender, he played a vital role in helping France secure its first World Cup in 1998 where he earned the Bronze Ball. He also won the Euro in 2000 and a Confederations Cup, before going to play in 2006 World Cup finals and Euro 2004 and 2008, the latter as captain.
Following his Golden Boot won at Euro 2016 — a tournament where France fell short to Portugal in the final — Antoine Griezmann nonetheless redeemed himself and his national side in winning the 2018 World Cup. Griezmann’s diligence and finishing ability make him one of France’s best players and arguably, one of the best players in the world. He currently sits at 63 appearances and 24 goals for Les Bleus.
Undoubtedly the best young player in the world, the 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe has already won one World Cup and flashes of the next Thierry Henry. With incredible vision, pace, and dribbling ability, Mbappe’s 24 caps and nine goals are surely the sign of more greatness to come.
With 103 caps as a defensive midfielder for the Les Bleus, Didier Deschamp may not have been the most technical layer compared to compatriots Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira, but he was intelligent, organized, and committed. He captained the side that won France’s first World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000. He also coached the French team to its second World Cup title in 20 years with the victory in Russia.
Often the smallest but most industrious player on the field, N’golo Kanté is also a tactical defensive midfielder known for breaking up plays. Only 31 appearances and one goal into his international career, he’s already won the World Cup with Les Bleus and won the most epic of Premiership Titles with Leicester City in 2016.
Paul Pogba is the orchestrator of the France national team. With his infectious energy, leadership, and playmaking ability, Pogba helped guide France to its second World Cup in 2018. With 62 caps and ten goals, the 25-year-old is sure to have more magic to come.
With 116 caps, the defensive midfielder Marcel Desailly ranks as one of the best French players ever. He played a critical role in France’s run to the 1998 World Cup, demonstrating his expertise for smart, powerful tackles and ball-winning capabilities. He captained the side after the retirement of Didier Deschamp and helped lead Les Bleus to the 2001 Confederations Cup.