With an extensive talent pool, it seems like France presents fresh faces every World Cup. At the same time, some of its veterans are too indispensable to replace. Here’s a list of the eleven most capped players from Les Bleus.
Hugo Lloris, 145
With 145 caps, the super reflexive goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is the most-capped French player to date. He started for the French side that won the World Cup in 2018. Captain of the team since 2010, Lloris also led Les Bleus to a quarterfinal finish at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, along with finishing runners-up at Euro 2016 and World Cup 2022. He announced his retirement shortly after the Qatar World Cup.
Lilian Thuram, 142
With 142 games played, Lilian Thuram is the second most-capped French player to date. An industrious defender, he played an important 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 playing as captain in the 2006 World Cup finals and Euro 2004 and 2008.
Thierry Henry, 123
‘The King’ as Arsenal fans called him, Thierry Henry earned 123 caps over his 13-year international career, notching a team record 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 levels. In September 2023, Henry took over as head coach of France's U-21 team.
Marcel Desailly, 116
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, pinpoint 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.
Zinedine Zidane, 108
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 a 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.
Patrick Vieira, 107
Patrick Vieira made a complete footballer. He played a part in France’s World Cup 98 run when he was just 22 and was a subsequent winner of the Euros in 2002. He 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, Vieira earned 107 caps and fired in six goals.
Didier Deschamps, 103
Before he coached the French national team to a 2018 World Cup trophy, Didier Deschamps starred as a defensive midfielder for Les Bleus. Deschamps appeared 103 times for over a decade and captained the side to France’s first World Cup victory in 1998 and the European Championship trophy in 2000.
Laurent Blanc, 97
The French Defender Laurent Blanc was the cornerstone of France’s World Cup in 1998 and the UEFA European Championship in 2000. He earned 97 caps with Les Bleus over eleven years.
Bixente Lizarazu, 97
With 97 caps, left-back Bixente Lizarazu helped France win its first World Cup in 1998 and the subsequent European Championship in 2000. He also earned a score of domestic and cup medals at club sides Bayern Munich and Bordeaux.
Sylvain Wiltord, 92
With 92 appearances over seven years, Sylvain Wiltord scored 26 times for the French national team — none more significant than his last-second goal that tied up the game 1-1 against Italy in the Euro 2000 final. France won the tournament. Wiltord also won the Confederations Cup in 2001 and 2003.
Fabien Barthez, 87
The bald goalkeeper protected the goalposts for the World Cup winners France in 1998 and the Euro 2000. Although standing only 5 foot 11, he made up for his lack of height with insane acrobatics and the ability to lead from the back. Barthez also steered a victorious Marseille to the 1992/93 UEFA Champions League title.
Kylian Mbappe, 71
Kylian Mbappé's star continues to shine brightly on the international stage. After helping France lift the 2018 World Cup trophy as a teenager, he further cemented his legacy at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by scoring eight goals. The Golden Boot winner almost single-handedly led a dramatic French comeback in the final match against Argentina, only to fall on penalties.
Originally posted February 19, 2000, and updated September 7, 2023.