The world of soccer is filled with some of the most talented athletes, and France has produced some of the best. With a rich history of success on the field, French soccer players have dazzled fans with their skill, precision, and athleticism. From legendary strikers to powerful defenders, the best French soccer players have left an indelible mark on the sport.
In this article, we'll explore the top 11 best French soccer players of all time and take a closer look at the unique talents that have made them such a force to be reckoned with. Whether you're a die-hard soccer fan or love to appreciate raw talent, you won't want to miss out on this exciting journey through the annals of French soccer history. So, without further ado, let's get started!
France is one of the most succesful countries in soccer history. They won the World Cup two times, in 1998 and 2018, and produced a lot of world-class soccer players.
Interestingly, the eleven best French soccer players of all time have something similar. In the past few decades, France has produced a number of excellent footballers, but the most outstanding have that special something, the "je ne sais quoi."
Les Bleus had numerous skillful players, midfielders, and technical wizards. All those on the list are characterized by an indefinable trait that has taken them from their neighborhoods to higher levels.
The top eleven French footballers of all time:
The chant for N'Golo Kante says, "he is small, he is kind, he stopped Leo Messi", highlighting the incredible journey of Kante from the Ligue 2 to one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. Initially associated with Claude Makelele, Kante has transcended all comparisons by winning all the awards in the game. His incredible performances in the Leicester and Chelsea championship-winning campaigns were remarkable and his display in the Champions League final against Manchester City sealed his greatness. Kante has also been peerless for Didier Deschamps in the French national team.
Despite being incredibly talented, Franck Ribery is often overlooked when it comes to French stars. His prime years were between two periods of exceptional French players, and most of his career was spent in Bavaria alongside a more prominent Arjen Robben. Ribery could be the best French player never ever to win an international trophy. He became well-known in 2006 when he was a vigorous winger and eventually evolved into one of the most graceful wide players of the 2010s. Ribery succeeded with Bayern Munich, but he could not win the World Cup. If only France had won in 2006, Ribery's career would have been even more successful.
Beyond the defender wearing the No.8 jersey, there was much to appreciate about Marcel Desailly, who, like Deschamps, claimed Champions Leagues with Marseille and Italy. He was incredibly physically fit, able to lead from the back and prevent opposition attacks – but there was much more to him than his visible strength. Desailly was not just known for his tough tackling but also for his technical and tactical prowess. He could make precise passes and runs forward, and he was a courageous leader in the French team during their 1998 and 2000 victories.
Lilian Thuram was widely regarded as one of the best defenders ever, possessing both technical skill on the ball and a combative style of defending. He was a right-back for France in 1998, but during the 2006 World Cup, he moved to a central role. His success followed him to his club career; he was a vital member of the legendary Parma side of the late 1990s and then moved to Juventus and Barcelona. Despite this impressive career, he only won two domestic titles and never claimed the Champions League, leaving the sport in 2008 when Barça hired Pep Guardiola. Despite this, Thuram is still remembered as one of the most beloved players of that era.
Thierry Henry still remembers the 1998 World Cup final with a mix of frustration and regret, as he was ready to enter the game as a substitute until Marcel Desailly was sent off. When the tournament took place in his home country, the then 20-year-old Monaco winger still managed to shine, as he was the top scorer for France. However, he was yet to reach his peak. In the following years, he became an icon, as he scored the most goals in four Premier League seasons at Arsenal, led them to an unbeaten title, and set an unparalleled record for assists. He then went back to his left-wing position at Barcelona and won a treble while setting a national record with 51 goals. But there's much more to his genius than merely these accomplishments. He was stronger than any other striker yet possessed an exquisite grace. He was fast and creative, meandering through the field but always arriving at the right place when needed. Unsurprisingly, most defenders who faced him consider him their most formidable opponent; he was both incredibly successful and highly entertaining.
Before taking the helm of his nation during the Coupe de Monde, Didier Deschamps was the one leading others in his nation's team with his words. He was an exceptional kind of captain who was highly skilled in organizing and had a great drive to retrieve the ball and start attacks. He was part of the team that won the world championship in 1998. Deschamps was also remarkable at the club level - he was the youngest captain to have won the Champions League while playing for Marseille, and he also repeated the feat at Juventus. Not only that, but he also came in second in the competition three times. Even in his later years, while playing for Valencia, he was a source of strength to the team, and his career was truly remarkable.
Eric Cantona displayed his loyalty to England at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, which might have been partly due to his lack of success with the French national team. After the infamous kick incident at Crystal Palace, he never obtained his spot back, even with Zinedine Zidane's arrival. Possibly, Cantona's place in the hall of French footballing fame has been adversely affected because of this. However, his impact on Manchester United and English football cannot be overlooked. He was an original superstar with a blend of strength, perception, and a remarkable ability to deliver in important matches. It was hugely debated when he was left off the squad for Euro 96. Although Cantona may not have been given a proper chance to shine for France, he still stands as one of the greatest footballers the country has ever produced.
The Daily Mirror made a headline saying that Arsenal had triumphed in the World Cup, the day after France had overwhelmed Brazil in the 1998 final with a score of 3-0. This was owed to a goal from Emmanuel Petit and a dominating midfield display by Patrick Vieira. There is still a framed clipping in the Arsenal press room. Indeed, Vieira was at his highest point. When playing at his most excellent, there may not have been a midfielder as accomplished as he. He was capable of seizing every ball in the center of the pitch, running forward with speed and power, and his passing was remarkable. He was not only a box-to-box player but a touchline-to-touchline as well - it was as though two or three extra players were involved. Every player who had the pleasure of playing with him was improved by his presence. He was a cheat code footballer for his club and country, taking home three titles with the Gunners and representing his nation's beating heart for almost a decade. There is not a single midfield in French footballing history that he couldn't join and run.
Michel Platini was an incredibly gifted footballer with exceptional passing skills that would make modern stars like Paul Pogba envious. He was proficient in front of goal, topping the scoring charts even when defenses were more solid than Eric Cantona's jokes. He had the ability to maneuver around the opposition with ease, and you couldn't help but be drawn to his movements. Platini was beloved around the world, starting his career at Saint-Etienne before joining Serie A and going on to be a runner-up in the European Cup in 1983, leading France to victory at Euro 84 and finally winning the European Cup with Juventus in 1985. He was honored with the Ballon d'Or every year. Platini was majestic, arguably the most talented French player to never win the World Cup.
Kylian Mbappé Lottin is widely considered one of the best current players in the world. He plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain and the French national team. Mbappé made his professional debut for Monaco in 2015, at the age of 16, and helped the team win the Ligue 1 title in 2016-17. He transferred to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for a then-world record transfer fee of €180 million. With PSG, he has won multiple Ligue 1 titles and French Cups. On the international level, he was a key player for France in their 2018 World Cup-winning campaign, becoming the youngest French player to score in a World Cup match and the second teenager, after Pelé, to score in a World Cup final. In the 2022 World Cup, he kept France in contention in the final against Argentina until they got beaten on penalty kicks.
Despite others having scored more goals and won more trophies, no one personified French football like Zidane. His highlights reel is unparalleled, and his standout performance at the Stade de France against Brazil was what thrust him into the spotlight. Subsequently, he became the most expensive player ever and produced another international trophy at Euro 2000. His most outstanding achievement was guiding Real Madrid to their Champions League victory in 2002. His technique and aggression were extraordinary, as was his ability to keep the ball despite the opposition. He put on a masterclass at the 2006 World Cup, single-handedly defeating Brazil and dominating Italy in the final. His fantastic career has brought immense joy to French football, and few will ever be able to match his legacy.
Legacy and Impact of French Soccer on the world stage
The legacy of French soccer is impossible to overstate. The country has produced some of the greatest players and teams in the history of the sport, and has won numerous major international tournaments. French soccer has also had a significant impact on the way the game is played, with its emphasis on skill, technique, and flair.
French soccer has also had a significant impact on the global soccer community. Many of the top players in the world today, including Kylian Mbappe, N'Golo Kante, and Antoine Griezmann, hail from France. French coaches and managers are also highly sought after, with the likes of Arsene Wenger, Zinedine Zidane, and Didier Deschamps having achieved great success in the sport.
In conclusion, the top 11 French soccer players of all time have left an indelible mark on the sport, and their contributions to French soccer will be remembered for generations to come. While plenty of other great French soccer players deserve recognition, these eleven players stand out as the best of the best. Whether you're a die-hard soccer fan or appreciate great talent, the legacy of French soccer is sure to inspire and entertain for years to come.