The 11 Best French Soccer Players of All Time
They left an indelible mark throughout France team’s history, which started in 1904. Discover the top eleven best players who wore the jersey for the national selection, between world stars, ephemeral cracks, and forgotten stars.
2 August 2018
The 11 Best French Soccer Players of All Time
1. Zinédine Zidane
French soccer player, Zinédine Zidane has achieved an exemplary career, both in France and internationally. Voted FIF’s most valuable player of the year many times, he is also on the list for the 125 best soccer players in the world. After several years spent in Marseille region’s clubs, where he already wore the famous N°10, he joined AS Cannes in 1987, at age 15. A year later, his playing skills allowed him to integrate the professional fields. In 1992, he was recruited at Girondins-de-Bordeaux, where he stayed 4 years before joining Juventus Turin, considered as one of the best team in the world. In 1998, he received the Ballon D’Or (Golden Ball), which named him the best European player, thanks to the results obtained with Juventus: Italian Champions and Champions League’s final.
Selected for the France’s team at age 17, he was quickly recognized. The coronation however, came with the 98 World Cup with the 2 headers he scored against Brazil. This would be the first the French team had won the title of World Champions. In 2000, he helped the Blues to win the UEFA European Championship and achieved a unique double in soccer history. The same year, FIFA awarded him the title for best player in the world.
In 2001, Zidane joined Real Madrid for 4 years and won the Champions League with his new club in 2002. After the defeats at the 2002 World Cup and Euro in 2004, Zinédine announced his retirement internationally. However, a year later, he reconsidered his decision and joined the French team for the 2006 World Cup. Designated as the best player of the 2006 World Cup, Zidane’s popularity was such, that the French public gave him a pass and quickly forgot his bad behaviors on the field only to keep the very best. Even when, in the middle of the World Cup final against Italy, he was sent off because of a headbutt against Marco Materazzi.
Today, Zinédine is still Zizou. After hanging up the cleats in 2006, he passed his coaching degrees and came back to Real Madrid, first with Carlo Ancelotti, then as the main coach. Here again, his vision for the extraordinary game is miraculous, since this year he became the first coach to win three Champions League consecutively with the Merengues.
2. Michel Platini
Michel Platini is a former French soccer player, born on June 21st, 1955 in Lorraine. Trained in Nancy, the young Michel Platini quickly became one of the most wanted French players. Thus, he quickly connected with Saint-Etienne, the best French team at the time. France’s champion and author of a very beautiful European course, Michel Platini is finally transferred to Juventus of Turin, the powerful Italian club. This is where he discovered his true potential. In the span of five years, Platini built an impressive record that includes a European Cup, won as a memory against Liverpool at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. Michel Platini’s story cannot however, be dissociated from France’s team. Incredible playing skills during his matches, Platoche took the blues to victory in the 1984 European Championship. Elected three times for the Ballon D’Or (Golden Ball), Michel Platini is considered one of the best soccer players in Soccer history, alongside Pelé, Maradona and Zinédine Zidane. Tired from his career, Michel Platini played one last season for the Juventus team before retiring in May 1987. With his impressive record, Michel Platini left a mark in the world of soccer. However, this sport’s buff decided to change his life.
Following a long career as a professional soccer player, Michel Platini became the French soccer team head coach in November 1988, replacing Henri Michel. He followed a series of different positions as he became co-president of the World Cup’s organizing committee in 1988 and also special advisor to the FIFA President. Then, he became vice president of the FFF, before being in charge of the international department in March 2005. Additionally, Michel Platini is also on broadcast during the Champions League’s evenings on Canal + as a sports consultant for the network.Then, he was elected UEFA President for three terms from 2007 to 2015. In December 2014, Michel Platini was accused of bribery from Russia for the 2018 World Cup, which he firmly denies.
3. Thierry Henry
International French soccer player born in Ulis (French town) on August 17, 1977, Thierry Henry began his professional career in 1994 under the Monaco’s colors. After passing through Juventus in 1999, Thierry Henry joined the Arsenal club with which he achieved his best playing years. With 228 goals scored, the French player became the top scorer in the history of the Gunners and got, a few years later, his own statue in front of the London stadium. Transferred to FC Barcelona in 2007, Thierry Henry refined his collective record with an unprecedented six-fold during the 2009 season, a victory in the Champions League and a Spain Championship among others. In 2010, the New York Redbulls became the new destination for the French striker.
Thierry Henry endorsed the France team’s jersey for the first time in 1997. In 1998, coach Aimé Jacquet, selected him in the list of players to compete in the 1998 World Cup, by this very same team from France. Alongside his teammate, David Trezeguet, and Thierry Henry formed one of the most prolific attacks in the tricolor line ups between 1997 and 2010. In 123 selections, Thierry Henry scored 51 goals. In 2014, he ended his career as a player and later became a consultant for a sportsman. In August 2016, the former international French striker joined the Belgian team as an assistant coach to the Spanish head coach Roberto Martinez to lead the red devils to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
4. Just Fontaine
Born in Morocco on August 18, 1933, Just Fontaine is a former French international soccer player. After his debut in at a Casablanca club, he moved to France and signed with the OGC Nice club, where he spent three prolific seasons during which he scored 44 goals, which got him spotted by the Reims Stadium, one of the most important French soccer clubs at the time. Two times top scorer in the French league, Just Fontaine has a total of 165 goals in 200 games. Just Fontaine holds the record for most goals scored in a World Cup final with a total of 13 goals. A successful performance in Sweden back in 1958, which many considered incomparable.
5. Didier Deschamps
Born on October 15, 1968, Didier Deschamps is a former French international soccer player who has since been shifted to coaching. The Bayonne native began his career in 1985 in Nantes and successfully wore the OM’s, Bordeaux’s, Juventus’, Chelsea’s and Valencia’s jersey. Defensive midfielder, Didier Deschamps is the French team’s captain who won, for the first time in its history, the title of world champion in 1998 and again two years later, alongside soccer player Zinédine Zidane.
After retiring as a soccer player after the Blues victory in 2000, he became coach for several teams such as AS Monaco, Juventus, and OM. Since 2012, he has been the coach for the French team, which he led to the quarter finals at the 2014 World Cup and concurrently in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
6. Raymond Kopa
Originally named Raymond Kopaszewski, Raymond Kopa is a former French soccer player born in Noeux-les-Mines on October 13, 1931. Son of Polish immigrants, Raymond Kopa began his soccer career in his hometown, before joining the Angers club in 1949. The offensive midfielder then made the Reims Stadium’s happiness, a club with which he won the French Championship four times. It was only during his stay at Real Madrid between 1956 and 1959 that Raymond Kopa won his biggest European titles, with three European Cup victories. Selected in 1952, Raymond Kopa joined the French team for their journey in the 1954 World Cup and won third place in the year 1958. Voted best player in this competition, Raymond Kopa scored 18 goals in the tricolor jersey in forty-five selections. Ballon D’Or (Golden Ball) in 1958, Raymond Kopa is still considered as one of the best players in French soccer history with Michel Platini and Zinédine Zidane.
7. Lilian Thuram
Born in Pointe- à-Pitre in Guadeloupe on January 1st, 1972, Lilian Thuram is a former French international soccer player. After starting his career with AS Monaco in 1991, he flew to Italy in 1996, first to Parma, then Juventus, before finishing his career in Spain at FC Barcelona between 2006 and 2008. Brilliant defenseman Lilian Thurman built with his teammates Bixente Lizarazu, Marcel Desailly, and Laurent Blance the defensive solidity of the French team. At the 1998 World Cup won by the Blues, Lilian Thuram distinguished himself by scoring twice in the semifinal against Croatia. Whoever still counts after his retirement, the record of the number of selections (142) also counts in the victory of France at the Euro 2000.
Lilian Thuram joined the Federal Council of the FFF until December 2010. Very committed, the former soccer player also multiplied his media appearances to express his opinion around immigration and racism.
8. Fabien Barthez
Born on June 28, 1971 in Lavelnet in the Ariège department, Fabien is a French soccer player. He played rugby, but it’s as a soccer goaltender that he showed the most of his abilities. At age 15, he joined the Toulouse soccer club training center and was recruited in 1992 by Marseille Olympique with his performance. In 1993, he won the Champions League with OM. He then became goalkeeper for AS Monaco and won two titles as France’s Champion. In 1998, Fabien Barthez was the official goalkeeper for the French team at the World Cup. He won the title and two years later won the Euro alongside Zinédine Zidane, Thierry Henry, and David Trezeguet. That year, he joined the legendary club, Manchester United before returning to Marseille and finished his soccer career at FC Nantes in 2008.
Just after retiring from the field, the former world champion did not put an end to soccer and returned as a consultant for TF1 during the 2010 World Cup and on Téléfoot. Fabien Barthez then joined the France’s goalkeepers coaching team, led then by his friend Laurent Blanc.
9. Laurent Blanc
Former French international soccer player born on November 19, 1965 in Ales, Gard, Laurent Blanc walked on the field for the first time as a professional player in 1983 under Montpellier’s colors. Setting down his suitcases in different French clubs locker rooms throughout his career, and abroad also (Italy, Spain. England), Laurent Blanc has distinguished himself on the international scene by the wearing the France team’s jersey. Last line of defense in front of his goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, Laurent Blanc actively participated in the double team for the French team World Cup in 1998 – Euro in 2000, before hanging up the cleats in 2003.
After a period of time spent getting his coaching degrees, he took the position for the Girondins of Bordeaux in 2007. He called the following year to take the head coach position for the France team, which he took all the way to the quarter finals of Euro 2012. He became the PSG head coach at the dawn of the 2013/2014 season.
10. Marcel Desailly
Former French international soccer player, Marcel Desailly was born in Accra, Ghana on September 7, 1969. Trained in FC Nantes, Marcel Desailly began his professional career in 1986 and successively joins arms with Nantes, Marseille, Milan, and Chelsea before leaving to Qatar in 2004 and 2005. Double winner of the Champions League, Italy and Qatar champion, Marcel Desailly also participated in the epic French team on the international scene. Monster power, impassable in one-on-ones. Desailly is one of the best in his position, proven by his performance in the 1998 World Cup, as one of the four members of the “invincible”. The Thuram-Desailly-Blanc-Lizarazu defense line lost no match when it was lined up. Able to score critical goals, such as in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup in 2001 against Brazil, “Le Roc”, record time selections, is today the third most capped French in history.
After a brief passage in Qatar towards the end of his career, Marcel Desailly hands up the cleats in 2006. The Canal + and Beln Sports channels let him continue to satisfy his passion for soccer, as a sports consultant.
11. Alain Giresse
Born on August 2, 1952 in Gironder, Alain Giresse began his career as a professional soccer player in 1970. Under the Girondins of Bordeaux’s jersey, Alain Giresse did 16 seasons, scored 158 goals, and won the French Championship twice. Called to wear the jersey for the French team, Alain Giresse is part of the Blues journey to victory during Euro in 1984 alongside players like Michel Platini. Before ending his soccer career, the midfielder made a short passage at OM from 1986 to 1988.