France All-Time XI: Zinedine Zidane leads Les Bleus

France All-Time XI: Zinedine Zidane leads Les Bleus

Published Jun. 16, 2024 8:55 p.m. ET

The Summer of Stars kicks off on FOX with the European Championship in Germany and the United States-hosted Copa América. Both tournaments will feature the world's best soccer players, but how many of them are all-time great players?

To answer that question, FOX Sports has put together 11 all-time international teams. Up next is France.

*All-time stats and records for individuals mentioned below refer to men's national team only

GK: Hugo Lloris


Caps: 145
Notable clubs: Nice, Lyon, Tottenham, Los Angeles FC

While Fabian Barthez was a mainstay in the national team's goal and was the 1998 World Cup Keeper of the Tournament, Hugo Lloris's consistency and longevity cannot be denied. No player has made more appearances for the French national team, with the 37-year-old announcing his retirement from international play last year. Lloris was instrumental as France's captain in their 2018 World Cup title run, and was easily a top-five goalkeeper in the world during the prime of his career. During his time with Lyon, he won Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year three times and went on to make 447 appearances for Tottenham, the seventh most in the club's history (all competitions). Legendary manager José Mourinho called him "the best keeper in the Premier League" in 2020. Lloris is one of 17 keepers ever to have over 100 clean sheets in the Premier League, and one of 13 with over 120. 

DF: Lillian Thuram

Caps: 142 
Notable clubs: Monaco, Parma, Juventus, Barcelona

France's leader in appearances until Lloris surpassed him in 2022, Lillian Thuram is one of the greatest defenders of all-time. His ability to play both right-back and center-back garnered him a 15-year career in top-flight leagues across France, Italy and Spain. With the French national team, he was a crucial part of the 1998 World Cup champion squad and then led Les Bleus to a Euros title in 2000. During their title run in the 1998 World Cup, Thuram was the face of a backline that only allowed two goals in the entire tournament. His individual accolades include being a two-time selection to the FIFA World Cup All-Star team, French Player of the Year in 1997, a UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament selection in 2000, and was named to Pelé's 100 greatest living footballers in 2004. Thuram also captained France at the 2008 Euros, and in the process made his 16th appearance at the Euros, a record at the time.                      

DF: Laurent Blanc

Caps: 97
Notable clubs: Napoli, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Saint Étienne

One of 12 players ever to make 97 appearances for the national team, Laurent Blanc is one of the greatest center-backs in French history,  most notably playing a key role in the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euros title runs. The 1990 French Player of the Year also came in fourth for the French Player of the Century award, given out by France Football Magazine in 2000. Blanc was selected to the Euros Team of the Tournament on three separate occasions, and also won seven major trophies at the club level. Rolland Courbis, his manager at Marseille, nicknamed him Le Président — "The President" — for his incredible leadership skills and versatility on the pitch. In his first season there, he scored a whopping 13 goals as a defender (all competitions), and then moved to Inter Milan two seasons later, where he won Pirata d'Oro in 2000- an award given to club's player of the year. Blanc's IQ and leadership skills translated into a managerial career for him, having been at the helm of Bordeaux, Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon, and the French national team. 

DF: Marcel Desailly

Caps: 116
Notable clubs: Marseille, AC Milan, Chelsea

There might not be a more decorated French footballer than Marcel Desailly, who played professionally for 20 years at the club level, and 11 years for the national team. Desailly won the Champions League with both Marseille and AC Milan, and also served as a starter on the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euros squads that each won championships. He is one of six players ever to make 115 or more appearances for France, and made nearly 650 combined appearances in Ligue 1, Serie A, and the Premier League. Like Thuram, he was named as one of Pelé's 100 greatest living footballers in 2004, one of 14 Frenchman to make it and only one of three of those 14 to be a defender. He was selected to the All-Tournament teams at both the World Cup (1998) and Euros (2000) in addition to being inducted into the AC Milan Hall of Fame. Chelsea fans gave him the nickname "the rock" due to his imposing presence and hard-nosed tackling style. Like many players on this list, Desailly was a versatile player who played full-back and defensive midfielder in addition to his main role at center-back.  

DF: Marius Trésor

Caps: 65
Notable clubs: Marseille, Bordeaux

Another tough selection here as Bixente Lizarazu and Patrice Evra both had strong cases to fill this spot, but Marius Trésor is considered one the greatest defenders of his generation. Like Blanc, he also received votes for the French Player of the Century award, finishing sixth overall. The 1972 French Player of the Year made over 400 combined appearances for Ajaccio, Marseille, and Bordeaux, most notably leading the latter to its second Ligue 1 title ever in the 1983-84 season. Trésor was a center-forward turned defender, which resulted in a display of incredible pace and skill when he graced the pitch. In his debut for the French national team, he actually played left-back against Bulgaria, and subsequently played right-back in his second outing against Romania. One of his most famous goals for France came in the 1982 World Cup, when he scored a powerful volley off a set piece just outside the box to put France up 2-1 in the 92nd minute of the semifinals. 

MF: Patrick Vieira

Caps: 107
Goals: 6
Notable clubs: AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester City 

One of eight players ever with over 105 appearances for the French national team, Patrick Vieira is one of the most dominant box-to-box midfielders of all-time. The peak of his career came with Arsenal, serving as captain for the 2003-04 team that has been dubbed as "The Invincibles." Arsenal did not lose a match in the Premier League that season, winning 26 of their 38 games and drawing in the other 12. Vieira would lead the Gunners to three Premier League titles in total, and also accumulated five Serie A titles during his time with AC Milan and Inter Milan. Just like several players on this list, Vieira was a key starter for France in the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euro championship teams. His 2001 season was filled with individual accolades, winning both French Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season. In 2022, he was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame, and was also selected to the Premier League Team of the Decade from 1993 to 2003. Vieira has taken his talents to coaching, having been at the helm of Crystal Palace from 2021 to 2023, and currently serving as the head coach of French club Strasbourg

MF: Michel Platini

Caps: 72
Goals: 41
Notable clubs: Saint Étienne, Juventus

Considered one of the best players of all-time, Michel Platini is one of five players ever to have won the Ballon d'Or three times. He was known for his spectacular free-kicks and penalties, as well being one of the most creative passers in the history of the game. Platini totaled over 300 goals in nearly 600 appearances at the club level (all competitions), winning French Player of the Year twice as well as being selected to two World Cup all-star teams (1982, 1986). His 1984 season was one for the ages, leading France to a Euros championship and earning Player of the Tournament honors as well as the Golden Boot. His 41 goals for the national team ranks fifth all-time while his 0.57 goals per game average ranks third. French fans affectionately nicknamed him, Le Roi, which translates to "the king", due to his incredible leadership and and offensive genius on the pitch. The great Pelé is quoted as dubbing him "the European footballer of the 1980s." Platini won several major trophies during his runs with Saint Étienne and Juventus, most notably winning two Serie A titles, a Ligue 1 title, and a European Super Cup. He was voted as the French Player of the Century by France Football Magazine in 2000.

MF: Zinedine Zidane

Caps: 108
Goals: 31
Notable clubs: Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid

Few players have exhibited as much flair and creativity on the pitch as Zinedine Zidane, a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner and the 1998 Ballon d'Or recipient as well. His accolades are endless, having been voted as Player of the Year in Ligue 1 (1995-96), Serie A (2000-01), and La Liga (2001-02) — in addition to being selected to two World Cup all-star teams (1998, 2006). Zidane, also known as "Zizou", was arguably the best player on the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euros squads that won championships, actually winning the Golden Ball award in the latter tournament. He was also named Best Player of the Tournament in the 2006 World Cup despite being sent off with a red card in the final. He's one of five players ever to have scored three goals in World Cup title matches, and is the only player to have won FIFA's World Player of the Year and Coach of the Year awards. That's right, Zidane was an elite manager as well, leading Real Madrid to two La Liga titles, two Spanish Super Cups, and three Champions League titles. David Beckham, a fellow teammate of Zidane during their run together for Real Madrid's Los Galacticos era, dubbed him "the greatest of all-time." 

FW: Just Fontaine

Caps: 21
Goals: 30
Notable clubs: Nice, Reims

Another tough decision here, as France has had a plethora of incredible forwards- such as Raymond Kopa, Olivier Giroud, and Antoine Griezmann- but Just Fontaine's dominance in the 1950s cannot be ignored. He scored an astounding 258 goals in 284 appearances at the club level, with 164 of those goals coming 200 appearances in Ligue 1- France's top division. Fontaine scored 30 times in just 21 appearances for France, boasting the highest goal per game average in their history at 1.43. That average is also the second highest of any player with 20-plus international appearances, trailing only Hungary's Ferenc Deak (1.45). What he's best remembered for is his out-of-this-world performance at the 1958 World Cup, scoring 13 goals at the competition. That is still the most goals ever scored by a player at a single World Cup, and is tied for the fourth highest career tally at the World Cup ever. The three players ahead of him all played in at least two World Cups, while Fontaine was "one-and-done." The prolific goal-scorer led Reims to three Ligue 1 titles and two domestic cup trophies. Just like Thuram, Desailly, Trésor, Vieira, Platini, and Zidane, he was also named to Pelé's list of the 100 greatest living footballers.

FW: Kylian Mbappé

Caps: 79
Goals: 47
Notable clubs: Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid

Arguably the best player in the world right now as well as the biggest superstar, Kylian Mbappé popped onto the global scene after winning the Best Young Player award at the 2018 World Cup. He followed it up four years later by winning the Golden Boot award, most notably scoring a hat-trick in the final against Argentina. It was just the second hat-trick in a World Cup final ever, and boosted him to 12 career goals at the World Cup, tied for the sixth most in the tournament's history. The remarkable part of all that? Mbappé was just 23 years old at the time of the 2022 final! The phenom has already scored 47 goals for France, just 11 shy of breaking the all-time record held by Olivier Giroud. This summer he will join Real Madrid on a €150 million transfer fee, after scoring 256 goals in 308 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain (all competitions). The 25-year-old has won seven Ligue 1 titles, four French Cups, and a World Cup. He was also named Ligue 1 Player of the Year a whopping five times, and has led the league in scoring on six different occasions. This past season, he led the Champions League in scoring with eight goals.   

FW: Thierry Henry

Caps: 123
Goals: 51
Notable clubs: Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, New York Red Bulls 

One of five players with 120 appearances for the national team, Thierry Henry was France's all-time leading goalscorer until Olivier Giroud passed him last year. Also a member of the Arsenal team dubbed "The Invincibles" with Patrick Vieira, Henry won two Premier League titles during his time with the Gunners, and also won back-to-back La Liga titles with Barcelona. In a 10-year span with those two clubs, he scored 275 goals in all competitions. No player in Arsenal history has scored more goals than him, with 228 to his name. Due to his dominance, he was named French Player of the Year a record five times, with four of them coming consecutively from 2003 to 2006. He was also an incredible playmaker, setting the Premier League record for assists in a season with 20 in 2002-03- which has only been matched once since (Kevin De Bruyne). Henry is one of two players in Premier League history to score 20 goals and 20 assists in league play in a single season, with Luis Suárez being the other. Like most on this list, he helped lead France to a 1998 World Cup title and a 2000 Euros trophy. 

Honorable mentions

Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Raymond Copa, Didier Deschamps, Patrice Evra

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