5 most entertaining French footballers of all time

Thierry Henry (left) and Zinedine Zidane celebrating a goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup
Thierry Henry (left) and Zinedine Zidane celebrating a goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup
Arnav Kholkar

France have produced some of the most gifted, technically astute and mercurial players the game has ever seen. French players have showcased their talent on the biggest stage. They have aided the progress of technical aspects like dribbling, shooting techniques and positional versatility.

Les Bleus are one of the most successful footballing nations in Europe and the world. They have won two UEFA Euros (1984, 2000) and two FIFA World Cups (1998, 2018). They recently also won the newly started tournament, the UEFA Nations League (2020-21).

Congratulations to France 🇫🇷 for winning the UEFA Nations League 2020/2021🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷

French football has seen a consistent rise since the 1990s. However, with great power comes great responsibility.

France coach Didier Deschamps and his coaching staff have their job cut out for them going forward. Flag bearers Kylian Mbappe, Lucas and Theo Hernandez, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann hold the responsibility of achieving results on the pitch for France.

The French team plays with pace, precision, directness and maturity beyond their years. Players play with flamboyance and flair, while also helping grind out results. Entertaining youngsters such as Christopher Nkunku, Aurelien Tchouameni, Eduardo Camavinga and Illan Meslier are quickly climbing up the ranks, and are knocking on the national team's door.

However, these players had a solid blueprint set for them by those who played before. On that note, here's a look at five such players who made it usual to expect French players to be highly skilled and talented. Without further ado, let's get started:

#5 Eric Cantona

Cantona played the game with his heart on his sleeve.
Cantona played the game with his heart on his sleeve.

Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona was born in Marseille, France, in 1966. An outspoken, charismatic and intelligent personality, Cantona was known for cutting an intimidating figure during his playing days.

The Frenchman had the most notable phase of his club career in England, playing for Leeds United for a while before moving to Manchester United. It was with the Red Devils Cantona cemented his legacy as one of the greatest entertainers in the sport.

⚽️ 185 games👏 82 goals🏆 6 major honours👑 One Eric CantonaThe King's reign began on this day in 1992...

Cantona scored 81 goals and provided 64 assists for United in 180 games. During his time in Manchester, he won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups.

It would be remiss to say that happened only owing to his footballing abilities, but Cantona made headlines off the pitch today. He launched an infamous kung-fu kick towards a Crystal Palace fan back in 1995 after receiving abuse.

ON THIS DAY 1995: Eric Cantona kung-fu kicks a Crystal Palace fan

Eric Cantona represented France 45 times, and netted 20 goals. He is one of the greatest French players to have not played in any major tournament for his nation. However, King Cantona stayed true to his personality, and is a true legend of the game.

#4 Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema is one of the most underrated strikers of his generation.
Karim Benzema is one of the most underrated strikers of his generation.

Karim Mostafa Benzema was born in Lyon, France, in 1987. He is one of the most decorated and successful French strikers in the modern era. Benzema began his career coming through Lyon's youth ranks, before moving to Spain and establishing himself as a top striker with Real Madrid.

Benzema has played 581 games for Madrid, scoring 297 goals and assisting 181 others. During his time with Los Blancos, he has won the La Liga thrice, the UEFA Champions League twice, and two Copa del Rey and as many Supercopa de Espana titles. The Frenchman is Real Madrid's fourth all-time top scorer.

He has already scored 18 goals this season, and provided eight assists in 21 games across competitions.

⚪️ Karim Benzema stats for Real Madrid this season:Appearances: 2️⃣1️⃣Goals: 1️⃣8️⃣Assists: 8️⃣🔥Best player in the world?

Benzema has a knack of scoring key goals by being in the right place at the right time. He has developed a penchant for scoring goals irrespective of what height or pace the ball is played to him at.

'The Benz' recently scored one such goal, volleying Real Madrid into the lead against city rivals Atletico Madrid. Here's a replica animation of that strike.

Benzema (361 goals) recently overtook Thierry Henry (360) to become the highest-scoring French player in history.

🇫🇷 Last night, Karim Benzema overtook Thierry Henry to become the most-scoring French player in club football history: 🥇 Benzema – 361 goals (724 games)🥈 Henry – 360 goals (791 games)🐐🤝🐐 #BallonDor

Karim Benzema has played 94 games for France, scoring 36 goals. He is just 15 strikes away from levelling Henry's all-time goal record for the French national team.

Benzema is one of those strikers who came in with great potential and only got better and better with time like fine wine.

#3 Michel Platini

Michel Platini won three back-to-back Ballon d'Or awards.
Michel Platini won three back-to-back Ballon d'Or awards.

Michel Francois Platini was born in Joeuf, France, in 1955. He began his career at Nancy in France before moving to rivals Saint-Etienne, enjoying prolific spells at both clubs. Platini arguably had the most notable spell of his career at Juventus. There, he went on to become one of the most prolific and iconic midfielders the game has ever seen.

With Juventus, Platini won one Serie A and one European Cup (now called the UEFA Champions League). He was the first player to win three consecutive Ballon d'Or awards (1983-85). His record was eventually emulated and bettered by Lionel Messi in 2012.

Platini was also successful with the French national team, winning the UEFA Euro in 1984. He was named the Player of the Tournament, and also finished as the tournament's top scorer, scoring a record nine goals.

9 – Michel Platini holds the record for the most goals scored in a UEFA EURO finals competition, helping France to the 1984 title with nine goals. King. #100DaysToGo #EURO2020

Throughout his career, the Frenchman scored 312 goals in 580 games in club football. He also netted an impressive 41 goals in 72 games for France, and was the top scorer for his nation before Thierry Henry (51) broke his record. Despite being a midfielder, Platini had astronomical numbers in terms of goal contributions, scoring at least 30 goals in all but one year between 1974 and 1985.

Michel Platini’s goal tally per season for club & country:1974/75: 30 ⚽️ 1975/76: 30 ⚽️ 1976/77: 30 ⚽️ 1977/78: 30 ⚽️1978/79: 15 ⚽️🤕1979/80: 30 ⚽️1980/81: 32 ⚽️1981/82: 31 ⚽️ 1982/83: 32 ⚽️ 1983/84: 37 ⚽️ 1984/85: 31 ⚽️ He was a midfielder.

After retiring, Platini had a short managerial career with a few clubs and the French national team. He was also the first former player to be elected as the chairman of UEFA. However, he was shamefully stripped of his position in 2015 due to a conflict of interest as adjudged by the FIFA Ethics Committee.

Nevertheless, Platini remains one of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the beautiful game.

#2 Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry is France's all-time top scorer with 51 goals.
Thierry Henry is France's all-time top scorer with 51 goals.

Thierry Daniel Henry was born in Les Ulis, France, in 1977. He began his youth career at Monaco, and came through their ranks to join their senior team in 1994. He had a short spell at Juventus, and moved to Arsenal from there, in what turned to be the transfer that immortalised the man.

Henry scored 228 goals and provided 127 assists in 377 appearances for Arsenal. He ended his career as the Gunners' all-time top scorer, and the record is still intact now.

On this day in 1999, Thierry Henry signed for Arsenal.▪️ 2x PL champion▪️ 4x PL Golden Boot▪️ Only player ever to record at least 20 goals + 20 assists in a PL season▪️ Arsenal’s all-time top scorerLegend. ✨ (via @Arsenal)

During his time with the Gunners, the Frenchman scored some world-class goals. That included a stunning volley against Manchester United in 2001 that left his compatriot Fabian Barthez in no man's land.

#OTD in 2000: Arsenal beat Manchester United 1-0 thanks to this spectacular goal from Thierry Henry

Henry was also known for his incredible close control, balance and dribbling, despite his height. He was able to hold the ball and bring his teammates into the game well, as is evident in his assists tally.

Here is a clip of the Frenchman running rings around a hapless Ajax defence.

#Flashback to the king 🇫🇷 Thierry Henry. Unreal dribbling. 🤩

The man also had a tongue as sharp as his shot, and did not shy away from giving cold responses to his doubters.

Once, Jose Mourinho, in typical fashion, tried to get into Henry's head before a game. He said the Frenchman only scores against small teams. Henry bagged a brace against the Portuguese manager's Chelsea side. and said cockily in his press conference:

"Well, as usual, like everyone says, I only score in small games... Maybe today was a small game again. That's the way it is."
22 years ago today Arsenal signed Thierry Henry 💪Throwback to one of his greatest post match interviews - after Jose Mourinho said he only scores against small teams 👀Henry netted twice against Chelsea that day 😂

On another occasion, Henry tried to sneak in a quick free-kick and scored against Wigan, only to be asked to re-take it by the referee. Henry scored again from the re-taken kick, and turned to the referee nonchalantly and said:

"Is that enough?"
Who remembers when Thierry Henry did this? He tried to take a quick free kick against Wigan and the ref made him retake it.He then scored a banger and celebrated by telling the ref “Is that enough” 😂 🚀 🔥

One of the most entertaining players, who backed that up with his performances, Thierry Henry was a true showman.

#1 Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane looks at the Jules Rimet trophy in awe after winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
Zinedine Zidane looks at the Jules Rimet trophy in awe after winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.

Zinedine Yazid Zidane was born in Marseille, France, in 1972. He enjoyed a very successful career, winning every major trophy in club and international football. The Frenchman is arguably the most gifted player to have ever worn France's famous blue jersey.

During his career, Zidane represented four clubs - all for fairly long spells. He commenced his career at Cannes, before moving to Bordeaux. After that, he had spells with Juventus and Real Madrid. Zidane won the UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Serie A, the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euros during an illustrious playing career.

He scored a stunning goal in the 2001 Champions League final for Real Madrid against Bayer Leverkusen, helping seal Los Blancos' eighth title in the competition.

🔙 #OnThisDay in 2001, Real Madrid signed Zinedine Zidane from Juventus🤯 To celebrate, sit back, relax & enjoy THAT mind-blowing goal #TBT | @ChampionsLeague

For his nation, Zidane seemed to elevate his game to another level. He took up the responsibility of being France's steel in midfield, looking to grab every game by the scruff of its neck.

In 2006, with France looking likely to go far in the tournament, Zidane provided a masterclass in midfield against one of the greatest international sides ever, Brazil.

Not all “on this days” are equal. 2 mins of Zidane v Brazil in 2006. My lord.

His performance helped Les Bleus reach the final, which they lost to Italy on penalties. Zidane was sent off for a headbutt on Italy defender Marco Materazzi in what turned out to be his final appearance for France.

Zidane is one of only eight players to have won the UEFA Champions League, the FIFA World Cup and the Ballon d'Or award (1998). To this day, he remains the last French player to have received the coveted award.

22 years ago to the day, Zinédine Zidane won the Ballon d'Or. While he won everything, he later stated that winning the Ballon d'Or was one of the best days of his life. Awarded in 1998, he was the last French player to win this prestigious distinction.

The man's legacy as a player remains untouched despite the World Cup incident. He is still adored by Real Madrid and Juventus fans alike, as well as football fans worldwide.

Edited by Bhargav


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