Ranking France's 5 Greatest Wingers of All Time
With no Franck Ribery in Brazil this summer, France have been deprived of the talents of one of their greatest-ever wide men. Despite being one the most gifted players to have ever represented Les Bleus, the Bayern Munich man has never been the same player that we see at club level on the international stage.
Although he is perhaps the most talented to ever play for France in a wide attacking role, the 31-year-old is not necessarily the greatest to have played for Les Tricolores.
Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann are the current incumbents of the two wide roles in an attacking front three at this summer’s FIFA World Cup. Could they possibly write themselves into French footballing folklore as two of the best to represent their country in this role?
Here are five players they will be up against.
Although he only played for France 17 times, scoring three goals, David Ginola was one of the most gifted players to ever play for Les Bleus.
His international career may not have done justice to his prodigious ability, but he remains one of French football’s greatest exports to English football. However, he experienced the majority of his trophy triumphs with Paris Saint-Germain between 1992 and 1995.
Precluded from featuring in this list because of a lack of international success, Ginola deserves an honourable mention as one of France’s most talented players in this position.
Had he not made the fatal error of overhitting a late cross in Les Tricolores’ final qualifying match for the 1994 World Cup against Bulgaria—a mistake that led to Emil Kostadinov’s winning goals and effectively the end of Ginola’s international career—he arguably would have gone on to become one of the all-time greats.
5. Franck Ribery
In terms of talent, Ribery is one of the greatest players that France has ever produced. However, the 81-times capped French No. 7 has struggled to replicate his impressive club form on the international stage for the best part of his career.
At just 23 years of age, Ribery was in superb form when Les Bleus played their way to the 2006 World Cup final in Germany. The former Olympique de Marseille man has struggled to reach the same heights since though.
With no World Cup in Brazil and only fleeting bursts of his magical ability when playing for Les Bleus, Ribery cannot be considered for a position higher on this list, despite his numerous successes at club level with Bayern Munich.
4. Didier Six
The 1984 European Championship in France was the first major international tournament won by the French, and the nomadic figure of Didier Six was prominent in the victory.
During a career that spanned 20 years, Six played for no less than 15 clubs across five different countries. However, he only enjoyed the most fleeting of successes at club level, winning one Ligue 2 title with Valenciennes in 1972 and helping Galatasaray to the Turkish league title in 1988.
His lack of major success at club level makes his international achievements all the more impressive.
Six made 52 appearances for France, scoring 13 goals. He was part of the victorious Euro 1984 group and represented Les Bleus at the 1978 and 1982 World Cups, also captaining the side twice.
3. Robert Pires
Despite arguably never truly receiving the recognition his talent deserved internationally, Robert Pires was one of the most gifted wide players to ever represent France. Although he was an integral player for Arsenal during their main successes between 2000-2006, he was not always indispensable for France.
Yet Pires managed to win both the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship with Les Bleus, as well as the 2001 and 2003 editions of the FIFA Confederations Cup. By the time his international career came to an end in 2004, he had 79 caps and 14 goals to his name.
However, Pires will be most fondly remembered with France for his two golden goal assists. The first was for Laurent Blanc’s winner against Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup round of 16, and the second was for David Trezeguet’s winner in the Euro 2000 final.
Had it not been for Raymond Domenech, Pires could also have been part of the squad that finished as runner-up in the 2006 World Cup.
2: Youri Djorkaeff
Although Youri Djorkaeff was not predominantly a winger at club level, he was regularly played in a wide role for the French national team. The former AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan man represented Les Bleus for nine years between 1993 and 2002, amassing 82 appearances and scoring 28 goals.
Among Djorkaeff’s achievements, he was part of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000-winning France side and scored once in the former and twice in the latter. Had France made it to the 1994 World Cup in America, Djorkaeff could have added to his list of international achievements.
He also scored once as France reached the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championship in England.
Despite his success internationally, Djorkaeff only enjoyed limited domestic success with Monaco and PSG, as well as one UEFA Cup title triumph during his time in Italy with Inter.
1. Dominique Rocheteau
Arguably France’s greatest winger of all time though is Dominique Rocheteau.
The former AS Saint-Etienne, Paris Saint-Germain and Toulouse man might have only made 49 appearances for Les Bleus between 1975 and 1986, but the man nicknamed the Green Angel—from his time with Les Verts at the height of their popularity—is one of his country’s all-time greats.
Part of the 1984 European Championship-winning side—although he cruelly missed the final through injury—he will always be best remembered for that success. Rocheteau was also a member of Les Tricolores’ 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads, finishing fourth in 1982 and third in 1986.
In addition to his Euro 1984 title, he also won four Ligue 1 titles—three consecutively with Saint-Etienne and another with PSG—as well as three Coupe de France titles. He was also part of the ASSE side that finished runner-up to Bayern Munich in the 1976 UEFA Champions League final.