The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary French Soccer Players of all time. This list of famous French Soccer Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of French Soccer Players.
With an HPI of 72.54, Zinedine Zidane is the most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 111 different languages on wikipedia.
Zinedine Yazid Zidane (French: Zinédine Yazid Zidane; born 23 June 1972), popularly known as Zizou, is a French professional football manager and former player who played as an attacking midfielder. He most recently coached Spanish club Real Madrid and is one of the most successful coaches in the world. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Zidane was a playmaker renowned for his elegance, vision, passing, ball control, and technique. He received many individual accolades as a player, including being named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000 and 2003, and winning the 1998 Ballon d'Or. Zidane started his career at Cannes before establishing himself as one of the best players in the French Ligue 1 at Bordeaux. In 1996, he moved to Italian team Juventus, where he won several trophies including two Serie A titles. He moved to Real Madrid for a world record fee at the time of €77.5 million in 2001, which remained unmatched for the next eight years. In Spain, Zidane won several trophies, including a La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League. In the 2002 Champions League final, he scored a left-foot volleyed winner that is considered one of the greatest goals in the competition's history. Capped 108 times by France, Zidane won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, scoring twice in the final, and was named to the All-Star team. This triumph made him a national hero in France and he received the Legion of Honour in 1998. He won UEFA Euro 2000 and was named Player of the Tournament. He also received the Golden Ball as Player of the Tournament at the 2006 World Cup, despite his infamous sending off in the final against Italy for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest. He retired as the fourth-most capped player in French history. In 2004, he was named in the FIFA 100, a list of the world's greatest living players compiled by Pelé, and in the same year was named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. Zidane is one of eight players to have won the World Cup, the Champions League, and the Ballon d'Or. He was the ambassador for Qatar's successful bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, the first Arab country to host the tournament. After retiring as a player, Zidane began his coaching career at Real Madrid Castilla. He remained in the position for two years before taking the helm of the first team in 2016. In his initial two and a half seasons, Zidane became the first coach to win the Champions League three times in a row, won the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup twice each, as well as a La Liga title and a Supercopa de España. This success led to Zidane being named Best FIFA Men's Coach in 2017. He resigned in 2018, but returned to the club in 2019 and won another La Liga and a Supercopa de España title before leaving again in 2021.
With an HPI of 70.83, Michel Platini is the 2nd most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 86 different languages.
Michel François Platini (born 21 June 1955) is a French football administrator and former player and manager. Regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Platini won the Ballon d'Or three times in a row, in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and came seventh in the FIFA Player of the Century vote. In recognition of his achievements, he was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1985 and became an Officier in 1998. As the president of UEFA in 2015 he was banned from involvement in football under FIFA's organisation, over ethics violations. The ban will last until 2023.During his career, Platini played for the clubs Nancy, Saint-Étienne, and Juventus. Nicknamed Le Roi (The King) for his ability and leadership, he was a prolific goalscorer; he won the Serie A capocannoniere award three consecutive times between 1983 and 1985, and was the top scorer of Juventus's victorious 1984–85 European Cup campaign. Platini was a key player of the France national team that won the 1984 European Championship, a tournament in which he was the top scorer and best player, and reached the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. Together with midfielders Alain Giresse, Luis Fernández and Jean Tigana, he formed the carré magique (magic square) of the French team in the 1980s. Platini was his country's record goalscorer until 2007, and held the record for most goals (9) scored in the European Championship until being surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2021, despite only appearing in the victorious 1984 edition.Following his retirement as a player, Platini was the France national team coach for four years, and was the co-organizer of the 1998 World Cup in France. In 2007, he became the first former player to be elected as the president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). He also held the positions of chairman of FIFA's Technical and Development Committee and vice-president of the French Football Federation.
With an HPI of 69.30, Raymond Kopa is the 3rd most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.
Raymond Kopa (né Kopaszewski; 13 October 1931 – 3 March 2017) was a French professional footballer, integral to the France national team of the 1950s. At club level he was part of the legendary Real Madrid team of the 1950s, winning three European Cups. Often considered one of the best players of his generation, Kopa was an attacking midfielder who was quick, agile and known for his dribbling, playmaking, and prolific scoring. In 1958, Kopa was awarded the Ballon d'Or. In 1970, he became the first football player to receive the Légion d'honneur, and in 2004, Pelé named him one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA Awards Ceremony.
With an HPI of 63.60, Eric Cantona is the 4th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 65 different languages.
Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona (French: Éric; pronounced [e.ʁik dan.jɛl pjɛʁ kɑ̃.tɔ.na]; born 24 May 1966) is a French actor, director, producer, and former professional footballer. Often regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, Cantona is credited as having made Manchester United a dominant force in English football in the 1990s, and has legendary status at the club. A large, physically strong, hard-working, and tenacious player, Cantona combined technical skill and creativity with power and goalscoring ability. Widely occupied as a deep-lying forward, he was also capable of playing as a centre-forward, as an out-and-out striker, as an attacking midfielder, or as a central midfielder on occasion. Cantona played for Auxerre, Martigues, Marseille, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nîmes, and Leeds United before ending his career at Manchester United, where he won four Premier League titles in five years and two League and FA Cup Doubles. He wore the iconic No. 7 shirt at Manchester United, and was known for turning up his collar – a trademark look. He is also affectionately nicknamed by Manchester United fans as "King Eric". Cantona won the league championship in seven of his last eight full seasons as a professional. At international level, he played for the France national team and scored 20 goals in 45 matches. He appeared at UEFA Euro 1992 and, in preparation for Euro 96, was appointed the nation's captain until a football suspension which resulted from an incident in January 1995. In 2003, Cantona was voted as Manchester United's greatest ever player by Inside United magazine. He was an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002. The museum states that "the enigmatic Frenchman was one of the Premier League's most controversial players ever". At the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards in 2003, he was voted the Overseas Player of the Decade. Cantona was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2021. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players. Charismatic and outspoken, set against Cantona's achievements in football was a poor disciplinary record throughout his career, including a 1995 conviction for the January 1995 incident – an assault on an abusive spectator – for which he received a two-week prison sentence (reduced to community service on appeal) and an eight-month suspension from football. In 1997, Cantona unexpectedly announced his retirement from football at the age of 30. He pursued a career in cinema and had roles in the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett; the 2008 film French Film, and the 2009 film Looking for Eric. In 2010, he debuted as a stage actor in Face au Paradis, a play directed by his wife, Rachida Brakni. Cantona took an interest in the sport of beach soccer; as player-manager of the France national team, he won the 2005 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
With an HPI of 62.64, Thierry Henry is the 5th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 82 different languages.
Thierry Daniel Henry (born 17 August 1977) is a French professional football coach, pundit, and former player who is an assistant coach for the Belgium national team. Considered one of the best strikers of all time and one of the best players to play in the Premier League, Henry was runner-up for the Ballon d'Or in 2003, FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004, and finished third place for the Ballon d'Or in 2006. He was named the FWA Footballer of the Year a record three times, the PFA Players' Player of the Year a joint-record two times, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year six consecutive times. He was also included in the FIFA FIFPro World XI once and the UEFA Team of the Year five times. Henry made his professional debut with Monaco in 1994 before signing for defending Serie A champions Juventus. However, limited playing time, coupled with disagreements with the club's hierarchy, led to him signing for Premier League club Arsenal for £11 million in 1999. Under long-time mentor and coach Arsène Wenger, Henry became a prolific striker and Arsenal's all-time leading scorer with 228 goals in all competitions. He won the Premier League Golden Boot a record four times, won two FA Cups and two Premier League titles with the club, including one during an unbeaten Invincible season. Henry spent his final two seasons with Arsenal as club captain, leading them to the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final. Henry transferred to Barcelona in 2007 and in the 2008–09 season, he was a key part of the club's historic treble when they won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League. In 2010, he joined Major League Soccer (MLS) club New York Red Bulls and returned to Arsenal on loan for two months in 2012, before retiring in 2014. Henry had success with France, winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2000, and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup. He was named French Player of the Year a record five times, named to the UEFA Euro 2000 Team of the Tournament, awarded both the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball and Golden Shoe, and named to the 2006 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team. In October 2007, he became his country's record goalscorer, a record he held until December 2022. After amassing 123 appearances and 51 goals, Henry retired from international football after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After retiring, Henry transitioned into coaching. He began coaching Arsenal's youth teams in February 2015, in tandem with his work as a pundit for Sky Sports. In 2016, he was appointed as an assistant coach at Belgium, before assuming the role as the head coach at Monaco in 2018. He was relieved of his duties at Monaco in January 2019 and returned to MLS less than a year later to manage Montréal Impact. He led Montréal to the playoffs in the 2020 season before departing in 2021.
With an HPI of 62.16, Lucien Laurent is the 6th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 37 different languages.
Lucien Laurent (10 December 1907 – 11 April 2005) was a French association football player who played as a forward. Playing for France, at the 1930 World Cup he scored the first ever FIFA World Cup goal against Mexico.
With an HPI of 61.43, Didier Deschamps is the 7th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 67 different languages.
Didier Claude Deschamps (French pronunciation: [didje klod deʃɑ̃]; born 15 October 1968) is a French professional football manager and former player who has been manager of the France national team since 2012. He played as a defensive midfielder for several clubs, in France, Italy, England and Spain, namely Marseille, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia, as well as Nantes and Bordeaux. Nicknamed "the water-carrier" (French: le porteur d'eau) by former France teammate Eric Cantona, Deschamps was an intelligent and hard-working defensive midfielder who excelled at winning back possession and subsequently starting attacking plays, and also stood out for his leadership throughout his career. As a French international, he was capped on 103 occasions and took part at three UEFA European Football Championships and one FIFA World Cup, captaining his nation to victories in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. In addition to winning two Ligue 1 titles in 1990 and 1992, Deschamps was part of the Marseille squad that became the first, and so far only, French club to win the UEFA Champions League, a feat which the team achieved in 1993; with the Champions League victory, Deschamps became the youngest captain ever to lead his team to win the title. With Juventus he played three Champions League finals in a row between 1996 and 1998, winning the title in 1996. With the Turin side, he also won the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, as well as three Serie A titles, among other trophies. With Chelsea, he won the 1999–2000 FA Cup, and also reached another Champions League final with Valencia in 2001, before retiring later that season. After Franz Beckenbauer and followed by Iker Casillas, he was only the second captain in the history of football to have lifted the Champions League trophy, the World Cup trophy, and the European Championship trophy.As a manager, Deschamps began his career with Monaco, and helped the club to win the Coupe de la Ligue in 2003, and reached the 2004 UEFA Champions League Final, being named Ligue 1 Manager of the Year in 2004. During the 2006–07 season, he helped his former club Juventus win the Serie B title and return to Serie A following their relegation due to their involvement in the 2006 Calciopoli Scandal the previous season. He subsequently managed another one of his former clubs, Marseille, where he won the Ligue 1 title during the 2009–10 season, as well as three consecutive Coupe de la Ligue titles between 2010 and 2012, and consecutive Trophée des Champions titles in 2010 and 2011. On 8 July 2012, Deschamps was named as the new manager of the French national team. He led the team to the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the final of UEFA Euro 2016, victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the last of these making Deschamps the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager, and a back-to-back final appearance in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Alongside Mário Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer, Deschamps follows Beckenbauer as only the second to do so as captain.
With an HPI of 61.12, Franck Ribéry is the 8th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 82 different languages.
Franck Henry Pierre Ribéry (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃k ʁibeʁi]; born 7 April 1983) is a French former professional footballer who primarily played as a winger, preferably on the left side, and was known for his pace, energy, skill, and precise passing. Ribéry has been described as a player who is fast, tricky and an excellent dribbler, who has great control with the ball at his feet. While with Bayern, he was recognised on the world stage as one of the best players of his generation. The previous talisman of the French national team, Zinedine Zidane, once referred to Ribéry as the "jewel of French football".Ribéry's career began in 1989 as a youth player for local hometown club Conti Boulogne. He left the club after seven years to join professional outfit Lille, but departed the club after three years after having difficulties adjusting. In 1999, Ribéry joined US Boulogne, where he played for two years. After spending two more years in the amateur divisions with two clubs (Alès and Brest), Ribéry earned a move to Ligue 1 club Metz in 2004. After six months with the club, Ribéry moved to Turkey in January 2005 to join Galatasaray, where he won the Turkish Cup. After six months at Galatasaray, he departed the club in controversial fashion in order to return to France to join Marseille. Ribéry spent two seasons at the club, helping the Marseillais reach the final of the Coupe de France in back-to-back seasons. In 2007, Ribéry joined German club Bayern Munich for a then club-record fee of €25 million. With Bayern, he won nine Bundesliga titles (at the time a Bundesliga record), six DFB-Pokal, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup, which include five doubles and one treble, amounting to a then club record of 24 titles over twelve seasons. His form for Bayern in the club's 2012–13 treble winning season saw him nominated alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the three-man shortlist for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or. During his long spell at Bayern, Ribéry was also known for his fruitful partnership with fellow winger Arjen Robben—together they were affectionately referred to by the nickname Robbery. He left Bayern in summer 2019, and subsequently joined Italian side Fiorentina, while Robben retired from football. Between 2006 and 2014, Ribéry represented the France national team 81 times. He played at two FIFA World Cups (2006 and 2010) and two UEFA European Championships (2008 and 2012). Individually, Ribéry is a three-time winner of the French Player of the Year award and also won the German award of Footballer of the Year, becoming the first player to hold both honours. He has also been named to the UEFA Team of the Year and declared the Young Player of the Year in France. In 2013, Ribéry won the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. In 2013, he was also ranked fourth in The Guardian's list of the best players in the world.He is currently in charge as a technical collaborator of Italian Serie A club Salernitana, which was also his final club as a player.
With an HPI of 60.63, Karim Benzema is the 9th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 90 different languages.
Karim Mostafa Benzema (born 19 December 1987) is a French professional footballer who plays as a striker for and captains La Liga club Real Madrid. A creative and prolific forward, Benzema is regarded as one of the best strikers of all time. He is Real Madrid's all-time second-highest goalscorer and top assist provider. Benzema has won 23 trophies with Real Madrid, including four La Liga, two Copa del Rey and five UEFA Champions League titles. Born in Lyon to Algerian parents, Benzema began his career with hometown club Olympique Lyonnais in 2005, contributing sporadically to three Ligue 1 title wins. In 2008, he was named the league's Player of the Year and in the Team of the Year having finished as the league's top goalscorer and winning his fourth league title and first Coupe de France. In 2009, Benzema was the subject of a then-French record football transfer when he joined Real Madrid in a deal worth €35 million. After struggling to establish himself in his debut season, he eventually achieved a consistent goalscoring rate with the club, notably being part of a highly rated trio alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale — dubbed BBC — who were integral to four Champions League wins from 2014 to 2018. Following Ronaldo's departure in 2018, Benzema transitioned from the false 9 position into a sole striker. He was named in the La Liga Team of the Season for four consecutive years from 2018 to 2022, won La Liga Best Player twice and the Pichichi Trophy for the first time in 2022. Benzema finished as Champions League top scorer as he won his fifth title in 2022. A French international, Benzema won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Championship and made his senior debut for France in 2007, at age 19. He earned 97 caps, including scoring in three and appearing in four major tournaments, and ranks as France's fifth-highest all-time top goalscorer. Benzema was controversially left out of the squad for the 2010 World Cup and did not play for France for over five years after being implicated in a blackmailing scandal in 2015; he later returned to the squad before announcing his international retirement in December 2022. He has been named French Player of the Year by France Football four times. For his performances in 2021 and 2022, Benzema was awarded the UEFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or, becoming the fifth French player to have won the Ballon d'Or. At 34 years and 302 days old, he is the second-oldest winner of the award, after Stanley Matthews.
With an HPI of 60.53, Laurent Blanc is the 10th most famous French Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.
Laurent Robert Blanc (born 19 November 1965) is a French professional football manager and former player who played as a centre-back, and is currently the manager of Ligue 1 club Lyon. He has the nickname Le Président, which was given to him following his stint at Marseille in tribute to his leadership skills.Blanc played professional football for numerous clubs, including Montpellier, Napoli, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan and Manchester United, often operating in the sweeper position. He is also a former French international, earning 97 caps and scoring 16 international goals. He represented the country in several international tournaments, including the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000, both of which France won. On 28 June 1998, Blanc scored the first golden goal in World Cup history against Paraguay. He began his managerial career at Bordeaux in 2007, winning domestic honours including the 2008–09 Ligue 1 title. After leaving Bordeaux in 2010 he became the manager of the French national team until 2012, replacing Raymond Domenech in the wake of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and leading the country to the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2012. In 2013, he was hired by Paris Saint-Germain, winning further honours. After three successful years with Paris Saint-Germain he left the club in June 2016.
Pantheon has 790 people classified as soccer players born between 1876 and 2003. Of these 790, 708 (89.62%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living soccer players include Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, and Eric Cantona. The most famous deceased soccer players include Raymond Kopa, Lucien Laurent, and Henri Delaunay. As of April 2022, 75 new soccer players have been added to Pantheon including René Petit, Maurice Guigue, and Édouard Mendy.
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Which Soccer Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Soccer Players since 1700.