Reigning world champions France has produced numerous sensational strikers over the course of its illustrious history. Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappé, who has already been tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner, is just the latest in a long list of talented players that the two-time world champions have produced.
While Mbappé looks destined to finish his career as one of the greatest to have ever played for Les Bleus, we have a look at the top five goal-scorers in the history of the French national team.
Thierry Henry – 51 goals
A clinical finisher and one of the most elegant dribblers of all time, Thierry Henry was a part of the first French team to win a World Cup in 1998. He was also a part of the side that won the UEFA European Championship two years later and is the all-time leading goal-scorer in the history of Les Blues.
Henry’s football career, in fact, was filled with trophies and success for country as well as club. The talisman of Arsenal’s invincible team that went an entire Premier League campaign unbeaten, Henry won two English top-flight titles and two FA Cups with the Gunners. During his spell with Barcelona, the Frenchman won two La Ligas, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League.
Michel Platini – 41 goals
Perhaps the most gifted playmaker of his generation, Michel Platini was fondly referred to as the King during his playing days. Unlike Henry, Platini never won the World Cup with France but he was instrumental to their UEFA European Championship triumph in 1984 for which he was adjudged the Player of the Tournament after scoring nine goals, including successive hat-tricks in the group stage.
A born leader, Platini’s ability to score as well as create goals was unlike anyone else at the time and his influence on the pitch also helped Juventus win the Serie A in 1984 and 1986. Regarded as one of the finest passers of a football, Platini was technically gifted and lethal from dead-ball situations. A creative midfielder, his range of passing and vision on the ball were unmatched for a brief spell during which he won three Ballon d'Ors from 1983 to 1985.
Olivier Giroud – 39 goals
Olivier Giroud may not be the first name to pop up during conversations on France’s greatest-ever strikers, but the importance that the French targetman plays in the team is not lost on his teammates and coaches. A selfless striker who is deadly in the air and when inside the penalty box, it may come as a surprise to some that Giroud is third on the list for leading goal-scoring Frenchmen, with 39 strikes to his name.
A member of the team that won the 2018 World Cup, Giroud’s work ethic and knack to improvise with smart finishes inside the box means that he can contribute to teams even if he’s not always on the scoresheet. A Ligue 1 winner with Montpellier and a four-time FA Cup champion, Giroud is likely to add to his goal tally for France and move higher up on this list before retiring.
David Trezeguet – 34 goals
Like Henry, David Trezeguet was a member of the teams that won France the World Cup in 1998 and the UEFA European Championship in 2000. A complete striker with pace, power and a poacher’s instinct, Trezeguet was an opportunistic frontman who was always on hand to make the most of loose touches or lapses by defenders in the penalty area.
He didn’t require many touches of the ball to get his shot away either and was also a big threat in the air. Scorer of the golden goal that helped France beat Italy to win the UEFA European Championship in 2000, he also won two top-flight titles each in France and Italy with AS Monaco and Juventus respectively.
Zinedine Zidane – 31 goals
Deemed as the greatest playmaker of his generation, watching Zinedine Zidane with the ball at his feet was closest one could come to poetry in motion on a football pitch. The driving force behind Les Bleus’ World Cup triumph in 1998 and their UEFA European Championship success two years later, Zidane’s close control and vision are still topics of discussions in footballing circles.
A Ballon d’Or recipient, Zidane won league titles in Spain as well as Italy and was a part of Real Madrid’s Galactico era. With Los Blancos, Zizou, as he’s fondly known, won the UEFA Champions League. However, winning the World Cup and ending France’s long wait for the trophy is arguably one of the finest achievements of his career, if not his best.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Nicolas Asfouri