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The Next Generation of French Football: The Great Les Bleus

Tue 06 July 2021 | 13:30

In the following article from SportMob, we will have a look at the Next Generation of French football and analyze the top 10 best young French football players 2020/21.

France was the first national team to win the three most important men's titles recognized by FIFA: The World Cup, the Confederations Cup, and the Olympic tournament after the Confederations Cup in 2001. The next few years look pretty bright for the French football team. The arrival of the 2000 generation - whose most famous member is Kylian Mbappe -, who won the World Cup in 2018 should allow the national team to regain its past greatness.

Manager Didier Deschamps is building a national team full of young stars. The players among the 

10 French wonderkids

 are ready to prove themselves as gems. Boubacar Kamara, 

Theo Hernandez

, Boubakary Soumare, Yacine Adli, and Marcus Lilian Thuram-Ulien are young stars growing into world-beaters.

Although style, tactics, and philosophies undulate and evolve, a nation’s broad footballing identity is always there, quietly influencing changing generations of coaches and players. Dutch football is inextricably linked to Total Football; Spain has Tiki-taka, and Italian teams have often looked to Catenaccio. French football’s personality is a little hazier but, Didier Deschamps is its modern look. However, there are some positive signs regarding 

the next generation of French football

.

Deschamps is well aware of what a young united France squad can achieve, given his leading role in the team. Although far less overt than Total Football or Catenaccio, the definition of Champagne Football has evolved in the intervening years. Kylian Mbappe’s cool flick to 

Karim Benzema

 in Budapest (Euro 2020) for a clear chance that the striker scuffed wide is closer to the modern incarnation.

A fleeting but glorious flourish. A piece of footballing art rather than an overarching philosophy. Ligue 1, a league that relentlessly produces talents such as Mbappe and Benzema, has many charming talents. Notably, Eduardo Camavinga has turned into a brand of Ligue 1 and all French talents. But it is not enough to form the sample, so we intend to list the best young French footballers that could form France's future and make the country stay at the top for many years.

TOP 10 Best Young French Football Players 2020/21

Football is changing; its future is upon us. Today investing in young people and above all "building them at home" must be the next step in French football. For this reason, it becomes essential today to look at what can be done tomorrow and, in particular, to be able to compose "a generation Z" of players able to face the next challenges of the change implemented.

The players mentioned as

the next generation of French football

are the stars of their team. If you are interested in the list of top 10 best young French football players 2020/21, keep reading.

10. Boubacar Kamara

Still only 21, Kamara has already cemented his place in the Marseille midfield. Marseille academy graduate

Boubacar Kamara

is one of the hottest prospects in France right now. Despite only being 21, the midfielder has already amassed 96 Ligue 1 appearances, playing close to 8,000 minutes across four seasons; he has played close to 88 full matches worth minutes.

Kamara is a ball-winner in multiple forms, a hard pressing player, dueller, and interceptor, and as comfortable against the press as he knows how to get rid of opponent players. Kamara is Marseille’s defensive midfielder as he knows possession, is comfortable making distractions for opponents, and combinations with his teammates. A trademark of his is diagonal balls from the left side of the pitch to the right flank.

The France U-21 international is one of just ten under-23 midfielders in Europe’s top 5 leagues for ball-winning and ball recovery. His performance out-of-possession becomes even more impressive when you consider that the average number of pressures compared to last season has dropped more in Ligue 1 than any other top-five European League. He is a future star in

the next generation of French football

.

9. Boubakary Soumare

Boubakary Soumare

is one of the most prominent of 10 French wonderkids in the next generation of French football. He is on the verge of joining Leicester City, and it seems he will be the next star of the Premier League. Soumare joined Lille in 2017, having spent time at the Paris FC and Paris Saint-Germain academies, making 8 appearances for the latter’s B team.

In his nearly 4 years at the club, he has made 72 appearances thus far, becoming a regular side only last season. His development may be slightly behind some of the more prominent names around his age. Still, Soumare has already shown glimpses of his potential as a player at the very top level of the game, and this season has been an important cog in the Lille title charge and their European campaign.

This piece will explore his style of play, strengths, weaknesses, and how he might fit in at Leicester. Under manager Christophe Galtier, he has started 23 games and made 15 substitute appearances for a total of 2040 minutes of action in Ligue 1 and the Europa League. Most of Soumare's abilities in terms of numbers are fantastic. Clearly, Soumare is not in the Bruno Fernandes or Kevin De Bruyne level, but he got the potential and can be successful.

8. Yacine Adli

A wonderfully creative midfielder, previously linked with Arsenal and

Milan

, Adli is expected to feature prominently in the Next Generation of French football. With the billions at their disposal, there’s one thing that Paris Saint-Germain neglect, their youth.

The capital of France, and its outskirts, is quite frankly a hub of footballing activity, the talent pool is exceptional, but it’s not utilized. The Ile-de-France region has produced Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Anthony Martial, and N’Golo Kante, amongst others.

The fact that Mbappe grew up within a touching distance of the Parc des Princes but ended up at AS Monaco as a youngster before being signed by PSG for around €180m in 2017 shows the club’s attitude towards youth. In recent years, Moussa Diaby, Christopher Nkunku, Adil Aouchiche, and Tanguy Nianzou Kouassi left the Paris club due to a lack of a pathway to the first-team barring Nianzou; they’ve all excelled since leaving.

Under the guidance of Jean-Louis Gasset, Adli has found himself in the team more often, and with over 2,000 league minutes and 21 starts under his belt, he’s found his groove is making the most of it. Furthermore, one of Adli’s greatest strengths is his ball work off the ball, something that many lacks and his match intelligence is at an incredible level for someone his age; his maturity is well beyond his years.

Just last season, he became the first player born in the 2000s to score a brace in Ligue 1, so he certainly has capabilities in front of goal, but as mentioned earlier, it’s not his only magic. At just 20 years old, Adli has years of maturing ahead of him. Still, his talent is already being projected onto the biggest stage in France, and it won’t be long before he leaves 16th-placed Bordeaux to play European football, likely providing his current club with a huge profit. Keep an eye on Italy's largest asset in the next generation of French football.

7. Lucien Agoume

Lucien Agoume

plays as a defensive midfielder most of the time but can be deployed as a central midfielder and, on some rare occasions, even as an attacking midfielder. Born in Cameroon, the youngster is the youngest player to debut for Sochaux, currently in Ligue 2. Lucien Agoume made his debut for Sochaux in Ligue 2 last October, aged just 16. He played 16 matches in his debut professional season, and if it were not for youth international matches, that number would have been far higher.

Playing for the U19 team at 15 years of age, Agoume was always very much ahead of his age group. When it was mentioned that Barcelona wanted Agoume, it was quite apparent that the young Frenchman had great technique and tactical awareness. We shall look at a few examples to see to what extent this awareness goes.

In a player as young as 19 years of age, tactical awareness and footballing intelligence can only be expected to a certain extent. He has great off-the-ball movement, good awareness, and his ability to find space for himself to offer as a passing option is incredible. In 2020, Inter signed and loaned him out to Spezia. Agoume is considered as one of the

5 Young French Soccer Players to Watch in 2021

.

6. Adil Aouchiche

Adil Aouchiche

is of Algerian descent but was born in France, and he is currently a French youth international. The 18-year-old Paris Saint Germain’s academy graduate announced himself to the world in the 2019 UEFA European Under-17 Championship after showcasing his goalscoring prowess.

Aouchiche featured prominently during the youth tournament for France youth; his performance was outstanding all through the competition. Despite being a midfielder, Aouchiche found the back of the net 9 times in 5 matches, taking France as far as the semi-finals.

Aouchiche has to be a regular player for the club’s youth team, and he’s being regarded as one of the

top 10 best young French football players 2020/21

. Aouchiche intelligently moves into space off the ball to make himself available for a pass. He often likes to simplify his play by making pass-and-move runs. His passes are deftly and powerfully executed.

Aouchiche ability to send dangerous and accurate passes has seen him compared to France's world cup winner and legend Zidane. At the same time, some fans have compared him to another World Cup winner

Mesut Ozil

. His silky move and runs are undoubtedly an intelligent piece of art from a pure talent youngster.

Aouchiche can play up front, on the wings, central midfield, and natural position as a No.10. Aouchiche made Goal’s NxGn 2021 list of the top 50 youngsters born on or after 1 January 2001. With only two full seasons under his belt at senior level in Ligue 1, Aouchiche can already claim to be one of the stars of the next generation of French football.

5. Theo Hernandez

"Theo Hernandez is doing great from an attacking point of view. Since he signed for Milan, he has improved a lot, and we can see it in every match. He scores goals and makes assists regularly. He is my brother, so I am biased, but he is also an excellent player."

These were France's left-back Lucas Hernandez's words when he spoke about his younger brother and AC Milan defender Theo. Lucas has had an illustrious career so far, winning numerous trophies at club level with Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich and the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Les Bleus.

Theo Hernandez might not have the medals that his older brother has won, but the 23-year-old develops into a fantastic player. Surprisingly, Theo was not named by Didier Deschamps for the France squad for Euro 2020. It was truly a disappointment, but we should accept that completion in his position is high.

Known more for his attacking qualities than his defensive capabilities, the younger Hernandez brother is a footballer blessed with great pace, can dribble fast, and know how to get into goalscoring positions. We now live in an era where the modern full-back role is just as significant as the playmaker role was in previous generations, and exactly, for this reason, he is the future of the next generation of France football.

To put it in a greater context, he has beaten the likes of Insigne,

Mkhitaryan

, and Ronaldo in terms of dribbling record, players who have established themselves as brilliant dribblers in the past. Without a doubt, Zaniolo has a special in the list of 5 Young French Soccer Players to Watch in 2021.

4. Eduardo Camavinga

An extraordinary teenager came to the world’s sight in the summer of 2019 after the exquisite performance against Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1, and the footballing auditorium questioned who this guy is?

Eduardo Camavinga

, born in Angola but raised in France, played toe to toe versus Marco Verratti, Marquinhos, and Angel di Maria in the midfield and sent them home with zero points in their pockets. That game pointed him out as the next big thing in France.

He is seen as the successor of Kante as the next generation of France football big thing. The 18-year-old entered the Rennes first team this year and stuck in it with his great performances, week in, week out, showing that he deserves dithyrambs that are served on him. Even though he is planned to step into the boots of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, he’s the mixture of two of them, and his career could easily go through plenty of different paths.

Camavinga is a two-way midfielder with characteristics of the modern best players in that position. His age gives him even more value because although he is very young, he already has some major qualities that put him on the biggest teams’ shortlists for the upcoming transfer windows.

The French midfielder is an embodiment of the modern football-control idea in that part of the pitch. He plays as a true metronome, building the actions for his team and organizing the central areas in the way he sees them. That is possible because of his great motions in his maneuvering space, as he is always close to the action in the zones for which he is in charge.

Camavinga works all around the field, focusing on the midfield but floating in a non-strict manner and positioning both in higher half-spaces and coming closer to his goal to be included in the build-up. The main job of this player is to be included in the opening stages of the attacks and organize them in the following ones. Camavinga’s body positioning and movement are at a high level.

3. Jonathan Ikone

If we are talking about

10 French wonderkids

,

Jonathan Ikone

should be there. After PSG sold Jonathan Ikone to Lille in 2018, he has improved a great deal. The Frenchman has also recently featured in the French national team. Even though Lille did not do well in the UEFA Europe League, they became Ligue 1 champion.

Ikone is a player with pace and flair who can play in many attacking positions. He seems to be most comfortable on the wing but has played forward in many games. It usually depends on what type of gameplay Christophe Galtier wants to employ. As mentioned before, Ikone seems to be most comfortable playing on the wing. This is the case because, on the wing, he gets more of the ball than as a forward. Consequently, he can show his attacking abilities more often and influence the game more often.

Also, when he is in the wing position, his movements are more unpredictable for the opponent as he likes going into the middle. He goes in between the midfield and defensive line, where the opponents are not expecting him to be. This creates space for Ikone. He does this from both wings, depending on where he plays.

He normally does this when the ball is on the other side, making himself an easier option to play with than if he had been on the wing. Moreover, it also causes the opponent’s defensive line to be unsure who to mark or whether to step up and mark Ikone in the middle.

Ikone is an agile player who dribbles well, and regarding this fact, he might actually be the next generation of French football big star. Furthermore, we can see in Figure seven that most of his dribbles are from the right-wing and are usually successful. He likes dribbling from the right side because he can either cut into his left foot or run towards the end line with a turn of pace.

Overall, this tactical analysis shows that Ikone is a talented player who excels in dribbling and playing through the middle to dismantle opponents. His attacking through the middle, which is the most dangerous area, makes him a nuisance for opponents. He also provides Lille with many attacking opportunities and positions, but he needs to improve his shooting abilities and losses. If Ikone manages to improve this, there is no doubt that bigger teams from the Premier League, among other leagues, will come knocking on Lille’s door for the young starlet.

2. Jules Kounde

From Aymeric Laporte to Raphael Varane, from Presnel Kimpembe to Dayot Upamecano, there isn’t a single nation in the world that can compete to France’s center back depth, and the next name in the list of 5 Young French Soccer Players to Watch in 2021, is

Jules Kounde

.

After promoting to Bordeaux’s academy and breaking into manager Gus Poyet’s starting eleven, Kounde earned a €25m move to Sevilla in the summer of 2019, where he would link up with Diego Carlos, who arrived from Nantes in the same window for €15m. The two would go on to form a rock-solid duo in the heart of Lopetegui’s defense, as Sevilla finished fourth and won the UEFA Europa League.

Let’s take a deeper look at France’s next top center back. Kounde’s defending style is a touch more conservative. He prefers to delay his actions and force his opponents into making mistakes by closing down the angles.

Kounde is a risk-averse player on the ball as well, preferring to play it safe instead of attempting high-risk, high-reward passes. As demonstrated by his low percentiles in tackles, interceptions, possession won, and dribblers tackled, followed by low numbers in dribbled past statistics, he is a low volume defender who doesn’t lunge into tackles very often and prefers to let the play come at him.

Many critics compare him to Van Dijk, but Van Dijk is clearly a few levels ahead of Kounde. Despite his height, he is impeccable in the air, and despite his age, he is cool and collected against the toughest of his opposition. Kounde is a rare talent, and at 21 years of age, he has everything it takes to become one of the 10 French wonderkids. However, Kounde has all the potential to make it into the list of

the next generation of French football

.

1. Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe is firmly established as one of the best players in the world, and he has already won more trophies than most players do in an entire career. He became Monaco’s youngest ever player and soon after their youngest ever goalscorer during the 2015/16 season, and then led his team to the Ligue 1 title in 2016/17. A €180m transfer to Paris Saint-Germain followed when Mbappe was still only 18, and he won three more league titles and a World Cup with

France

.

Few players ever reach these heights: Mbappe is a superstar as he is already right at the very top of the game. PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Mbappe will, in time, become an all-time great. “He has the potential,” said Pochettino. “He lacks nothing but time. We cannot speed up the process. I think he’s already among the best in the world."

He likes to hang on the last defender's shoulder and give them a constant worry about him getting in behind. Defenders are terrified of stepping up too high because there are few players capable of catching him. 

He is an incredibly composed finisher, with a box of tricks up his sleeve when he gets one-on-one with a goalkeeper. If he is under pressure from a chasing defender, Mbappe lengthens his stride before attempting his finish, giving himself more time to assess the goalkeeper’s position.

There are few players in world football more frightening in a one-on-one situation. If he has space to run into, a simple push-and-run will likely leave his opponent for dead, and when he has less space, he can change direction quickly and get out of a tight situation. He is so much more than just a finisher or just a dribbler. It is the combination of his skills that makes him such a formidable forward.

Mbappe is not only lightning quick across the ground, but he also shows a greater speed of thought than most defenders, spotting opportunities to run in behind before his opponents. He exploits the space he creates for himself to devastating effect, and somehow maybe this is proof that he is considered the best player of the 5 Young French Soccer Players to Watch in 2021 list.

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