Home to many of the world’s best footballers ever, France has had his share of world-class strikers, wingers and attackers. So let’s find out who are the best French forwards of all time:
By now it is an undisputed fact that French football and its youth development programs have introduced to the world some of the greatest players in the history of football. the way youth development was revolutionized in France during the 1970s has given rise to numerous footballing talents like,Zidane
, Deschamps, Henry, Trezeguet and many other talented individuals from every position.
But today we are going to take a look at the country’s history to determine who are the
best French forwards of all time
. When talking about French forwards, players like Henry and Trezeguet immediately come to mind, perhaps because of the sheer amount of talent and the success they brought to France during the late 90s and early 2000s. but who else have come close to these two legends of the game, both in terms of ability and success they achieved on the pitch. Let’s find out:
Since French football has been so dominant in the past 3 decades and some of the greatest French football players of all-time, it could’ve been so easy to pick all the players from our list from this era but we’ve tried to sneak in some players from other parts of French football history as well!
We start our list with one of the best French players in history and a Real Madrid legend, Karim Benzema. A divisive figure among French football fans and critics, Karim Benzema is makes an appearance on our list mostly because of his extremely successful time at Real Madrid rather than being part of France’s dominance in the past decade but nonetheless Benzema has become one of the
best French soccer players of all time
Born in Lyon, Karim Benzema came through the ranks of Lyon academy to make his debut for the club in the 2004-05 season but it wasn’t until two years later that he had his breakout season with Lyon while still being a teenager. He then proceeded to have an outstanding season a year later as he scored 31 goals for Lyon across all competitions and was named Ligue 1’s Player of the Season. he repeated his amazing form in the 2008-09 season before leaving Lyon for Real Madrid for a fee of €35 million, after helping Lyon win 4 Ligue 1 trophies and a Coupe de France.
At Real Madrid, Benzema soon became a regular after adjusting to life atLa Liga
in his debut season. he started scoring 20+ goals a season regularly (a feat which he has done in 9 out of his past 12 seasons at the club). he was already enjoying a great partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo but then in 2013 Gareth Bale joined the two to form the famous BBC forward line and help Real Madrid win 4 Champions League titles in the space of 4 seasons.
During his tenure at Real Madrid, Karim Benzema has won 3 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Reys, 4 FIFA Club World Cups and 4 Champions League trophies as well as becoming the club’s 5th all time top scorer with 281 goals and best ever assist provider.
’s legacy with the French national team is however mixed since he was put aside from the national team after him being involved with a scandal in 2015 and he has only recently made his return. Nonetheless he played a major part in France’s squad in 2010 and 2014 World Cups and has scored 31 goals in 87 appearances for France. An immensely talented forward that always silences his haters on the pitch, Karim Benzema is undoubtedly one of the best French forwards of all time and a great starting point to our list.
Perhaps one of the most underrated players on our list and among the best French players in history in general is Dominique Rocheteau. The former Saint-Etienne and PSG winger was one of France’s most decorated players before the 21st century and has won titles with both Saint-Etienne and PSG during his career as well as reaching a Champions League final with Saint-Etienne. Rocheteau has also appeared and scored in 3 different World Cups for France between 1978 and 1986 as well as being a part of the team that won the 1984 Euros.
But let us go to the start of his career where he made his debut for Saint-Etienne in 1972. After playing a bit part role at the club in his first few seasons, Rocheteau made his breakthrough in the 1975-76 season which was the same season Saint-Etienne reached the Champions League final (back then called the European Cup). Rocheteau scored a goal in the quarter-final against the title holders, Dynamo Kiev, which he cherishes as his best footballing moment. Nonetheless, Saint-Etienne lost the final 1-0 to Gerd Muller’s Bayern Munich.
After playing for 8 seasons for Saint-Etienne at the height of the club’s power and winning 3 consecutive Division 1 titles between 1974 and 1976 as well as a Coupe de France in 1977, Rocheteau decided to join the newly formedPSG
in 1980 and went on to spend 7 successful seasons with the Parisian club where he became a more potent goal scorer, constantly scoring 15+ goals every season. he managed to win another Division 1 title as well as 2 Coupe de France trophies with PSG before leaving the club to join Toulouse where he would retire from football in 1989 after only 2 seasons.
Undoubtedly one of the
best French Forwards of all time
, Rocheteau has appeared in 3 different World Cups, scoring once in the 1978 and 1986 World Cups and twice in the 1982. His best tournament was however in 1986 where he assisted 4 goals for France as they reached the semi-final. He was also a part of the team that won the 1984 Euros (France’s first) and because of that has cemented his legacy as one of France’s all-time greats.
The former Atletico Madrid talisman and current Barcelona No.7 is next up on our list of best French forwards of all time. Born to parents of German and Portuguese descent in the city of Macon, France, Antoine Griezmann has become of the face of France’s 2nd Golden generation, leading the Les Bleus to both the Euros and World Cup finals in the past 5 years, helping them win the latter in 2018 and thus becoming one of the
greatest French football players of all-time
Strangely though, Griezmann never played for a French club in his career as he was scouted byReal Sociedad
when he was 14 and was brought to Spain. At Sociedad, Griezmann quickly became a regular starter as a winger as soon as he turned 18 and helped the club win promotion to La Liga in 2010. Then gradually he became one of La Liga’s top prospects before moving to then La Liga champions, Atletico Madrid.
With Atletico, Griezmann became one of the best players in the world and took his game to another level, constantly scoring 25+ or 30+ goals a season for the Colchoneros. He helped the club reach a Champions league final in 2016 and 2 years later win the Europa League. he was also nominated for a Ballon d’Or during his time at Atletico. He then finally joined Barcelona at the start of the 2019-20 season for a record fee of €120 million, becoming thefifth-most expensive player of all time
and has since won a Copa del Rey with the Catalan club.
At International level, Griezmann has become one of France’s all time greats since his debut in 2014. He scored 6 goals and assisted 2 more in the Euro 2016 as France reached the final only to be beaten by Portugal. He was named the top scorer and the best player of that tournament. But that loss didn’t faze him since he repeated his form at the 2018 World Cup, scoring 4 and assisting 3 times as France won the World Cup for a second time in its history.
Despite several controversies surrounding him there is no doubt that on a football pitch, Griezmann is one of the
best French players in history
. He may even go on to leave a legacy at Barcelona now that Lionel Messi is gone!
As a player, Olivier Giroud divides opinion. The center forward has been heavily criticized and praised everywhere he’s played but there when it comes to achievements in football there is no denying that Olivier Giroud has done it all. By the age of 24, Olivier Giroud was still playing in the 2nd tier of French football but he made himself known as he ledMontpellier
to an unlikely Ligue 1 title which then led to him to Arsenal where he won 3 FA Cups before joining Chelsea in 2018 where he won a Champions League as well as helping France win the 2018 World Cup.
Giroud started his career at Ligue 2 side Grenoble before joining Tours where he finally had his breakout year in the 2009-10 season where he became top scorer and the Player of the Year in Ligue 2 before joining the Ligue 1 side Montpellier. At Montpellier Giroud adjusted to the atmosphere of Ligue 1 in his debut season but quickly fired the team to an unlikely title victory in his second season.
Then came his 9 seasons at the Premier League, 5 and half of which was atArsenal
where he scored 105 goals and led Gunners to 3 FA Cup victories. then Giroud left to join the London rivals, Chelsea, where he won an FA Cup a Europa League and a Champions League before signing on for Serie A Giants, AC Milan this summer after 3 and half season at the club.
Karim Benzema’s exclusion from the French teams in the last decade was very much to Giroud’s benefit as he became France’s No.1 striker over the last decade and helped Les Bleus reach the 2016 Euros final and the 2018 World Cup final, losing the former and winning the latter. He is also currently France’s 2nd best goal scorer of all time behind Thierry Henry with 46 goals in 110 matches for France and has a chance of reaching Henry’s 51 goals.
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that there are only a handful of players in football that have achieved the things that Olivier Giroud has done over the years and for that he is certainly one of the best French Forwards of all time.
David Trezeguet is a man that perhaps scored the most important goal in French football’s history as he scored that beautiful goal in extra time against Italy in the final of Euro 2000. Aptly named Trezegol by Juventus fans, David Trezeguet was the definition of a modern center forward that when partnered with his long-time friend Thierry Henry, made France a force to be reckoned with which brought about French national team’s most successful era, winning back to back World Cup and European Championships in 1998 and 2000.
Starting his career at Platenese, Trezeguet went on to feature for a host of different teams in 3 continents but his best years was with AS Monaco and Juventus. At Monaco, Trezeguet would partner with Thierry Henry and lead the club to 2 Ligue 1 titles as well as a super cup before joining Juventus in 2000. At Juve, Trezeguet quickly became a fan favorite because of his attitude and the sheer amount of the goals he scored. He was Serie A’s top scorer in his second season and was named Player of the Season.
He was also one of the few players that stayed with Juventus after they were relegated to Serie B following the Calciopoli scandal and for that he became even more revered amongst the fandom. With Juventus Trezeguet won 2 Serie A titles and a Serie B title as well as reaching a Champions League final. He leftJuventus
in 2010 to play for a host of clubs, most notable of which was River Plate before retiring from football in 2014.
Trezeguet also played a part in France’s historic 1998 World Cup victory as well as their Euro 2000 triumph, scoring in both competitions. All in all he scored over 300 career goals. from those goals, 171 of them were scored in a Juventus shirt which makes him their 4th all time top scorer. His 34 goals in 71 matches for France alongside his two major trophies he won with France as well as numerous team and individual awards he won at club level make David Trezeguet one of the best French forwards of all time.
Jean-Pierre Papin was an artist when it came to scoring goals as the Frenchmen rarely scored a goal that wasn’t beautiful to watch. A master of scoring volleys, bicycle kicks, headers and long range goals, Papin was an inspiration to many forwards on this list and is certainly one of the best French players in history. Throughout his career Papin played for 8 differen teams, most of which were in France but he did have spells at Bayern Munich and AC Milan. Although he was never able to truly replicate the success that he had at Marseille.
Jean-Pierre Papin started his career at Ligue 2 with Valencinnes and after a great season he moved to the Belgian side, Club Brugge in 1985. There he started to show his talents as a lethal finisher and after scoring 32 goals in his debut season, Papin moved back to France to joinMarseille
. It was at Marseille that Papin reached the heights that Ligue 1 players could only dream of. With Papin’s incredible goal scoring prowess, Marseille became champions of France 4 times in a row. Papin managed scoring more than 30 goals in each of those seasons.
But the cherry on top was when Marseille reached the European Cup final in 1991. However, they lost the final to Red Star Belgrade on penalties. Papin would later join AC Milan but despite his successful time there he could never replicate the levels he was at in Marseille. In a strange turn of events, he ended up playing against Marseille in the Champions League final in 1994 and lost to his old team. However, he finally won the competition with Milan in 1995. Further spells at Bayern Munich, Bordeaux and Guingamp followed before Jean-Pierre Papin retired from football.
During his time with Marseille, Jean-Pierre Papin became the Ligue 1 top scorer 5 times consecutively and he won the Ballon d’Or in 1991. He is the only player to win the prestigious award while playing in a Ligue 1 team. Papin scored 30 goals in 54 outings with France but was very much part of France’s Crused Generation that usually ended up disappointing. Despite this, his personal achievements and achievements at the club level as well as the fact that he is the only Ballon d’Or player on our list make him one of the best French forwards of all time.
When it comes to the legends of the World Cup tournament, there are only a handful of players bigger than the amazing Just Fontaine. Fontaine managed to score an unbelievable amount of 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup, a record that is unlikely to be broken anytime soon if ever. At club level, Fontaine played for Nice and Reims during the 50s and 60s and he was as good a goal scorer there too. the Marrakechi born striker, from a French father and a Spanish mother, started his relatively short career at USM Casablanca before moving to Nice in Ligue 1 where he eventually became one of best French soccer players of all time
Fontaine was the definition of a prolific striker, he showed that in USM Casablanca where he scored 62 goals in 48 matches before joining Nice in 1953 where he once again showed his goal scoring prowess netting 43 in 69 matches which eventually got him a move toStade de Reims
, who were the biggest French club back then and had appeared in the final of the first European Cup ever just a season before Fontaine joined them.
There, Fontaine were brought in to replace another legendary French player Raymond Kopa, who had just left for Real Madrid, but the two later would team up and lead Stade de Reims to further glory as they helped the club win 4 Ligue 1 titles, 2 Coupe de France and a European Cup final appearance in the 1958-59 season but once again Reims fell short of winning the cup against Real Madrid.
Fontaine played 131 matches for Stade de Reims and scored 122 goals. His record for the French national team was even more impressive as he scored 30 goals in only 21 matches for the les Bleus which shows the sheer amount of talent that he had. Sadly, his career was cut short by injuries and he retired from football at the age of 28. But even in the relative short time that he had in France, Fontaine became one of the best French forwards of all time and his legacy lives on today.
When it comes to the greatest French football players of all-time, Thierry Henry is up there with the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini. The legendary striker was a combination of power, agility and technique which was rare ever seen before or after his playing days. Henry was a big part of France’s Golden Generation as well as being an absolute beast when it came to club football whether it was at his beloved Arsenal or even his days with Barcelona, which is why he is still a beloved figure amongst football fans in general.
’s carrer started at France’s own Ligue 1 with AS Monaco where an up and coming manager named Arsene Wenger gave him his debut. After his success with Monaco and him winning the World Cup at the age of 20 after scoring 3 goals in the tournament, Henry had a short unsuccessful stintat Juventus before Joining Arsenal in 1999. At Arsenal and surrounded by world class players like Vieira and Bergkamp, Thierry Henry quickly raised his game to a whole other level, becoming one of the best strikers that the world had ever seen.
With Arsenal he won 4Premier League Golden Boots
as well as 2 European Golden Shoes and multiple other awards of note. He is also constantly named as the best player to have never won a Ballon d’Or, as many claimed he were wronged on 2 occasions in 2003 and 2006. Henry is also widely considered to be the best Arsenal player of all time after helping the club win 2 Premier League titles (one of which they did in an unbeaten season) and 2 FA Cups as well as a Champions League final appearance. he then went on to play for Barcelona where he won 2 La Liga titles as well as a sextuple of trophies in a single season.
With France, Henry appeared in 6 major tournaments and managed to score 12 goals in those tournaments, twice reaching the World Cup final in 1998 and 2006 as well as reaching the Euro 2000 final. With his 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 victory Henry is one of the most decorated French players of all time and also the country’s top goal scorer of all time with 51 goals in 123 games.
Henry is not only one of the best French soccer players of all time but it was him alongside contemporaries like Ronaldo, that changed the way people viewed strikers and forwards. Because of the dynamic style of players like Henry, there were a lot more that was expected from forwards in the years after and he and players like him practically changed the face football that was to come, which is exactly why he is on top of our list of
best French forwards of all time