GFFN unveils its alternative 23 man squad, comprising of players who, on the basis of injuries or otherwise, have not made Didier Deschamps’s final selection for the upcoming EURO 2016 tournament.
Alphonse Areola (PSG)
Areola spent the season on loan at Villarreal and was largely impressive for the La Liga side, even if he performed poorly in the Europa League semi-final encounters against Liverpool. He made the reserve list for this tournament, but his shot-stopping abilities make him an incredible asset for the future.
Stéphane Ruffier (AS Saint Étienne)
Following discussions between the Les Verts #1 and Didier Deschamps, it was decided that Ruffier would not be a part of future French national team squads, after the player was insistent that he had no interest in being part of proceedings as the country’s third choice. He remains one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Ligue 1.
Yoan Cardinale (OGC Nice)
This third pick is perhaps a surprise to many, but Les Aiglons’s stocky goalkeeper has had an exceptional season, with the fourth best statistics of any Frenchman in his position in the top 5 European leagues. Excellent with improvisation, his positioning has improved drastically in 2015/16.
Benoît Trémoulinas (Sevilla)
The former Bordeaux man was selected by Didier Deschamps in last 12 months and ruled himself out of contention with an injury. However, he remains a fantastically dangerous attacking full-back, with the intelligence to aptly defend his flank at the same time.
Layvin Kurzawa (PSG)
Deschamps was not impressed with Kurzawa’s decision to trade playing time for money by moving to PSG last summer, but the former AS Monaco man remains one of France’s brightest prospects. Has an uncanny knack of goal for a full-back and with bundles of energy.
Kurt Zouma (Chelsea FC)
A man who, had he played consistently for the rest of the Premier League season after his ACL injury in February, would have almost certainly got a place in the squad. His power, dexterity and pace make him one of the most frightening new age central defenders who can simply do everything.
Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao)
An experienced French youth international, Laporte is a player who France simply cannot afford to let slip into the hands of Spain. The central defender has previously threatened to switch national allegiance to the country where his current club is based if he does not get a Les Bleus call up soon, and this might be a form of pressure that Deschamps has to give in to.
Loïc Perrin (St Étienne)
Mr Dependable in Ligue 1 but is unfairly discriminated against at international level for not having a high enough profile, Didier Deschamps arguably made a mistake in discriminating against St Étienne’s captain and opting for Adil Rami instead. His incredible positional awareness and leadership qualities distinguish him from the rest.
Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid)
Missing out on EURO 2016 through injury, in the Deschamps era, Varane has proved to be one of the most reliable forces. His serenity on the pitch breeds confidence into certain other, less assured individuals around him. Of all of France’s injury withdrawals, this one hurts the most.
Sébastien Corchia (Lille)
After a fantastic 2015/16 campaign in the French top flight, Corchia has every right to feel aggrieved that he did not even make the reserves in the initial, enlarged 30-man squad. However, he has time and is undoubtedly the future in the right-back position.
Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal)
After spending the first half of the 2015/16 season frozen out of proceedings at Arsenal by a certain Hector Bellerin, Debuchy made the bold move of returning to Ligue 1, with Bordeaux precisely, to attempt to force himself into Deschamps’s reckoning. He performed well with Les Girondins, but it was a late thigh injury that ultimately ruled him out of contention. A seasoned individual and a worthy member of this alternative 23.
Francis Coquelin (Arsenal)
It would be ignorant to claim that over the last two years, Coquelin has not deserved an opportunity to represent his national team, and it is only a pity that Didier Deschamps has so far disagreed with that sentiment. With bags of energy and excellent ability to read the game, Coquelin would be an excellent choice in the defensive midfield in this squad.
Adrien Rabiot (PSG)
The PSG youngster received his first taste of senior French international action as part of the reserves for EURO 2016. A man who has progressed remarkably in 2015/16, profiting largely from Marco Verratti’s injuries, Rabiot is beginning to live up to his much-hyped potential.
Lassana Diarra (Marseille)
Diarra reinvented himself in 2015/16, becoming one of Ligue 1’s best players in an otherwise unimpressive Marseille side. His return to the French national team was a rapid decision from Deschamps, which was surprising because the former Marseille coach rarely makes calls with such rapidity, but on balance Diarra deserved it.
At his age, a knee injury is a cruel blow and he might have lost his chance to play at a final major tournament.
Geoffrey Kondogbia (Inter Milan)
Kondogbia has received mixed reviews following his first season in Serie A, but many would argue that the slower and more tactical Italian league is not a perfect fit for someone with his characteristics.
With pace in abundance paralleled with a surprisingly delightful technical ability, Kondogbia will hope to re-capture his Monaco form next season.
Josuha Guilavogui (Wolfsburg)
If you are looking for a Blaise Matuidi-like midfield wrecking ball, then Guilavogui is your man. He struggled to impose himself at Atletico Madrid, but has won the hearts and minds of the Bundesliga faithful, committing to Wolfsburg permanently this summer after an initial loan spell.
Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco)
Following a transfer from SM Caen last summer, Lemar has been able to confirm his status as one of France’s most promising attacking midfield talents. His pace and finesse have made him a target for Bayern Munich this summer.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Suspended by the French Football Federation for his alleged involvement in the blackmailing of Mathieu Valbuena concerning a sextape, Benzema’s absence has caused an outpouring of mini-crises since the decision was made, including Eric Cantona labelling Deschamps a racist. Benzema remains one of the world’s most potent attackers.
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Was perhaps unfortunate to just miss out on Didier Deschamps’s final 23, but he was punished for a poor first half of the season with his club. He remains one of the most exciting younger attackers in Europe, with his poaching abilities. 2015/16 saw him become Lyon’s undisputed on-pitch leader too.
Kevin Gameiro (Sevilla)
Gameiro scored 29 goals in 52 matches in all competitions this season, making him not just one of the top French goalscorers anywhere in the world, but also one of Europe’s most dangerous. With a tally of more than one goal every two games, Deschamps’s decision not to pick Gameiro remains slightly baffling.
Hatem Ben Arfa (OGC Nice)
Reincarnated at OGC Nice, Hatem Ben Arfa has proved time and time again this season that he can consistently perform miracles and skills on the pitch that seem to defy gravity. His poor showing against England in a friendly this season with France ultimately counted against him making the final 23.
Nabil Fékir (Lyon)
Had he not have suffered an ACL injury at the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign, there is no doubt that Fékir would have been heavily in contention for a place at EURO 2016. He remains one of the best dribblers of a football that we have seen anywhere for a very long time.
Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich)
After a considerable period of time away from the playing field due to a recurring back injury, Franck made a splash in the Bundesliga in the second half of the season with some wonderful goals. He stated his desire to come out of his self-imposed international retirement, but Deschamps was too wise to give into Ribéry’s games. The winger remains a tremendous player.