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The ups and downs of the French Foreign Legion

The numerous French players plying their trade overseas are a constant source of interest to fans worldwide. At present, there are certain individuals whose status is up in the air.

Talented, but problematic

FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu recently said “The level of Ousmane Dembélé is now better than that of Neymar”, adding “He has adapted”. Really? Sounds like wishful thinking. Dembélé has been at Barcelona for two seasons and still fails to convince, largely due to problems of attitude and professionalism.

For an immensely talented young player slated as a replacement for Messi, his hefty transfer fee (€105 million plus add-ons) is a lot to live up to, so let’s hope he doesn’t end up sabotaging his career.

A fork in the road

You could once spin a wheel here regarding where Paul Pogba would be next season, though the odds are starting to settle on Juventus more than anything else. Only twelve months ago, he was lauded as one of the best midfielders at the World Cup. The players surrounding him at Manchester United see him as a leader, but he’s not. Neither does he have a Kante alongside whose role frees him up to play to his strengths. Will he step up to the plate or cut his losses and move?

 

Then there’s the strange case of Antoine Griezmann. He wants to leave Atletico Madrid after 5 years. Understandable, but where to? Even though he looked like a shoo-in as Barcelona’s new striker a year ago, that deal hasn’t come off yet, with Manchester United looking to be an equally interesting prospect.

The old songs are the best

It’s inexplicable why Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud isn’t feted as a Premier League superstar. At 32, he’s still a highly influential member of the squad and has topped the goal-scoring chart in the Europa League this season with 11 goals, including a superb diving header in the final. Pundits in the UK remark that he hasn’t been given due respect – he’s certainly been more useful this season than Gonzalo Higuain. His status as third-highest all-time goalscorer for France speaks for itself.

Karim Benzema has had one of his best goal-scoring seasons (31) with Real Madrid. He’s been with the club for 10 years, and because of his controversial absence from the national team, his contribution has gone under the radar. In fact, he’s one of France’s most successful exports in terms of reliability, goal-scoring and overall performance in Europe.

Honourable mentions

Certain French exports, like good wine, are maturing nicely. Ngolo Kante has been as reliable and modestly masterful as ever.

Blaise Matuidi is impressing at Juve and Moussa Sissoko is turning out to be a powerhouse at Spurs. Let’s give a shout-out to Franck Ribery, who’s hanging up his boots. He’s given Bayern Munich the best years of his career, helping to assure total dominance in the Bundesliga and winning a Champions’ League in 2013. His career with France was pretty decent too. Finally, the nascent ‘star among stars’, Kylian Mbappe. Will he be an export next year, or not?

 

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