France is a country with a tradition of producing some of the world’s finest talents, largely thanks to its Clairefontaine academy which has nurtured the likes of Thierry Henry to Nicolas Anelka. Exceptional abilities abound, from the now-UEFA President Michel Platini to Real Madrid icon Zinedine Zidane; the country always has a considerable talent pool to call upon.

Even at the 2010 World Cup, at which France endured a debacle of proportions so epic it was soon the subject of an enquiry, they had a squad both rich in talent and high in quality reserves. Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema, two of the main protagonists in France’s classy performance against England in November, didn’t even make it to South Africa.

France benefitted from a golden generation which brought the country the 1998 World Cup and then Euro 2000 and it could once again be set for another golden generation dividend given the quality of the next group of youngsters currently breaking through in Ligues 1 and 2 and beyond. The following are ten of the brightest French talents:

Mamadou Sakho – Paris Saint-Germain – Centre Back/Left Back – 20 years old

Sakho is attracting the interest of many of Europe’s top clubs for his performances with the Parisiens. Often compared with former France legend Lilian Thuram, Sakho’s main attributes are his leadership, tackling and work-rate. Intelligent and tactically aware, Sakho broke into the PSG first team as a 17-year-old. He made his debut against Valenciennes in a 0-0 draw that saw him become the youngest player to ever captain a Ligue 1 side. The defender has already made his France bow, having featured against England in the win at Wembley in November.

Clément Grenier – Lyon – Right Sided Attacking Midfielder – 19 years old

A tall and technically gifted right sided attacking midfielder, Grenier has represented France at all levels. Described by some as ‘the new Kaka’, the Lyon youngster possesses not just the usual technical attributes such as a good touch and mobility, but also has superb vision and the ability to pick a pass.

Franck Tabanou – Toulouse – Left Winger – 21 years old

Already a regular with Ligue 1 side Toulouse, Tabanou is a versatile player with the ability to take on his man, pass and score with an excellent range of skills. He came through the famous youth system at Le Havre and has been scouted by a number of European sides. Happy to play at left back as well whenever called upon, Tabanou is reportedly being tracked by Italian giants Juventus.

Sebastien Corchia – Le Mans – Right Back – 20 years old

Corchia made his debut for Le Mans during their time in Ligue 1 in a clash with Nice. So talented is the right back that at 18 he was already being chased by Juventus and monitored by their sporting director Alessio Secco, though he opted to stay at the Stade Leon-Bollee. The 20-year-old has been hailed by the French press as a potential future great for his mature and impressive displays for the Ligue 2 side. Already a regular with Le Mans, Corchia plays without fear and makes up for his lack of physical stature with a precocious attacking instinct.


Damien Le Tallec – Borussia Dortmund – Forward – 20 years old

Damien is the younger brother of former Liverpool flop Anthony, and can play up front or on the wing. He has represented France at every youth level, and scored seven goals in 17 games for his Bundesliga side last year. Le Tallec is a product of the leading Rennes youth academy, coming through alongside the likes of Yacine Brahimi and Yann M’Vila. The forward compares himself to Manchester United star Dimitar Berbatov, and says that he can learn from his brother, who has told him what not to do when moving to a big European club. Le Tallec is gifted, with the touch and skill to change a game on his own. The big question is whether he can fulfil his undoubted potential.

Yacine Brahimi – Rennes – Attacking Midfielder/Winger – 20 years old

Brahimi is a skillful and technical player, and a graduate of the famous Clairefontaine academy. The Rennes winger of Algerian descent has played for France since the age of 14, and idolises Zinedine Zidane, having grown up playing street football in the suburbs of Montreuil. Brahimi has broken into the Rennes side that made a startling start to the current Ligue 1 season, and is widely regarded as one of the brightest prospects of this generation of French stars.

Gilles Sunu – Arsenal – Forward – 19 years old

Almost inevitably, Arséne Wenger has his fingerprints all over one of the most talented of the next generation of French stars. Sunu is a forward with pace, power and no little amount of intelligence. A selfless worker with an impressive work-rate, the youngster from Chateauroux is happy to play up front on his own, but equally he possesses the ability to drop back and involve himself in the build-up play as the support to a second striker. Sunu has picked up comparisons with a young Emmanuel Adebayor.

Gueida Fofana – Le Havre – Defensive Midfielder – 19 years old

Captain of the French Under-19 side that won the European Under-19 championship this summer, Fofana can play both as both a defensive holding midfielder or further back as a defender. His physique is his main attribute, and he is now a regular with Le Havre in Ligue 2. Tracked by AS Roma at just 17 years old, the Le Havre man has also been monitored by Barcelona. A solid performer, he also has pace to burn and is the ideal pivot to build a team around, supplying short passes to team-mates with more technical and athletic ability than himself. Fofana is one of the most promising talents of his generation.

Yaya Sanogo – Auxerre – Forward – 17 years old

A former captain of the French Under-17s side, Sanogo is tall and possesses impressive technique. An eye for goal is not lacking either, with the forward scoring 18 goals in 18 appearances for the French Under-16s in the 2008/09 campaign. A former player for CO Les Ulis, whom Thierry Henry once turned out for, Sanogo moved to Auxerre at the age of 13. He has already picked up admirers in the English Premier League, with North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur both said to be watching him closely. The highlight of this promising forward’s career to date was a stunning volley against Brazil Under-19s in the Sendai Cup, which was voted the goal of the tournament.

Alexandre Lacazette – Lyon – Forward – 19 years old

The young Lyon forward scored the winner for France in the UEFA Under-19 championship final this summer against Spain. Lacazette can play on the wings as well as up front, and has been commended for his commitment after playing for Lyon in the Emirates Cup this summer less than 24 hours after scoring against the Spanish for France. He then played again the next day, making it three matches in three days for the Lyon man. Quick and intelligent, as well as possessing an eye for goal, the young striker has featured intermittentlyfor Lyon as he makes his breakthrough, and showed his prodigious talent with a late strike against Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the Champions League group stage, which knocked the Israelis out of Europe.