Tuesday May 26 2020
Greatest French XI in Serie A 1970-2020

Following his pick of the greatest Argentinian and Brazilian XIs to grace Serie A in the last 50 years, Richard Hall looks at what France brought to Italy’s top flight…

GK: Sebastien Frey (Inter, Verona, Parma, Fiorentina, Genoa)

Sebastien Frey was iconic for anyone watching football in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. His shock of dyed blond hair made him instantly recognisable and it is easy to forget how good he was. His composure, athleticism and good footwork did well for him at Inter, Parma, Fiorentina and Genoa. It was perhaps for the Viola that he was at his absolute best.

RB: Lilian Thuram (Parma, Juventus)

Thuram was quite simply one of the best centre-backs of his generation, but for much of his Juventus career, he excelled at right-back. For a decade between 1996 and 2006, the intelligent, dynamic and athletic defender graced Serie A for Parma and Juventus. He won a Coppa Italia, a UEFA Cup and a Supercoppa with the Gialloblu and two Serie A titles and a Supercoppa with the Old Lady.

CB: Marcel Desailly (Milan)

Playing Desailly at centre-back may be pushing the boundaries, but it is still possible. The adaptable destroyer did play in the back line for Milan occasionally and he simply had to be in this team. One of the best French players to step onto Italian soil, for a time he was unplayable. Strong, quick, skilful and determined, he was part of potentially the greatest club side of all time. His ability to be so adaptable was a major asset; he could have played in three positions in this side.

CB: Jonathan Zebina (Cagliari, Roma, Juventus, Brescia)

Not a name many might expect to be on this list, especially as Laurent Blanc played for Inter and Napoli and could have taken his place. Blanc’s time in Italy was questionably not a success and so Zebina goes in for two reasons. First, he played over 250 times in Italy and you do not do that for the likes of Roma and Juventus without having talent. Secondly, he was also adaptable and played much of his career at right-back.

LB: Vincent Candela (Roma, Udinese, Siena, Messina)

Candela played 210 games for Roma, scoring 14 times, taking the Scudetto and the Supercoppa Italiana in 2001. He is in the Giallorossi’s Hall of Fame and the World Cup winner also had spells at Udinese, Siena and Messina. He could play left-back or in a more advanced role and was a very quick and offensively-minded option.

CDM: Didier Deschamps (Juventus)

Between 1994 and 1999, the ‘water carrier’ was part of a transforming Juventus team. His selfless work defined the defensive midfield role, as he specialised in breaking up the play and starting the next attack. His leadership and tactical reading of the game were superb and in five years, he picked up an astonishing 10 honours, including three Scudetti and a Champions League medal.

CDM: Patrick Vieira (Milan, Juventus, Inter)

Many might not remember Vieira’s five appearances for Milan in 1995-96, but he returned to far more success in 2005. He spent a season at Juventus before they their relegation to Serie B, then moved to Inter and under Roberto Mancini helped Inter claim four back-to-back Championships, establishing himself as one of the best midfielders in world football at the time.

CAM: Michel Platini (Juventus)

The best French footballer of all time? Maybe. What's for sure is that he is a legend in Turin. He played 147 times for the ‘The Old Lady’ over five years, scoring 68 times and winning two Scudetti, a Coppa Italia, a Cup Winners Cup, the European Super Cup, the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. Finishing top scorer in Serie A for three consecutive seasons, he also won three European Player of the Year awards. When he was in Italy, he was simply unplayable.

CAM: Zinedine Zidane (Juventus)

If anyone was going to argue about being the best French player in history, it would be Zidane. The fact that Youri Djorkaeff missed out on this team shows the immense talent he has. Over five years the midfielder wowed crowds around Italy with some sublime skill, superb range of passing and some spectacular goals. He took six major honours for Juventus before eventually joining Real Madrid. One of the best in his generation, Zizou had God-given talent.

CAM: Paul Pogba (Juventus)

It is hard to think now just how devastating Paul Pogba was at Juventus. Not only for his determination, directness and skill, but also for the quality of the goals he produced. This team was nearly going to have an extra striker, Jean Pierre-Papin, but while we remember him fondly, it is arguable his time at Milan was not as successful as it should have been, and therefore Pogba gets the nod. Four league titles, two Coppa Italia trophies and a Supercoppa is not a bad haul in four years.

CF: David Trezeguet (Juventus)

It could not be anybody else. Trezeguet’s rapport on the pitch with Alessandro De Piero will go down in history. In his 10-year career he played 245 Serie A games for the Old Lady, scoring 138 times. He had pace and power, but above all would ghost behind defenders to be in the right place at the right time. Trezeguet was Capocannoniere in 2001-02 alongside Dario Hubner with 24 goals. Due to Juventus being stripped of two titles, he left with only four major honours in this time, but he will always be adored by the fans for when he went down to Serie B following Calciopoli.

Have your say...
Mexes was better overall defender than Zebina.
Fact. Not opinion.
on the 31st May, 2020 at 2:54pm
I could see this list not hitting a chord with a lot of readers to due many Juve players included, and as a Juve fan it feels great to see so many names, but I would argue that other than Zebina, they all merit their spots.
Now it's time to rummage the attic for that OLD 1997/98 Championship Manager disc, and pray for those flashing GOAL SCORING LINES
on the 31st May, 2020 at 1:41pm
Djorkaeff was a great player no doubt, but with just one title during his inter stint (97\98 uefa cup), his spot can be debatable when Platini, Vieira, Deschamps and Pogba all having played more games and won more titles.
It's a hard group to pick, since huge names must be left out despite significant achievements.
Trezegol at the tip of the spear is also spot on, one doesn't simply hold the record for highest scoring foreign player at Juventus.
on the 31st May, 2020 at 1:38pm
I really didn't remember Blanc having such a poor time in Serie A, but even so, Zebina wasn't of that calibre even at his best.
Going over the entire list of French defenders to play in Serie A, granted, only a few have played as much, but I would think Boghossian a better alternative, or might as well just move Evra to CB.
on the 31st May, 2020 at 1:35pm
While some of the choices and their reasoning feel quite spot on, I'd say that as a teenager, watching Serie A on TV and then spending all my hard earned $ in Championship Manager just to buy Desailly from Milan so he can partner with Montero in CB was a pleasure.
This list has so many greats in it, which is why Zebina feels out of place, Thuram was incredible at either CB or RB, Candela also a marvelous marauding LB pick. And for the final CB, while I don't recall Blanc having such a bad time
on the 31st May, 2020 at 1:27pm
Should be 2 forwards. Papin to go with Trezeguet, with Pogba out. I dont think Pogba did enough and for a long enough time in Italy...
on the 30th May, 2020 at 10:30am
Zebina was a disaster. Reckless and hotheaded.
At Roma was saved by Samuel time after time.
At Juve was totally out of his depth.
Don't forget that the likes of him were immediately shipped out/moved on AFTER 2 7thplaces.
I was there @CravenCottage when he fought with fans.
Disgrace and not fit to wear bianconeri
on the 28th May, 2020 at 3:24pm
Zebina was a walking disaster.

Mexes was no genius either, but he should be ahead of him.

And Vieira instead of Djorkaeff?

Vieira could hardly walk by the time he arrived in Italy, let alone run. He was well past his best.
on the 27th May, 2020 at 3:12am
forget this best XI
...put up the best Dutch starting 11 + 3 subs
on the 26th May, 2020 at 10:29pm
Mexes! Better than Zebina! hahah hahahah hahahahah
on the 26th May, 2020 at 8:17pm
Zebina - LOL, you obviously know nothing about football.
on the 26th May, 2020 at 8:15pm
Alain Boghossian would like to have a word.
Benoît Cauet too.
Philippe Mexès was far better than Zebina.
I am a adopted Drughi and even can see that Djorkaeff merits above either Pogba or Vieira.
on the 26th May, 2020 at 3:28pm
Very good selection. The best I believe in serie A coming from French soil. A bit confused only about the insertion of Pogba and to some extent Viera there, but can't remember if there was better than them. Thanks
on the 26th May, 2020 at 1:31pm
Inter Jair - I will just echo your comments as I was going to write the same thing!
on the 26th May, 2020 at 1:25pm
Obviously, Pogba is an embarrassing choice. First of all, playing Pogba at CAM when he is clearly a central midfielder, which is part of the reason he has yet to ever live up to his world-class billing. People see the talent and don't want to accept that he plays deep.

And, of course, he has yet to be world-class. At Juventus they had 3 world-class midfielders, and then him. This is a joke.

So is Zebina. And I don't think Vieira did enough in France.
on the 26th May, 2020 at 12:52pm
I am just as confused as guys commenting on here with some of the explanations for selections and omissions. Why would Zebina be in this side cos of longevity and be at centre back the. Thuram a far superior player at right back? Blanc was omitted as was Djorkaeff. Desailly at cb is “pushing the boundaries “ when he was a magnificent cb but it was not pushing boundaries to put useless Zebina as cb. Vieira was great for Arsenal but ok in Italy. Not sure if it’s Overall career or just In Italy.
on the 26th May, 2020 at 11:02am
If I have said it once I have said it 100'2 of times, Paul Pogba only ever looked good, because he played in an amazing Juve side and his hit and more miss Man U form proves that, if he hasn't got players around him to do 90% of the work he just disappears. How on earth is he in the side and Youri Djorkaeff isn't
on the 26th May, 2020 at 8:18am
Platini should be moved to the all time most corrupt Xi side.
No Laurent Blanc or Djorkaeff - both WC winners.
on the 26th May, 2020 at 7:49am
Hang on.. You put Thuram at RB and Zebina at CB.
Yeah ok sure....
on the 26th May, 2020 at 4:57am

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