France are the current world champions and, under Didier Deschamps, are playing an exciting and dynamic style of football.
As eye-catching as the names in Deschamps’ final World Cup team sheet were, the names that were absent were equally noteworthy. That he was able to leave out players like Karim Benzema, Dimitri Payet and Alexandre Lacazette showed the strength in depth of the side.
But what of the players who are still uncapped by Les Bleus? For some it’s a case of wrong place at the wrong time. Some positions in the international set-up are more difficult to break into than others.
For others it’s about waiting. With youth on their side, continuing at their current trajectory should mean you’ll be seeing some of these names on the big stage for France within the next couple of years.
Other ones are a little more difficult to explain…
1. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
League appearances: 232
This is the big one, the elephant in the room. Aymeric Laporte landed Athletic Bilbao their record fee, £57.2m, when making the move to Man City in January 2018.
Despite standing out as one of the best and most versatile defenders in the world, he’s yet to be capped beyond U21 level. Laporte being left out of the World Cup winning side was a surprise to many, but he’s never had a straightforward relationship with his national side.
Urged at the behest of Spain manager Julen Lopetegui to make himself eligible for the country in 2016, after becoming frustrated with his lack of international football, Laporte was happy to do so. However, a call-up to France’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign quelled those thoughts.
As if back to square one, Laporte was denied the opportunity to pull on the blue jersey and is still waiting. No one questions his potential, yet many are becoming doubtful as to when or even if he will be factored into France’s future plans.
2. Moussa Dembélé (Lyon)
League appearances: 124
Not to be confused with his Belgian namesake, this young French striker is another to still be waiting for his full French call-up. It seems like only a matter of time though as he’s already a proven force in attack for the U21s.
Clocking in 18 appearances, the nimble No. 9 has found the net 10 times since 2016 for his country. Although his career began at Fulham, it was with Celtic that he really caught people’s eye. His electrifying presence and partnership with another player featured later in this list earned him the Scottish Premiership’s 2016 ‘Goal of the Season’.
The goal against Inverness Caledonian Thistle was part of a hat-trick which he followed up with another in Celtic’s following match. Naturally, netting hat-tricks endears a player to fans, but none as much as scoring one against your fierce rivals.
For the first time since Harry Hood in 1973, a Celtic player scored three goals against Rangers. To trump that, it was ‘perfect’ ie a goal with each foot and his head. Unsurprisingly, Celtic struggled to hold onto him and a move just shy of £20m to Lyon took place at the beginning of this season. With four goals in 13 he has a long way to go, but is clearly on the right path.
3. Issa Diop (West Ham)
League appearances: 106
With the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini to West Ham’s London Stadium, came big plans and a big budget. Principle amongst the £99m spent was Issa Diop, the centre-back from Toulouse.
The towering defender (he’s 6ft 4in!) has settled in well at the East London side as Pellegrini’s men are in a comfortable mid-table position. Praised for his athleticism, the youngster knows that it’ll take something special to dethrone Samuel Umtiti or Raphael Varane from the French side.
If one thing might see him make the leap, it’s his work ethic and the standards he sets for himself. On his form so far he said, “Maybe people have said I have been impressive, but we [have] conceded too many goals. For me I know I can do more and I can play better.”
4. Anthony Modeste (1. FC Köln)
League appearances: 318
Modeste might be no spring chicken but that shouldn’t entirely rule him out of a spot in a future French side. A blistering 2016/17 season for the striker in the Bundesliga with 1. FC Köln saw him net 25 times in 34 games.
Despite links to many Premier League clubs, the financial might of the Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian won him over. It may also have been the move that dashed his chances of gaining that international cap.
His spell there was successful but after a contract breach he returned to Germany and began training with his former side’s youth setup to retain fitness. Modeste has subsequently signed a new contract to 2023 although FIFA are now further investigating the circumstances around his Chinese departure.
5. Clément Lenglet (FC Barcelona)
League appearances: 141
Back to the other end of the pitch now with the Catalan giant’s recent acquisition. Lenglet, despite his modest years, has a fair bit of experience and has made a big impact at the top level of club football.
After coming up through Nancy’s youth system and impressing in Ligue 1, the intelligent centre-back headed to Spain to join La Liga side Sevilla. In his 18 months there, Lenglet proved himself as one of the best up-and-coming defenders in the world.
Despite Sevilla being knocked out of 2017’s Champions League in the quarter-final, Lenglet still made ESPN’s Champions League Best XI and caught the attention of Barcelona who were willing to trigger his £32m release clause.
6. Jordan Amavi (Marseille)
League appearances: 138
Joining Nice at 16 from local side Toulon, Amavi showed a great deal of potential. On moving to Aston Villa in 2015, his trajectory was left limp after an early ACL injury.
Wary of future recurrences, the suits at Villa thought it best to open their minds to a bid and after turning down an offer from China, they allowed him to move to Marseille on a loan deal. Since returning to Ligue 1 football, Amavi has emerged as one of the most promising players in the league in his position.
Replacing the ageing Patrice Evra, whose time in the South of France was disappointing, Amavi has gone from strength to strength under manager Rudi Garcia. For many, there’s a spot waiting for him in the French side. Whether it actually happens is another matter entirely, with the full-back having previously been called up once without appearing.
7. Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
League appearances: 86
The youngest on the list, Upamecano is a player that has time on his side. To break into the competitive French side would take a lot, but time and time again, he’s proven to have more than enough talent to break through.
RB Leipzig are lauded for their innovative and visionary scouting system. It’s fair to assume that players they spend money on are players that are worth it, especially when they’ve grown up in their academy from feeder team Liefering to Austrian counterpart Red Bull Salzburg.
Widely touted as the future of France’s defence, the player has been named in France’s 2015 U17 Team of the Tournament as well as shortlisted for the 2018 Bundesliga Golden Boy award. As capable at instigating attacks as defending solidly, he’s at a good club to develop and it’s only a matter of time for this young chap to get the call.
8. Houssem Aouar (Lyon)
League appearances: 53
A life at Lyon is beginning to prove worthwhile for the French-Algerian attacking midfielder. Despite only turning out 74 times for the full-team in all competitions, a season at Lyon B acclimatised Aouar to the required pace of the league.
Versatile and composed, his idol Zinedine Zidane may not be too much of a stretch in comparing the youngster’s style of play. Already finding the net eight times and with seven U21 caps, Aouar could well factor into upcoming French sides.
Allegedly a target for Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, making a move to the Premier League will be the perfect stage for him to exhibit his abilities, whether he’s playing through the centre or down the wings.
9. Allan Saint-Maximin (Nice)
League appearances: 109
Before Liverpool landed Xherdan Shaqiri they were linked with Saint-Maximin. After contact was made with Nice, the answer was a resounding ‘no’ from the French side.
Successful in the short-term, Saint-Maximin is considered to be a long-term prospect for Nice. Despite his relatively small stature, the young winger’s football IQ is impressive. His ability to locate and exploit spaces is a promising marker of things to come.
Although Nice are struggling to find consistency and with them, their players, Saint-Maximin has shown enough to retain a place, despite playing as a left and right winger as well as centre-forward. It may require a step-up in his club career before he can expect to earn his first fully-fledged cap.
10. Odsonne Édouard (Celtic)
League appearances: 56
Affectionately known in Scotland as ‘French Eddie’, Édouard was once the partner of Moussa Dembélé before his move to Lyon. Spearheading the Celtic attack, ‘French Eddie’ became a sort of cult hero for the Glasgow side after a late winning goal to beat Old Firm rivals Rangers 3-2.
Already impressive at France’s youth level, he picked up both the Golden Player and Golden Boot award for his performance’s during their 2015 U17 European Championship, scoring a hat-trick against Germany in the final.
He broke Celtic’s transfer record after signing from Paris Saint-Germain and was the only player in Scotland to make the 2018 Golden Boy longlist. Currently second in the Scottish Premiership’s goal-scoring table this year, the lethal striker looks set for an illustrious career pending he retains his current form and attitude.
BONUS. Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain)
League appearances: 163
Although technically capped now, Areola’s relationship with international football is interesting. As a member of the French World Cup winning side, the ‘keeper had the rare honour of adding the revered medal to his collection. The thing is, he didn’t come on once. Not only that, but he’d never actually been capped.
Third choice goalkeepers often enough don’t set foot onto the pitch yet still reap the rewards, but it’s been 32 years since a player lifted the trophy uncapped.
Not since Argentina won the World Cup in 1986 with uncapped Héctor Zelada and before that Italy in the 1982 World Cup with uncapped Franco Baresi and Giovanni Galli in the side. Baresi went on to become one of the world’s best ever centre-backs and Areola, now with two caps since the cup, looks set to do the same.
In his debut against Germany in the UEFA Nations League, he kept a clean-sheet as well as being awarded man of the match.