France has always been a conveyor belt of sensational football talent, every generation seemingly a golden one.
The explosion of quality in recent years has been even more staggering, however, with France’s 2018 World Cup win a symbol of just how good the nation is at producing the best of the best. They now enter every tournament as favourites and anything but lifting the trophy is deemed a failure.
Unsurprisingly, big talent means big money. French players across Europe’s big leagues have been able to cash in on their quality, partaking in some eye-watering transfers in the process.
These are the top 10 most expensive French players of all-time.
Firmly on the list of Spurs signings that didn’t work out, Tanguy Ndombele joins the likes of Vincent Janssen Roberto Soldado and Clinton N’Jie as a categorical flop. The only difference between Ndombele and the others on that list is that he is still the club’s record transfer.
The Frenchman arrived from Lyon with unsurprisingly high expectations in the hope that he could be Mousa Dembele’s heir in North London. However, things have not gone to plan and his underwhelming performances have led him to two loans in the last 18 months.
What new boss Ange Postecoglou can do with Ndombele remains to be seen, but if he can’t find a place for him and the 26-year-old is sold, Spus will recoup a pittance of what they paid in 2019.
One of the wonders of Monaco’s 2016/17 Ligue 1 winning side – a squad that was dismantled almost instantly – Thomas Lemar eventually made the move to Spain in 2018.
The 27-year-old is still yet to quite make the impact that was expected of him in Madrid and has been frequently moved around the Atletico team. Starting his life as a left-winger, he has been utilised more centrally by Diego Simeone at times and has only managed 30 combined goals and assists in 175 matches.
To put this in perspective, he managed a combined 55 in just 127 games at Monaco.
The fact that Zinedine Zidane joined Real Madrid from Juventus in 2001 and still ranks eighth on this list speaks volumes about his talent.
Zidane spent five incredible years at the Bernabeu, prior to which he had already won the World Cup and Balon d’Or back in 1998. He also managed to win the Champions League during his first season in Spain, scoring that volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the final.
Of course, Zizou was never too far controversy and his final bow in a France shirt, or indeed any shirt given it was the very last game of his professional career, was the infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final defeat to Italy.
Having blossomed into a wonderfully versatile player under Diego Simeone’s tutelage at Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich had seen enough in 2019. They pulled the trigger on the centre-back who went on to make 107 appearances for Die Roten, despite consistent injury concerns.
Lucas Hernandez will return to France this summer, however, as he has joined Paris Saint-Germain for approximately €50m – a transfer that may not go down well in his home city of Marseille.
There was a general consensus that Aurelien Tchouameni was going to join a Champions League winner in the summer of 2022.
Liverpool and Real Madrid had been vying for his signature but just like in the final itself, Los Blancos had the last laugh. His debut season in the Spanish capital was mixed, however, with the Frenchman sometimes finding game time difficult to come by.
There is no doubt that Tchouameni has a huge future at Madrid though and will become a more significant player for Los Blancos as ageing veterans Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are increasingly phased out of the starting lineup.
Similar to Tchouameni, Wesley Fofana endured a far from straightforward first season at his new club.
Two significant injuries in his debut campaign at Stamford Bridge, alongside the chaos that engulfed Chelsea last term, made it a problematic debut campaign. When fit Fofana was a regular starter, albeit in a side that consistently struggled for form and severely underwhelmed after big investment.
He will be hoping his second season in London will prove more fruitful and that Mauricio Pochettino can help him realise his enormous potential – and price tag.
Letting Paul Pogba leave the club for free as a youngster proved a pretty costly mistake for Manchester United, who had to splash out what was then a world record €105m to get the midfielder back just four years later from Juventus.
The Frenchman was expected to translate his Serie A form to Premier League excellence, but an inconsistent and often injured Pogba usually flattered to deceive with his performances. One day he was unstoppable, the next he was invisible.
The Pogba exit saga that seemed to rear its head every year at United eventually came to an end last summer when the 30-year-old returned to Juventus on another free transfer. However, his first season back in Italy was riddled with injuries which resulted in him making just ten appearances.
Given Antoine Griezmann’s devastating ability at Atletico Madrid, it seemed inevitable that his big-money move to Barcelona would be successful in 2019. However, that was far from the case.
While it was not disastrous in terms of numbers – Griezmann managed 35 goals and 17 assists in 102 games – the French forward quickly felt the wrath of supporters whose patience wore thin quickly. His presence also symbolised the club’s much wider problem with financial mismanagement.
Now back at Atletico permanently following a two-year loan spell, Griezmann’s superb midfield performances at the 2022 World Cup show he feels much better at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, Ousmane Dembele’s wizardry has made him an exceptional player to watch at Camp Nou. His pace, flair and ambidexterity have made him one of the most enjoyable footballers to watch in La Liga for some time.
However, the issue for a long time has been actually getting to see him play. The winger has missed well over 100 matches through injury since his arrival at Camp Nou making for a frustrating spectacle for Barcelona supporters.
His quality is unquestionable when he is fit and firing, but that has been a disappointingly rare occurrence in recent years.
The suspense may be killing you, so to finally put you out of your misery it is, of course, Kylian Mbappe who ranks number one on the list.
The second most expensive player of all-time after teammate Neymar – PSG signed both in the same summer but deferred paying for Mbappe until 2018 – he is by far and away the most expensive Frenchman, and arguably the single greatest player in world football in 2023.
212 goals and 98 assists in 260 PSG appearances speaks for itself, but those numbers may not be getting any bigger with an uncertain summer ahead for the striker amid longstanding Real Madrid links and undeniable growing pains in the French capital.