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15 Best Ligue 1 Players of All Time 

French soccer has provided us with some of the most outstanding players the world has ever seen, and if that sounds like a bold claim, wait until you’ve read our list of the best Ligue 1 players of all time. Ligue 1 players are often creative, flamboyant, and technically gifted, with many still highly regarded to this day. 

With the lure of French culture, cuisine, and the excellent soccer teams that the French top division boasts, it’s little wonder that some of Europe’s best players eventually find their way there.

Many of the best French soccer players learned their skills in Ligue 1 before moving abroad, and many of the top domestic players also make our list. 

If you’ve got a love for French soccer, or even if you have no idea about Ligue 1 but want to learn, then you’ve found the right article; Today, we’re going to take a look back at some of the best players Ligue 1 has ever showcased.

15. Youri Djorkaeff 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 0
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

French internationals don’t come much better than Youri Djorkaeff, a playmaker of supreme talent, vision, and ball control.

Djorkaeff first appeared at Grenoble in 1984 and would progress through the French league with alarming ease. After only one season at Strasbourg, the gifted forward moved to Monaco in 1990 before another season with PSG in 1995. 

Djorkaeff could play in any attacking position and was often deployed in either attacking midfield, thanks to his incredible passing range, or as a forward, as the player was an excellent goalscorer.

This versatility would eventually see Djorkaeff move to Inter Milan, and over his 21-year career, the Frenchman would score an impressive 196 league goals. 

14. Robert Jonquet 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 5
  • Position: Centre-Back

You can be forgiven for never having heard of Robert Jonquet; the Reims central defender retired in 1962 after a 17-year career.

While he played, Jonquet was considered one of the best French defenders of all time. Jonquet spent much of his career with Reims, playing for 15 seasons with the club and cementing his legacy as a superb player at the heart of the defense.

Jonquet was also a key player for France and was capped 58 times by Les Bleus. As Jonquet was relatively short for a defender, his preferred role was that of a Libero, sitting behind the defenders and moving out to prevent opponents from attacking. Jonquet did this with such skill that he quickly became one of the most influential players in Ligue 1. 

13. Edinson Cavani 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 6
  • Position: Striker

Despite only playing in France for seven seasons with Paris Saint Germain, Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani has to be considered one of the best strikers French soccer has ever seen. In 200 league games for the French giants, Cavani scored 138 goals and created many more. 

A giant of a striker, Cavani was just as gifted at passing as he was at shooting. Thanks to his strength and intelligence, he made defenders’ lives miserable for seven consecutive seasons. PSG was so successful with Cavani leading the line that the club won back-to-back quadruples between 2014-16. 

Cavani won an incredible 21 trophies with PSG, and as well as the team honors collected, the Uruguayan marksman also finished the Ligue 1 top scorer in two of his seven seasons.

Despite leaving Paris in 2020, Cavani will be fondly remembered by fans. Not only was he a superb soccer player, but he was also reputed to be humble, respectful, and generous off the field. 

12. Marius Tresor 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 1
  • Position: Centre-Back

Not only is Marius Tresor one of the most complete defenders that Ligue 1 has ever seen, but the French international also made Pele’s list of 125 greatest living soccer players. Spending his entire career in France, Tresor played for Ajaccio, Marseille, and Bordeaux in a career spanning 15 years. 

On the international stage, Tresor was capped 65 times by France and played in two World Cups. The global stage allowed the rest of the soccer world to see how accomplished a defender Tresor was. This elegant, tenacious, and intelligent player is one of the best defenders France has ever produced, and that’s saying something. 

11. Robert Pires

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 0
  • Position: Winger

Looking more like a Musketeer than a soccer player, Robert Pires was one of the most electrifying wingers that Ligue 1 has ever seen, with the mercurial winger spending the first seven seasons of his professional career in Ligue 1, first at Metz and then at Marseille. 

Despite quickly establishing himself in Ligue 1, Pires was unlucky not to win a title, having first lost out with Metz on goal difference, and then after moving to Marseille, the team missed out by a single point. He did, however, win a Coupe de la Ligue with Metz and make the UEFA Cup Final with Marseille, which the team lost to Parma. 

Pires moved to the Premier League in 2000 when he joined fellow Frenchman Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and became one of the most well-known players in Europe. An excellent crosser of the ball, Pires had great dribbling skills, allowing him to cause serious problems for defenses. 

10. Gregory Coupet 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 7
  • Position: Goalkeeper
GamesGoals ConcededClean Sheets

One of the very few players to have won a record seven Ligue 1 titles, Gregory Coupet was a goalkeeper who spent all but one season of his 18-year career in Ligue 1.

After making his debut in 1993 for Saint-Etienne, Coupet firmly established himself as the club’s main goalkeeper. A move to Lyon in 1997 saw him make 370 league appearances for the club. 

Winning all of his seven league titles with Lyon, Coupet was part of a superb team that won the league every season from 2001 until 2008 and is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers France has ever produced. Coupet won the Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year award four times. 

9. Juninho Pernambucano 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 7
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

Understandably cited as the most proficient free-kick specialist of all time, Juninho Pernambucano developed his own style of kicking a soccer ball from a dead-ball situation, making his free-kicks almost impossible to predict. In a 20-year career, the incredible Brazilian scored 148 league goals, most of them free-kicks. 

In a varied career, Pernambucano played soccer in Brazil, Qatar, America, and France. While in Ligue 1 with Lyon, Pernambucano became part of the select group that won seven consecutive league titles.

Pernambucano was also an incredibly gifted midfielder, though it’s the outrageous way the Brazilian scored for fun from long range that he will be remembered.

8. Kylian Mbappe 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 5
  • Position: Striker

Not only is Kylian Mbappe the youngest player on our list, but he may also very well turn out to be the best French player of all time. Given the phenomenal talent Mbappe has and the already superb start to his career, he could even become one of the greatest players ever to play soccer. 

Already a World Cup and UEFA Nations League winner with France, Mbappe has become one of the most important players Paris Saint Germain has ever signed.

A recent opportunity to move to Real Madrid when his contract expired meant everyone assumed the young star would be leaving Ligue 1 behind, but a last-minute change of heart saw the player re-commit to PSG. 

With frightening pace and ball control that borders on cheating, Mbappe has every attribute required to be the best in the world. Comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo aren’t exaggerated; he’s that good.

Only time will tell whether the French striker will fulfill his potential, but the signs indicate that he’s destined for the very top. 

7. Just Fontaine 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 4
  • Position: Striker

Most players heading to a World Cup dream of simply playing, some might even harbor hopes of scoring a goal or two, and then there’s Just Fontaine, scorer of 13 goals in a single World Cup finals.

Fontaine was one of French soccer’s most lethal players, with a goalscoring record that reads 248 league appearances and 226 goals in his 12-year career. 

A French international legend, Just Fontaine only collected 21 caps for France, but such was his impact in the blue shirt of his country that Fontaine will be forever remembered.

Thirty international goals in those 21 appearances are impressive enough, but when we remember that Fontaine scored an astonishing 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup, his achievements reach new heights. 

6. Laurent Blanc 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 1
  • Position: Centre-Back

French center-back Laurent Blanc had a superb career that spanned 20 years and some of the biggest clubs in world soccer.

Having spells at Barcelona, Manchester United, and Inter Milan, Blanc was an ever-present for France, too, with 97 caps. Throughout his illustrious career, Blanc kept returning to France, having spells with five separate clubs in Ligue 1.

After starting his career at Montpellier, Blanc moved to Napoli before returning to Nimes in 1992. Spells at Saint-Etienne and Auxerre before a move to Barcelona for one season in 1997 saw Blanc’s stock rise rapidly.

The French international then moved back to Ligue 1 with Marseille before finishing his career with spells at Internazionale and finally, at Manchester United. 

A leader both on and off the field, Blanc wasn’t just a superb defender; many teams signed the Frenchman due to his excellent leadership qualities.

Blanc could organize a defense, demand more from his colleagues, and made every team he played in a more solid unit. One of France’s greatest defenders. 

5. Michel Platini 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 1
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

It might surprise many that Michel Platini, one of the most well-known and influential soccer players of all time, only played for three clubs in his career.

In his 15-year career, Platini spent his first ten seasons in Ligue 1 with Nancy and Saint-Etienne. A midfielder without peer, Platini was a superb free-kick specialist and, in 285 league appearances in Ligue 1, scored 156 goals. 

This incredible statistic saw Platini eventually move to Juventus, where he became a world star, but while in Ligue 1, the French international was incredible.

Michel Platini eventually became the UEFA President in 2007 but eventually became embroiled in a corruption case, effectively ruining his career. As a player, though, Platini was among the best in the world for over a decade. 

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 4
  • Position: Striker

With so many great players having spent their entire careers in France, you could be forgiven for wondering how Zlatan Ibrahimovic has made our list at all, let alone the top five.

In his four seasons with Parisian club Paris Saint Germain, Ibrahimovic scored almost a goal a game, finishing on 113 goals in 122 league appearances. 

Loved and hated in equal measure, it is for his influence and impact on the French top division that Ibrahimovic makes our list; in a league suffering from a loss of the X factor, Ibrahimovic tore through teams with arrogant ease. His signing made the statement that the Ligue 1 was on the rise again. 

Players such as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbnappe would probably not have stayed in France had it not been for Ibrahimovic making the league popular again.

Mbappe’s recent re-signing for PSG, when some of Europe’s top teams came calling, could well have been a foregone conclusion without the influence of the divisive Swede.

3. Raymond Kopa 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 4
  • Position: Winger

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Ballon d’Or winner Raymond Kopa, one of French soccer’s best-attacking midfielders during the 1950s and 1960s, but you should; the man was a quality player.

Spending all but three seasons of his career in Ligue 1, Kopa was a phenomenal playmaker, able to dribble past opposing players with ease and scoring or setting goals up for teammates. 

In 1970 Kopa became the first soccer player to be awarded the Legion d’honneur, the highest civilian and military award France can bestow.

First established by Napoleon in 1802, the award was in recognition of Kopa’s superb contribution to French soccer. A worthy inclusion on our list, despite many younger soccer fans not knowing much about him. 

2. Zinedine Zidane 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 0
  • Position: Attacking Midfield

We go from the superb yet relatively unknown Raymond Kopa to the mercurial and world-renowned Zinedine Zidane, one of world soccer’s most revered and successful players.

Marseille-born Zidane began his career with Cannes in 1989, before a move to Bordeaux in 1992, and became one of the hottest players in soccer. 

An attacking midfielder by trade, Zidane was one of the most creative and intelligent soccer players ever to grace Ligue 1; his use of space and his ability to operate in extremely tight spaces made him incredibly hard to stop.

Defenders attempting to man-mark Zidane would find themselves being torn apart as the superb Frenchman worked his magic with almost no room available. 

Zidane eventually spent time at both Juventus and Real Madrid and became arguably the most outstanding midfielder of all time.

During his time in France, Zidane’d trophy haul wasn’t anything to shout about, but for sheer skill and individual brilliance, he has to go down as one of the greatest players Ligue 1 has ever seen. 

1. Jean Pierre Papin 

  • Ligue 1 Titles: 4
  • Position: Striker

One of the greatest strikers France has ever produced, Jean Pierre Papin, was a prolific striker with a tendency toward spectacular goals.

Papin was a fast, lethal finisher who could score with both feet, was strong in the air, and could strike a ball cleanly, making him an expert at volleyed goals. 

Jean Pierre Papin had arguably his best spell at Marseille, where he was not only the club’s main striker he was also club captain.

While at Marseille, Papin won four Ligue 1 titles, a Coupe de France, and was part of the runners-up team in the 1991 European Cup. The same year, Papin was awarded the Ballon d’Or and the Silver award for FIFA World Player of the Year. 

Papin’s legacy is assured; he is still as popular today as he was when scoring goals for fun, the French international’s goals were some of the most spectacular that Ligue 1 has ever seen.

With such an illustrious career, it’s impossible not to put Marseille’s Player of the Century as our number one.