Blues – Only Maignan in C1, less and less in L1: What’s the problem with French goalkeepers?

The strength of the France team lies in its ability to bring out players from several generations, incumbents in major European clubs, in each of its positions or almost. The depth and variety of their breeding ground makes Les Bleus a benchmark selection today. Except that some positions are much less well filled. That of right-back, of course, but also that of goalkeeper. This gathering offers us a spectacular reminder. In the absence of injured Mike Maignan, and Steve Mandanda, in difficulty in Marseille, Didier Deschamps had to call on Benoît Costil (34 years old, 1 selection and no Champions League match, Bordeaux goalkeeper and the 19th defense L1) and Alphonse Areola (West Ham, no Premier League game this season).

Alphonse Areola returns to the Blues

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Suffice to say that in the event of a problem for Hugo Lloris, the Blues would put their fate between inexperienced gloves at the very high level or cooled by a blank season. How did we get here ? The first explanation lies in two men, Steve Mandanda and, above all, Hugo Lloris, two trees who have hidden a desert and maintained a form of mirage. Present at a very high level and in the France team for 13 years, the duo were enough to make their selection for a position that demands, more than others, a form of continuity. The bad adventure experienced by the Marseillais and the age of the former Niçois (34 years) remind us that they are not eternal.


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Meslier, the next big thing?

However, behind them, France is suffering from a generational depression. Only one French goalkeeper is playing in the Champions League today for a starting position: Mike Maignan. And the proportion of tricolor goalkeeper even in the national championship decreases drastically (only 7 holders among the twenty clubs) and no training engaged in Europe this season aligns a French in his cage. Lille and Marseille have chosen a Croatian (Ivo Grbic) and a Spaniard (Pau Lopez) to succeed Maignan and Mandanda.

Pau Lopez during the match between Marseille and Lens, September 26, 2021 in Ligue 1

Credit: Getty Images

« But there are only two countries that have more resources than the post today: Brazil and Germany, opposes Christophe Lollichon, responsible for the performance of the goalkeepers at Chelsea. This is not a specifically French problem and we can see that the Netherlands is recalling Jasper Cillessen, for example. With Lloris, Mandanda, Areola and Maignan, we have four international level goalkeepers all the same. But it is true that we have a small generational hole behind with the only Illan Meslier. He is a top of the line and he will go through the selections if he evolves well but he is a bit alone.« 

A training problem?

Holder in the Premier League for more than a year, the Leeds goalkeeper (21), who has the full confidence of Marcelo Bielsa, is the big (and unique?) Promise thanks to his 96 meter, his big wingspan and his game at the foot. It compensates there for a deficiency of the French goalkeeper, despite rare exceptions (Maignan in particular), which suffers from the comparison with the Spanish or German school in the participation in the game.

Steve Mandanda, Jorge Sampaoli and Alvaro Gonzalez (Marseille)

Credit: Getty Images

This is how Sampaoli justified the arrival of Pau Lopez in Marseille in particular. « It’s a real limit for French goalkeepers, breath Lollichon, co-founder with Christophe Revel of the French association of professional goalkeeper coaches. In France, they are not made to participate in conservation play or in exercises where they use their feet. Many do not yet understand the interest and we are behind the Dutch or the Spaniards. Another problem in detection is the size of our guards. Lloris, Maignan, Costil are small goalkeepers with regard to what is done in the Champions League. It is changing but we are still late.« In the meantime, Deschamps no doubt hopes that Hugo Lloris will extend his career as long as possible. The succession is not yet ready. And, we have understood, it may not be easy.

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