Varane, Griezmann, Laporte … Before Cho, these young French people who exploded in Spain

Like Mohamed-Ali Cho, several promising young French players have ventured onto Spanish soil to try to hatch at the highest level. Some left too soon, like Jean-Clair Todibo, who returned home to Nice after a stint in Barcelona from 19 to 21 years old.
Others were already notorious cracks at the time of their transfer, such as Eduardo Camavinga or Karim Benzema. Finally, in recent years, several have attempted to cross the Pyrenees, without being known to the general public, before exploding. Here is the list.


Pérez: « This Mbappé is not my Mbappé »


Mohamed-Ali Cho, too soon?

Mohamed Ali Cho hasn’t exploded at the highest level yet, that’s for sure, but getting back quickly on his journey is worth it. After two pro seasons in Angers, at only 18, he has just settled down at Real Sociedad. Too early ? The Angevin already has bottles. With a childhood shared between France and England due to his parents’ professional career, he was first spotted by West Ham, played in the PSG academy and ended up at the training center of ‘Everton before falling into the SCO net.

Mohamed-Ali Cho, nugget from Angers and new recruit from Real Sociedad

Credit: Imago

Moreover, if he still has a technical background to refine to excel in attack, Sociedad may be the perfect place to do so. In addition to being a boy who was immediately very comfortable within the pro Angevin group, he is not the first talented tricolor in San Sebastian. The sector has already been tested by others before him (read below), which bodes well.

Antoine Griezmann, the crack without a future

« I did a lot of trials in French clubs. But nobody wanted me because I was short« . This is how Griezmann, then French international U19 and at the gates of the pro group with Real Sociedad, summed up the beginnings of his career. The story of Grizou is that of a kid in love with football failed from several professional teams. French (Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Auxerre, etc.).

« Griezmann must go on vacation… and start Nkunku on Monday »

At the age of 14, in 2009, Real Sociedad, which is not afraid of slightly frail footballers – Barça is starting to turn them into fashionable players with the Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and company – comes to get him from the UF Macon. It was in the Basque Country that he was born, grew up, then exploded in the eyes of the world in 2013-2014 with a season with 20 goals and five assists. Stats that will send him to Atlético Madrid for an estimated sum of €54m.

Aymeric Laporte, the one who would become Spaniard

If he is today in Manchester City, it is not with the Citizens that the Franco-Spanish has revealed himself at the highest level. But first, let’s go back a few years. When Athletic Bilbao gets their hands on the French defender, he is just 15 years old and plays in Bayonne. The native of Agen acclimatized quickly, learned the language perfectly in a few years and, one season after his arrival in the capital of Biscay, he was offered a three-year contract.

« I want to take the opportunity to play my first game in La Liga, with the pros. It’s possible » he already claimed at 17. A well-placed confidence since the progression was linear. In parallel with his hatching in Bilbao, he knows the international selections U17, U18, U19 then Espoirs. And will feel so good in Spain, where he estimated not to be appreciated at his fair value in France, that he will finally choose the Spanish selection in the A. If his situation at City has been fluctuating, he has found this season a starting place in the eleven of Guardiola and won the confidence of Luis Enrique in the selection. Nice course.

Laporte, Benzema, 2013

Credit: Getty Images

Robin Le Normand, fallen in Brest to get up at Sociedad

Another blow from Real Sociedad. When Le Normand joined the Spanish team in 2016, he was unknown to the general public. Brest, where he rose through the youth ranks, spent three seasons with the reserve and played a match with the pro group in Ligue 2 against Sochaux, does not wish to continue the adventure with him. Looking for a club to land on his feet, he will find much better.

Spotted by the man who went to get Antoine Griezmann, he landed at Sociedad at 19, where he discovered the charms of Spanish football. A completely different approach. « There is a lot of risk taking, the game is less defensive. I could bring something new in this register » he commented then. He did not believe so well to say. This season, he fails at the gates of C1 with Sociedad, but he is now valued at 30 million euros on the specialized site Transfermarkt, and it does not happen never for long without a journalist asking him if he wants to join the France team. The construction site that is the defense of the Blues can give ideas…

Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad)

Credit: Getty Images

Clément Lenglet, the man who refused Juve for Spain

After stints at Chantilly and Liévin, Nancy, which was then playing in Ligue 2, was the first professional club to give Clément Lenglet a chance. If he will start to make a name for himself there with the scouts, and become captain of the first team at 19, it is in a region much warmer than the east of France that the young central defender will forge a name. And not Juventus, to whom he closed the door to continue to progress.

Clément Lenglet (Sevilla) in the fight with Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid)

Credit: Getty Images

Refusing the Old Lady at the start of her career is a courageous choice, which ultimately pays off. In 2017, he pushed hard to leave Lorraine and join Andalusia. In Seville, he will flourish. So much so that a season and a half and a little more than 70 matches later, Barça wanted it and drew the checkbook: 36M€. The Bianconeri leaders probably felt a little bitter aftertaste when they learned of the transfer amount.

Jules Koundé, the one who already had a name

Jules Koundé already had a name in France when he left the Girondins de Bordeaux, where he made his mark between 2013 and 2019 and where he established himself as captain in almost all youth categories. Such a beautiful name that Sevilla FC snatch it for 25 million. He is 20 years old.

« The 3-4-3 reassures us with the Hernandez family and worries us with Koundé-Pavard »

Only, it is in Spain that he will make a name for himself internationally. A little by winning the Europa League for his first season at the club, a lot by performing at the highest level and on a regular basis. Small size for a central defender, rather comfortable with the ball, the Spanish game suits him perfectly. Today, Transfermarkt estimates its value at 60 million euros and Chelsea would like to afford it.

Raphaël Varane, the one who didn’t have time

His face hasn’t changed much since his pro debut with Lens, and yet his status on the world football scene is far from the same. Raphaël Varane is one of those who took all the risks and did well. When Real Madrid and PSG look into his case after a good season with the pros in Artois and the acquisition of a place with the Espoirs, the Frenchman does not go through four paths. When others prefer the flea jump, he makes the leap of the angel and lands in Spain.

FOOTBALL – 2012/2013 – Real Madrid – Varane

Credit: Panoramic

All is not rosy at first. Even if his performances are convincing, the playing time is slowly increasing. Nine La Liga matches, then 12, then 14, he took advantage of Pepe and Coentrao’s injuries to scratch some playing time but a nasty meniscus injury slowed him down. It is finally under the orders of Ancelotti in 2014/2015, finally, that he will pass the bar of 20 appearances in the league and really give grain to grind the competition. The sequel is better known, the Champions League, the place of full holder, the World Cup, the transfer to Manchester United for 40 million… an American success story… the Spanish!


Pérez badly digests failure: « This Mbappé is not my Mbappé »



One more nugget leaves L1: Cho at Real Sociedad until 2027


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