The signing of Corentin Tolisso continues a proud tradition at Bayern Munich of French talent crossing the border to ply their trade in the Bundesliga. The midfielder will become the seventh Frenchman to turn out for Germany’s record champions when he makes his debut, with his countrymen before him having already made a combined 1,049 appearances in the famous red. When Munich and France combine, it simply seems to breed success.
Wind back the clock to 30 August 1995 and Markus Babbel sends a cross into the Uerdingen penalty area during a Bundesliga match at Munich’s Olympiastadion. The ball is met by Jean-Pierre Papin, the first Frenchman to don a Bayern shirt, who fires it past goalkeeper Bernd Dreher with a sideways scissor-kick.
Although Papin’s two seasons in the Bundesliga were not as successful as had been hoped, the Frenchman’s fine finish on Matchday 3 of 1995/96 was chosen as goal of the season. The term "papinade" entered the French language as a way of describing a sideways scissor-kick similar to that smashed home by Papin.
Lizarazu and Sagnol define an era
A year after Papin’s 1996 departure, Bixente Lizarazu pitched up in the Bavarian capital. At 27, the left-back was already vastly experienced, having won international caps for Les Bleus and played at Athletic Bilbao and Bordeaux, where he turned out alongside Zinedine Zidane.
Lizarazu came up against his future employers with Les Girondins in the final of the 1996 UEFA Cup, when he came off second best. However, the titles would soon follow in Munich, where Lizarazu won the Bundesliga six times, the DFB Cup five times, the League Cup four times, as well as the UEFA Champions League and Intercontinental Cup once apiece during a decade-long spell with Bayern. The defender also won the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000 with France during his time in Bavaria. Chapeau, Liza, as they say in France.
Willy Sagnol arrived in 2000 to strengthen the right side of the Bayern defence, and things worked out pretty well for the new assistant coach, too. By the time he retired in 2009, Sagnol had amassed five Bundesliga titles, four DFB Cups, a League Cup, Champions League and Intercontinental Cup each. Occasionally captaining the side, the defender made 277 appearances for Bayern, pipping his compatriot on the opposite flank by four games.
Taking up a new role in the dugout alongside Carlo Ancelotti at the Allianz Arena for the coming season, Sagnol is determined to play his role in ensuring success at the record champions. “I’m pleased to be bringing my family back to Munich,” said the former France U-21 and Bordeaux coach. “It’s a real honour for me that Carlo Ancelotti, one of the best and most experienced coaches in world football, has chosen me to sit alongside him at Bayern.”
The next Frenchman to arrive in Munich in 2005 was Valerien Ismael, who had won the double with Werder Bremen just two years earlier. Together with Lizarazu and Sagnol, it meant there were three French defenders on the Bayern books, a recipe that brought further success as Ismael won his second double as a player in Germany in his first season in Munich. The Strasbourg native remained with the record champions until January 2008, but a series of unfortunate injuries limited his playing time to just 46 competitive appearances.
It is already ten years since Franck Ribery put pen to paper on his first contract in Munich. Today he sits 18th on Bayern’s all-time list for appearances ahead of the likes of Paul Breitner, Claudio Pizarro and Uli Hoeneß. In terms of goals, he is even eleventh, ahead of Robert Lewandowski, Hoeneß, Breitner, Roy Makaay and Lothar Matthäus. Indeed, seven Bundesliga medals, five DFB Cups, two League Cups, two Supercups, a Champions League, Club World Cup and UEFA Supercup later, Ribery is now the most successful non-German in Bundesliga history. And he isn’t done yet…
Watch: Ribery and Ancelotti share a kiss!
Despite turning 34 in April, the left winger still provided five goals and 11 further assists from his 22 Bundesliga appearances last term. He also chipped in with seven more assists from just nine games in the Champions League and DFB Cup. Ribery is one of the leading names from a generation of Bayern players that has brought unrivalled success, including the 2013 treble, standing tall alongside the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben.
La Nouvelle Vague
Another French winger, Kingsley Coman, arrived at the Allianz Arena two seasons ago at just 19, while latest signing Tolisso is only 22. The Gallic duo are the sixth and seventh players from Germany’s western neighbour to sign for Bayern, and are following in some giant footsteps. Both highly regarded around the world in their respective positions, Coman and Tolisso are set to play a part in further success at the record champions in the short, medium and long-term.
The upcoming campaign could be key for Coman in making his breakthrough. The winger provided a combined 18 goals and assists in all competitions during his debut season under Pep Guardiola, but managed just three in 2016/17. He was only on loan at Bayern for those two seasons from Juventus, but the German record champions have shown faith in the youngster, who already boasts a remarkable five league titles to his name, and signed him on a permanent basis.
An intelligent central midfielder with an eye for space and teammates, Tolisso is set to be the next great success story out of the Bavarian-Franco connection. His ability to play both as a defensive and attacking midfielder makes him a rare breed in modern football, and could make him the ideal man to fill the immense hole left behind at Bayern following the retirement of Xabi Alonso.
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