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Jonathan Schmid, Johan Micoud, Franck Ribery, Kingsley Coman and Bixente Lizarazu are among the standout French nationals to play in the Bundesliga. - © DFL
Jonathan Schmid, Johan Micoud, Franck Ribery, Kingsley Coman and Bixente Lizarazu are among the standout French nationals to play in the Bundesliga. - © DFL
bundesliga

From Bixente Lizarazu to Kingsley Coman: The best French Players in Bundesliga history

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Some of Les Bleus' brightest talents have lit up the Bundesliga since Gilbert Gress became the first Frenchman to play in the German top flight in 1966. Here, bundesliga.com takes a look at the best France has had to offer Germany's elite down the years...

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Franck Ribery (2007 - 2019)
Bundesliga appearances: 273

Franck Ribery helped himself to 86 goals and 120 assists in 273 Bundesliga games over 12 seasons at Bayern. He collected over 21 titles in that time, and to this day ranks as the highest scoring French national in German top-flight history. The 2012/13 campaign was arguably peak Ribery, the former Marseille winger orchestrating Bayern's historic treble of Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup. He was named UEFA's Best Player in 2013, only to be robbed of the Ballon d'Or after finishing behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the final poll.

Watch: Ribery - 12 years at Bayern, 12 goals

Kingsley Coman (2015 - present)
Bundesliga appearances: 197

Ribery supplied the match-winning assist for Arjen Robben in the 2012/13 all-German Champions League final triumph over Borussia Dortmund. Long-term successor Coman stuck away the decisive goal against boyhood club Paris Saint-Germain seven years later to put the seal on the third part of an unprecedented sextuple. Despite various career-threatening injury set-backs, he's lifted eight successive Bundesliga titles, continuing his ridiculous record of winning the league in each of his 11 seasons as a pro with PSG, Juventus and Bayern. The 2020/21 season marked a personal best in terms of combined goals (five) and assists (12) for a player who feels like he's been around forever. While he has been unable to surpass that tally in the years since, he is a key member of the squad in Munich, and at just 27, has plenty of football ahead of him to make an even bigger impact.

Benjamin Pavard (2017 - 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 174

Pavard was an integral part of Bayern's sextuple-winning troupe, two years after getting his hands on the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He came to the fore playing at the heart of VfB Stuttgart's defence, experiencing the highs of promotion to the Bundesliga and the lows of an immediate relegation to Bundesliga 2, but the former Lille youth academy prospect was mostly used on the right-hand side of the Bayern back four. The four-time Bundesliga winner was a dependable defender who also possessed impressive vision and the occasional eye for the spectacular. A move to Inter Milan in the summer of 2023 brought an end to his successful stint in Germany.

Lucas Hernandez (2019 - 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 74

Hernandez has much in common with Pavard. As well as winning four Bundesliga titles with Bayern and the World Cup with France, the former Atletico Madrid defender is a victim of his own versatility - not that it has had an effect on his performances. Until February 2021, the left-sided defender - happy in the middle or out wide - held the distinction of having never lost a single one of his first 32 Bundesliga appearances. Unfortunately, we perhaps never got to see the very best of the 27-year-old before his recent switch back to PSG as a number of injuries, including a serious cruciate ligament rupture, forced him to spend long spells on the sidelines.

Lucas Hernandez (l.), Benjamin Pavard (2nd l.) and Kingsley Coman (r.) were among five Frenchman involved in Bayern's 2019/20 treble win. - MIGUEL A. LOPES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Dayot Upamecano (2017-present)
Bundesliga appearances: 188

Upamecano's star has been on the rise ever since joining RB Leipzig in the 2017 January transfer window. The centre-back immediately became an integral part of Die Roten Bullen's starting line-up, making 154 appearances in all competitions over the next four years as Leipzig established themselves as one of Germany's top clubs. He helped the side reach the 2019/20 Champions League semi-finals before making the next step with a transfer to Bayern. Two league titles have followed and he is now an established member of the first-team.

Johan Micoud (2002 - 2006)
Bundesliga appearances: 123

Hernandez was still in elementary school when Johan Micoud orchestrated Werder Bremen's memorable 2003/04 Bundesliga-DFB Cup double. Le Chef (the Chief) chipped Oliver Kahn as Werder claimed their first league title in 19 years in, of all places, Munich. The French midfielder was also on target in every round, bar the final, in the cup. It marked his only season of four in the Bundesliga in which he reached double figures for goals, but the former Bordeaux and Parma playmaker did split 16 strikes evenly over his final two top-flight campaigns in Germany, whilst setting up 23 more. He retired in 2008 following a stint back at Bordeaux, before becoming club president at hometown club Cannes.

Johan Micoud played second fiddle to Zinedine Zidane for France, but took centre stage at Werder Bremen. - Getty Images

Bixente Lizarazu (1997 - 2006)
Bundesliga appearances: 183

Lizarazu left Bayern on the back of Bremen's Micoud-inspired title triumph, only to return for one final 18-month stint six months later. By that time, the pocket-rocket of a left-back had lifted the 1998 World Cup and 2000 UEFA European Championship with France. When he bid au revoir to Munich, he did so as a six-time Bundesliga, five-time DFB Cup and Champions League winner. Although not the first French player to pull on the famous red jersey - that honour goes to Jean-Pierre Papin - the now TV pundit takes a big slice of the credit for starting Bayern's love affair with France.

Willy Sagnol (2000 - 2009)
Bundesliga appearances:
184

Operating on the opposite flank of the Bayern defence to Lizarazu, Sagnol left a similarly lasting impression. He quickly became a fan favourite in the Bavarian capital, contributing to five Bundesliga titles, four DFB Cups and a Champions League final triumph across a nine-year spell ended by a crippling Achilles injury. Very much the modern full-back, he also produced 38 Bundesliga assists, averaging five per season. The 58-time France international returned to Bayern in a coaching capacity in 2017, working as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant and, fleetingly, the Italian's interim successor.

Bixente Lizarazu and Willy Sagnol (l-r.) celebrated many a Bundesliga title win atop the balcony of Munich's town hall. - imago/Sammy Minkoff

Marcus Thuram (2019 - 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 
111

Thuram is the oldest son of the legendary Lilian and, while he may struggle to live up to his father's remarkable reputation and legacy, he has already forged a good career of his own. Replacing the departing Thorgan Hazard in 2019 at Borussia Mönchengladbach, the forward took over the number 10 shirt and immediately began to impressive. Ten goals in his maiden Bundesliga campaign were complimented by eight assists and, other than the comparatively disappointing 2021/22 term, he continued to post similar tallies. A regular thorn in Bayern's side - he was on the losing side just twice in eight encounters, winning four - he picked up a career high 19 league goal contributions (13 goals, six assists) in 2022/23, even as Gladbach struggled. That would prove to be his last season at Borussia-Park as a switch to Inter soon followed.

Anthony Modeste (2013 - 2017, 2019 - 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 209

Modeste may have started his Bundesliga journey with Hoffenheim, but it is with Cologne that he is undoubtedly associated. The striker enjoyed two solid season with Die Kraichgauer, netting 19 goals, before Effzeh came calling in 2015. Fifteen strikes in the 2015/16 term ensued, although Modeste was at his imperious best one year later. If not for the unstoppable Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Cologne's main man would have picked up the Torjägerkanone, given to the Bundesliga's top goalscorer, as he found the back of the net on 25 occasions. His strikes helped the Billy Goats qualify for a major European competition, the UEFA Europa League, for the first time in 25 years and, although he was unable to help them avoid relegation to the second tier, he played another starring role as they again reached a continental tournament in 2022 - this time, 20 efforts were enough to book a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League. A short spell at Borussia Dortmund came and went before the centre-forward left for Egypt.

Christopher Nkunku (2019 - 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 119

Along with Ribery, Nkunku is the only Frenchman to pick up the Bundesliga's Player of the Year award, which should tell you enough about the level of his performances. He earned that accolade for the 2021/22 term, during which he scored 20 league goals and created a further 13, but he was already an established talent in Germany by that point. He hit the ground, picking up 13 Bundesliga assists in his maiden campaign (2019/20), and his attacking versatility made him a stand-out player for Leipzig. Nkunku was a man for the big occasion, scoring a hat-trick against Manchester City in the 2021/22 Champions League, as well as netting in the 2022 and 2023 DFB Cup finals, both of which his side won. After picking up the 2022/23 Bundesliga Torjägerkanone with 16 strikes, despite spending a significant part of the term out injured, the former PSG youngster moved on to Chelsea having confirmed his place amongst Leipzig's best ever players.

Watch: All of Nkunku's Bundesliga goals

Valerien Ismael (2003 - 2009)
Bundesliga appearances: 113

Ismael also crossed the white line, but not before winning successive Bundesliga-DFB Cup doubles. His first fell alongside Micoud at Bremen; his second in the same Bayern team as Lizarazu and Sagnol. Injury prevented further successes, limiting the central defender to only one first-team league outing over the entire 2006/07 campaign and 2007/08 Hinrunde. Following 18 appearances for Bundesliga rivals Hannover and further physical torment, the former France youth international was forced into retirement at 33. An ensuing coaching career has taken in spells with Nuremberg, the Wolfsburg reserves and seniors, Greece's Apollon Smyrnis, Austrian outfit LASK and current employers Barnsley of the English Championship.

Jonathan Schmid (2011- 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 299

Since making his Bundesliga debut for Freiburg on 22 January 2011, Schmid went on to enjoy 12 years of top tier football in Germany, representing Hoffenheim and Augsburg before returning to the Black Forest club where it all began in time for 2019/20. On Matchday 25 of the 2020/21 campaign, the right-sided specialist made a milestone 274th outing to overtake Ribery as the French player with the most Bundesliga appearances. "Only the best can achieve that," said the former record-holder in a video message to Freiburg's long-serving Frenchman, who had a direct hand in 79 goals in his 299 Bundesliga matches before departing for Austria Lustenau.

Matthieu Delpierre (2004 - 2014)
Bundesliga appearances: 185

Former Hoffenheim and Stuttgart defender Matthieu Delpierre is third on the Bundesliga's all-time appearance list for French players. He moved from Lille to the Cannstadt club, à la Pavard, in summer 2004, making the rump of his 185 Bundesliga appearances for the 2006/07 champions, including a personal-best 33 out of a possible 34 during their title-winning campaign. The Nancy-born defender's last station on German soil was Hoffenheim in 2012/13. After representing Utrecht in Holland and winning the A-League with Melbourne Victory, he hung up his playing boots in summer 2016.

Moussa Diaby (2019 - 2023)
Bundesliga appearances: 125

Throughout his four years in the Bundesliga, Diaby was one of the division's most exciting wingers as his blend of pace and trickery often had him causing opposing defences all kinds of problems. Despite receiving the odd critic for perceived selfishness, he racked up at least 10 league assists in two campaigns, and also provided a regular goalscoring contribution. In 2022/23, his final season in Germany before joining Aston Villa in the English Premier League, Diaby sat atop of Bayer Leverkusen's goal and assists charts with nine and eight respectively and, as he embarked a new challenge in England, few in Germany would bet against him being a roaring success.