Still only 21, Maxence Lacroix has been a mainstay at the heart of a stingy Wolfsburg backline. - © Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Still only 21, Maxence Lacroix has been a mainstay at the heart of a stingy Wolfsburg backline. - © Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
bundesliga

Who is Maxence Lacroix, Wolfsburg's defensive rock?

Having left home at the age of 13 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer, it is perhaps no surprise that Maxence Lacroix is already showing a maturity beyond his 21 years at the heart of a stingy Wolfsburg defence.

But what else is there to know about the France U20 youth international? bundesliga.com explores

Maxence Lacroix

Age: 21
Club: Wolfsburg
Position: Centre-back
Country: France (two caps for U20s)

Key stats

Standing at 6’3” (190cm) and weighing 88kg (194 pounds), Lacroix certainly has the physique to handle everything top-flight football can throw at him, but his path to the top was by no means straightforward. Born in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges on the outskirts of Paris, he began playing at the age of four, and by the time he was 13 he was deemed good enough to join the youth academy at Trellisac, over 300 miles away to the south-west.

Lacroix outfoxed current Bayern Munich striker and former Paris Saint-Germain forward Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (l.) during his time in the Sochaux first team. - imago images

Two years later, Lacroix was on the move again, this time over 400 miles to the east to the youth set-up at French second-tier side Sochaux. There, “it all went very quickly,” as the centre-back recalled. He signed professional terms at the age of 17, making his first-team debut at the age of 18 in the Coupe de France in December 2018.

A further 27 appearances for the side followed over the next season and a half as he established himself as a regular in the team, before Wolfsburg came calling in summer 2020.

The right-footer has continued to progress rapidly in the Bundesliga. He wasted little time in establishing himself as first-choice partner to John Brooks in the heart of the Wolves’ defence, starting 29 of their league outings in 2020/21 and making 36 appearances in all competitions.

Not only that, but he clocked the 4th-fastest speed of any player in Germany in 2020/21 at 22.2 mph (35.75 km/h), with only Jeremiah St. Juste, Erling Haaland and Alphonso Davies ahead of him. He was 18th in the overall tackle-winning stakes with 339, and 20th in aerial duels (90). No wonder Wolfsburg had the second-stingiest defences in the 2020/21 Bundesliga, keeping seven consecutive clean sheets between Matchdays 17 and 23 and conceding only 37 goals overall. With Lacroix at the back - and chipping in with a goal and an assist - the Wolves secured a fourth-place finish and a return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2015.

Plays a bit like: Rio Ferdinand

A centre-back cut from the ‘tall and lean’ mould, rather than ‘big and hulky’ variety, Lacroix has a certain grace on the ball that is reminiscent of former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand in his prime. Similarly able to glide out of defence and pick a forward pass to a teammate, his elegance masks a steely will to win and a healthy aggression. In 2020/21, for example, he was among the top 30 players league wide for passing accuracy (87 percent) while also coming out on top in an impressive 59 percent of his tackles.

Did you know?

Lacroix started playing football thanks to his father, who used to be a goalkeeper at amateur level. Maxence also started out as a goalkeeper, but by the time he was 13 he had moved up the pitch to play as a striker while at the Bordeaux youth academy. When he joined the Sochaux youth system at the age of 15 he was moved back to attacking midfield, then defensive midfield, before ultimately becoming a centre-back.

“The director of the academy at Sochaux, Éric Hély, played me as a central defender and told me that it was in that position that I would be able to go furthest as a professional,” Lacroix recalled to bundesliga.com. “I listened to him and ultimately I consider centre-back to be my best position."

Lacroix and John Brooks have formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Wolfsburg defence. - /

What they’re saying:

“He greets me every day in German. I’m very satisfied with Maxence’s work.” - Wolfsburg head coach Oliver Glasner

“He arrived here from France and I was amazed at how well he adapted to the level here. He’s a very talented boy.” – Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels

“He’s got everything you need to establish yourself in the Bundesliga.” – Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schäfer

“I'm quite athletic, I'm quick, I'm strong. I'm not bad with the ball at my feet, I'm able to do everything the coach asks of me. That’s the most important thing." – Maxence Lacroix