He started all but one of France’s matches on their way to the 2018 FIFA World Cup title in Russia, but it's so hard to believe that two years ago Benjamin Pavard was a nobody in his own country and it took a bold move to Germany to radically change the course of his career.
After switching to then Bundesliga 2 side VfB Stuttgart, promotion quickly followed and one flawless debut season in Germany’s top flight later, and Pavard is a key man in the French surge towards World Cup glory with only Belgium standing between them and a place in Sunday's final in Moscow.
Stuttgart’s diamond in defence spoke to German publication BILD. Here, bundesliga.com has abridged and translated that interview.
... Pavard on his move to Stuttgart
"One year ago, I was still a stranger [to the French national team]. I went abroad in 2016 without proving anything in my home country and was told that I’d made a bad decision when I signed for Stuttgart in the second division. But I went to Stuttgart to get minutes of action under my belt and to mature, and now I’m living a dream."
... on his parents
"My first aim is to make my father and my mother proud. We’ve had difficult times. I left my parents at the age of 10 to go to Lille's football boarding school. It was hard for me, but also for my parents, because I'm their only son. They visit me a lot and still travel six hours to every Stuttgart home game every two weeks. They were in the stadium on Tuesday against Denmark. I can never thank them enough. Being at the World Cup rewards all the sacrifices my parents and I have made."
… on the 2014 World Cup
"I was watching it at home in Jeumont. I was at zero, had barely played the season before in the youth team at Lille, so I took it upon myself to improve. I found a fitness trainer and my former youth coach trained me in the pre-season and moved me from midfielder to centre-back. A few months later I made my debut in Ligue 1."
… on his free time
"I have a Playstation at home - but I don’t touch it. As far as music is concerned, I listen to everything, including a lot of stuff from the '80s. In the changing rooms of the national team rap is the main thing."
… on his world champion dream
"In the 2006 final, I sat in front of the TV with my blue Zizou [Zinedine Zidane] jersey. Today, I have my name on the back of it. We have the team and the talent to win the title, the ones who know me know that I will stay down to earth if we become world champions, I was brought up the right way.”