Benjamin Pavard has revealed that he turned down a host of offers after becoming a FIFA World Cup winner with France because he felt he owed a debt to Stuttgart.
Loyalty is in short supply in modern football, but Pavard has shown that it can still count at the top level.
The 22-year-old’s stock rose dramatically this summer after his stunning strike against Argentina –which was later voted goal of the tournament - helped France become world champions for a second time.
Stuttgart, though, had plucked Pavard from obscurity in 2016 – something the defender kept in mind when big-money offers started flooding in after his World Cup heroics.
“I haven’t forgotten that they came looking for me in Lille at a time when few people believed in me,” he told French TV show Telefoot.
“I signed for them when they were in the second division. They showed faith in me, and it’s also down to them that I am where I am.
“I have a love for the jersey. I’m not going to hide that I had a huge number of offers but in my head it was clear. I had to stay at least one more season at Stuttgart because I love the jersey. I like the club and their supporters, so I owe them that much.”
Pavard has started all seven league games this season for Stuttgart, who are currently bottom of the Bundesliga. He says he has learned a lot from the tough start, but also admitted that he had to take a step back from the limelight this autumn.
“Everything went very fast for me,” he said. “Two years ago I was playing in the German second division. I didn’t expect to play at a World Cup as a starter. I’ve tried to do less media in order to focus on football.”
Watch: Find out what makes Benjamin Pavard so effective
Yet to lose a game at any level for France, Pavard plays at right-back for his country but centre-back or even in defensive midfield for his club. The unassuming star said he’s satisfied if his name is in the starting eleven.
“I’m happy as long as I’m on the pitch,” he said. “I’m not a right-back by trade. It’s up to me to work on that - I’m still young.
“I know what a central defender wants from a full-back: that he defends well first of all before joining the attack.”
As for his wonder goal in the 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup, Pavard has admitted that he was worried he would skew his volley high over the bar.
“No one was expecting it… I don’t usually score goals like that,” he said.
“When the ball came to me, I told myself to lean into it well. That I shouldn’t shoot a pigeon like I’ve done before! I told myself to focus on getting it on target. It was a success for me and the team – so much the better.”
Watch: Pavard on his roots, life in the Bundesliga and winning the World Cup