Search icon


16th Jun 2018

World Cup Profiles: Who is Benjamin Pavard? France’s elegant baby-faced defender

The 22-year-old has experienced a stunning rise from Germany's second division to starting in the World Cup for France

Wayne Farry

A very modern arrival

To many, the name Benjamin Pavard will have jumped out from France’s team sheet on Saturday with a bang. By no means a household name, he nonetheless started his country’s World Cup campaign against Australia.

To others, the name Benjamin Pavard will have entered their consciousness back in 2016, when the VfB Stuttgart youngster shocked and delighted social media users in equal measure with the sort of assist David Beckham would be proud of. Not bad for a defender.

Regardless of when you first heard the name, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re going to be hearing it a lot more after this summer.

Conventionally a centre-back, the 22-year-old has shown remarkable tactical versatility when deployed at right-back by France manager Didier Deschamps, as he has been in his seven international appearances.

He has shown extraordinary consistency in his two seasons in Germany – enough to make Europe’s best take notice – but looking back on his young career it’s astonishing, and testament to the player, that he has found himself in the position he has.

At the end of the 2015/16 season, the then Lille defender was left with a decision to make, having just 21 appearances during his two seasons in the club’s senior side.

At the time, unlike now, the offers were not overly forthcoming, and Pavard was forced to drop down to 2. Bundesliga to join Stuttgart, who had just been relegated for the first time in 41 years. His time in the second division was short thankfully, as Stuttgart bounced right back to the Bundesliga, and their return could not have been sweeter.

Finishing 7th overall, Pavard was part of the league’s second meanest defence which conceded just 36 games in 34 games. Only Bayern Munich conceded less, with 28.

Throughout the season he displayed a level of discipline, composed aggression and vision well beyond both his years and his seemingly frail, pale frame. He may look like your older brother’s mate who avoids sunlight like the plague, but he doesn’t play like it.

Such qualities are undoubtedly the reason behind his rise to prominence in the French side, and also explain why Deschamps was at ease with putting him in the side in place of the injured AS Monaco full-back Djibril Sidibe.

As big a miss as Sidibe is, it’s not hard to see why Pavard has been trusted in his stead. A cursory look at his performances for both club and country showcase a player possessing an enormous array of both technical and physical qualities.

He is as likely to win a foot race with a speedy attacker as he is to turn around and steal the ball away before his opponent even notices he’s there, before dropping the shoulder and escaping in a puff of smoke like the evil magician he is.

Above all though, he plays the game with way more understanding than any 22-year-old has the right to, and has a thirst for success that would make plenty of fellow pros blush.

To many, the name Benjamin Pavard still means nothing. But that’s about to change.