075 Laurent Blanc
French central defender Laurent Blanc is recognised as one of the finest players in his position in the later years of the twentieth century. He enjoyed a long and distinguished club career lasting twenty years, and won nearly 100 caps for his country in an equally successful international career.
Blanc started his club career at Montpellier in 1983, when the club was in the Franch Second Division, and helped them to reach the top flight four years later. During his stay at the club, Montpellier became contenders for major honours and Blanc won the first trophy of his career in the French Cup in 1990, the year in which he was named French Footballer of the Year.
In 1991, Blanc moved to Italy to play for Napoli, but failed to settle in Serie A and a year later returned to France and signed for Nîmes after playing for France in the 1992 European Championship. After moving on to Saint Étienne in 1993, it was a transfer to AJ Auxerre in 1995 that brought about the most successful season of Blanc's career in 1995-96. He played a crucial part in helping to achieve a league and cup double in his only season at the club.
After playing in his second European Championship in 1996, Blanc moved to Spain where he won a Spanish Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup in one season with Barcelona. Moving to Olympique de Marseille in 1997, he played a major part in France's World Cup winning squad of 1998. After scoring the World Cup's first ever golden goal against Paraguay, Blanc missed out on the final through suspension but still claimed a winner's medal.
Returning to Italy to play for Internazionale in 1999, Blanc enjoyed more international success in the 2000 European Championship as France added that title to the World Cup, bringing the curtain down on his international career. In 2001, he made the final move of his club career when he signed for Manchester United, winning a Premier League title in 2003 before ending his playing career. In 2007, Blanc embarked on a coaching career when he took charge of Girondins de Bordeaux.