Why Patrice Evra Deserves Place In Current France Squad
Ever since the 2010 World Cup, Patrice Evra has divided the French public. Adam Digby, author of “Juventus: A History in Black and White” tells us why the left-back continues to deserve a place in France’s squad heading towards the 2016 European Championships.
Putting aside their wonderful performance against Borussia Dortmund, the last three domestic fixtures contested by Juventus have each ended with the Bianconeri winning by a 1-0 scoreline. Sassuolo, Palermo and Genoa have each played superbly against the reigning Italian champions, only to succumb to a single attacking move which allowed their opponents to take away all three points. The identity of the three goalscorers – Paul Pogba, Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez – shows that Max Allegri’s side contains players capable of single-handedly winning games, with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal also deserving a place on that list.
Yet equally important has been the resolute defence, where the return of Andrea Barzagli alongside international team-mates Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini has left Gigi Buffon a virtual spectator during most league games. The quality of former Lille man Stephan Lichtsteiner cannot be questioned, but the role of Patrice Evra would leave any regular watcher of Juventus in no doubt as to how deserving the former Manchester United full-back is of his place in the latest France squad.
His performances since moving to Turin have been of incredible quality, making the doubts which arose last summer over his ability to contribute to the team seem almost laughable in retrospect. A series of injuries to Kwadwo Asamoah, Martin Caceres and Rômulo have reduced the options available to Allegri, but even if the side was at full strength Evra has played well enough to start over the aforementioned trio.
Juventus have conceded just fourteen league goals so far this season, keeping eleven clean sheets in Evra’s 22 appearances, a testament to the 33-year-old’s impact on the field. In almost every facet of the game he has been proven to excel, quickly settling in to one of European football’s most well-established backlines and looking like he has been alongside them for years. Starting his career with Marsala and Monza meant the language was never going to be an issue, and Evra’s resolute defending has also seen him slot back into life on the peninsula quickly.
He has rarely been caught out of position or short of pace, and once possession has been won he has been quick to press forward in attack. His crossing remains excellent, while his impact in the air – including a well-taken goal against Sampdoria – shows he has lost none of the underrated leaping ability which makes him such a weapon at set-pieces.
Evra has also displayed tactical intelligence, becoming a vital component in Allegri’s switch to a four-man defence, whilst being completely at ease in the 3-5-2 that has also been used on a number of occasions. That versatility has allowed the coach to change formations even during the course of a single match – as he did against Borussia Dortmund after Pogba left the field due to injury – something that very few sides are able to do.
Of course there may be (very few) people questioning what Evra brings on the field, his incredible list of achievements as a player needing little introduction to anyone with more than a passing interest in the game. With him and France, it is always going to come back to events at the 2010 World Cup where the then-captain led a revolt over the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka and refused to train, eventually resulting in bans for Franck Ribéry, Jérémy Toulalan and of course Evra.
While the manner in which it was conducted was clearly terrible, the players took the action they felt was necessary, and Evra has clearly improved and matured since that summer in South Africa. At Juventus he has played a key role in the locker room, becoming a highly valuable role model to his compatriots Kingsley Coman and Paul Pogba, players who clearly respect and revere Evra both as a player and a man.
“He is my Uncle Pat!” Pogba told RMC Sport earlier in the campaign. “I am young and still need to learn. I cannot do everything right.” The willingness of the two gifted youngsters to improve is vital, but so is Evra’s desire to show them how to behave and what is expected of players at the highest level. It will play a major factor in the team’s continued rise, with Allegri believing the squad as a whole is yet to reach its full potential.
“This squad has everything needed to play even better than they did tonight,” the coach said after their superb win over Jurgen Klopp’s side. His impressive full-back has already helped the squad to improve; if signing the former Monaco man came as something of a surprise in the summer, his impact has surely been even more unexpected, but the evidence of it has been clear to see.
His play undoubtedly deserves the honour of being recognised by Didier Deschamps, and if Les Bleus can coax the same level of performance from him as the Bianconeri, he may win over those who continue to criticise him in his homeland.