Pavard: 'I'm living a dream'
Benjamin Pavard has admitted he is living "a childhood dream" following a fairytale rise from promising LOSC Lille youngster to FIFA World Cup winner and France and Bayern Munich regular in four rollercoaster years.
Pavard played a handful of first-team games at Lille before — with his opportunities limited — he made the bold decision to join German second division side Stuttgart in summer 2016.
He watched France finish runners-up at UEFA EURO 2016 from his family home in northern France, but just two years later, was on the pitch having played a starring role in his country's second FIFA World Cup win.
A move to Bayern followed last summer, and the 23-year-old is now France's first-choice right-back.
"I didn't imagine I'd experience all of this," Pavard told L'Equipe. "My aim was to get into the France team one day. I didn't think it would come so quickly. I'm world champion. It's a childhood dream."
Injury and fitness concerns over Djibril Sidibé propelled Pavard into a prominent place in Deschamps' plans for the tournament in Russia, and he then earned himself cult status with his stunning strike against Argentina in the Last 16.
"Some people think I made my career from a goal. I didn't make my career on that," Pavard countered. "If I signed for Bayern Munich, it's because they had been following me for some time, and that I was playing well. They didn't say to themselves, 'Well, let's sign Pavard, just for his half-volley.'"
As he did at Stuttgart, Pavard usually plays centre-back for Bayern, but — like Lilian Thuram before him — right-back for his country.
"I know I'm not the best right-back in the world. I still have things to learn," he said. "There are soem who are a lot better than me, but I think I've improved in certain areas: my crosses, defensively.
"With my agent, we have put a lot of things in place with a physio, a fitness coach, and video analysis for me to perform as well as possibe. I'm not putting myself in a hierarchy. I say to myself, 'I'm not the best right-back in the world, but I'm going to do everything to improve.'"