Home BETTING TIPS Saliba is the best central defender in world football right now.

Saliba is the best central defender in world football right now.



No team has conceded fewer goals at Euro 2024 than France. Indeed, Didier Deschamps’ team have picked the ball out of their own net just once and that came in Les Bleus’ final group game, when their passage through to the knockout rounds was all but assured. William Saliba has been at the heart of this defensive solidity.

It wasn’t even certain that Saliba would be a starting figure for France at Euro 2024. Many predicted Deschamps would favour Ibrahima Konate and Dayot Upamecano in central defence, but Saliba forced his way into the lineup for the opening game against Austria and has stayed there throughout the tournament.

And with good reason. Saliba’s performances have highlighted his standing as the best centre back in the game right now. For club and country, the 23-year-old is a commanding presence and is only getting better with every high stakes match he plays. France face one of those against Spain on Tuesday with a place in the Euro 2024 final on the line.

Deschamps has faced widespread criticism for the way he has set up France at this tournament. Despite boasting some of the best attacking talent in international football, the 2018 World Cup winners have struggled for attacking threat. Remarkably, France are yet to score a single open play goal at Euro 2024.

Yet defensively, France have been nearly impenetrable. The only goal they have conceded at Euro 2024 came from the penalty spot. In open play, no opponent has been able to trouble France, with a protective midfield barrier of N’Golo Kante, Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni in front of the back four.

Even still, Saliba has thrived as an all-round central defender at Euro 2024. Physically, the 23-year-old is able to hold his own against the most threatening of opposition forwards. Technically, Saliba is as good as anyone on the ball and is an important part of how France play out from the back.

It wasn’t so long ago that Deschamps publicly criticised Saliba. In March, the France manager made some interesting comments about the defender, who was thriving for Arsenal in the Premier League at the time. “Saliba is playing a good season [with Arsenal],” he said, “but I see him alternating things which I like a bit less. With the French national team, he gets less playing time.”

Somewhere along the line, though, Deschamps changed his mind on Saliba and that has been of benefit to France. They are a stronger team for having Saliba included in the backline with Upamecano’s lapses in concentration masked by the physical and technical qualities of his defensive partner.

France certainly haven’t been the most exhilarating team to watch at Euro 2024, but one must respect their ability to make deep runs at major tournaments. Deschamps’ team made the 2022 World Cup final only to lose on penalties. Four years previously, they won the World Cup in Russia, having made the Euro 2016 final two years before that.

Spain have impressed in Germany this summer with Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal, two generational talents who could do serious damage to France on Tuesday night. Luis de la Fuente has forged an adaptable team with several different ways of playing. France, however, have been here before.

This is a group of players that knows how to win knockout matches, but evolution has been required to keep them at the top level. The integration of Saliba may prove to be one of the most significant developments that France makes, as it phases out stalwarts like Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud. Saliba is France’s future – and their present.