Who is Benjamin Pavard? The France full-back hero linked to Manchester United and Arsenal

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Benjamin Pavard France 2018
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The Stuttgart defender's versatility has been an asset to Didier Deschamps, also putting him in the shop window for some of Europe's biggest clubs

Being compared to a World Cup and European Championship winner is difficult for any young footballer. Even more so when it is the player themselves inviting the comparisons.

When Goal asked versatile French defender Benjamin Pavard about the challenges of playing in a different position for France to his role at Stuttgart and how that would impact his international career, the 22-year-old referenced his country's most-capped player, Lilian Thuram:

"Whether I play right, left or as a centre back, for me it's a little bit the same," Pavard told Goal

"A defender must first defend well. Of course, as a left or right back, I have to attack more, but for me, it's the same. I can play well in all these positions.

"The question could be asked, for sure, but for me it is not a problem. Before, there was Lilian Thuram who also played as a centre back in club and as a right back with the national team. I feel good as a central back, and I also enjoy to play at right. So why not do the same career as him?"

Thuram was just 24 when he scored two goals at the World Cup for France, netting twice in the semi-final comeback against Croatia before Les Bleus lifted the title on home soil with a 3-0 win in the final over Brazil.

These were the only two goals Thuram ever scored in a France jersey, despite appearing a record 142 times for his country. They are also goals that the 'new Thuram' does not recall from memory, having been just two-years-old when France won their last World Cup.

With just nine caps to his name so far, Pavard is a relative newcomer on the international scene, but already has written his name into France's World Cup history, striking an unbelievable shot into the net against Argentina to help Didier Deschamps side knock Lionel Messi out and set up a quarter-final date with Uruguay .

The last goal scored by a French defender at the World Cup before Pavard's excellent finish? Thuram's matchwinner in 1998.

Unlike Monaco graduate Thuram, Pavard's emergence as an international star has not been a straightforward one. In the summer of 2016, the defender decided to turn his back on Ligue 1, having failed to win a regular first-team spot at Lille.

He took a risk by moving to Stuttgart, who were then in the German second tier, having been relegated from the Bundesliga the previous season. He missed their opening game of the 2016-17 campaign due to international duty with France Under-21s, watching from the bench as Corentin Tolisso scored twice in a 2-0 victory over Iceland.

Almost two years later, Tolisso scored Bayern Munich's final goal of the season, as Pavard and Stuttgart stunned the Bundesliga champions 4-1 to help VfB complete a brilliant finale to their 2017-18 campaign, revitalised under new head coach Tayfun Korkut, who guided them to seventh in the table having taken over with the club two spots above relegation.

Before Korkut arrived, Pavard was deployed all across the defence for Stuttgart, as well as in defensive midfield and right midfield. Under the former Turkey international, Pavard became the club's key central defender, playing every single minute of the season.

GFX Pavard WC Stats

In Russia, he has also become first choice with France, only missing the dead rubber game against Denmark as Deschamps decided to rest and rotate players for the knockout stages. He has been deployed at right-back at the World Cup, where his excellent positioning sense has helped France into the last eight.

Pavard is a confident, composed defender, who rarely over-commits and can be relied upon, even against more experienced attackers. His confidence on the ball and keen eye for a pass is why former Stuttgart boss Hannes Wolf deployed him in midfield, while Deschamps uses this ability to help build French attacks.

Even before his stunning strike against Argentina, Pavard had been linked with a move to bigger clubs in Europe. Tottenham were interested back in April, before Manchester United and Arsenal joined the race for the 22-year-old. 

He has no shortage of suitors in Germany either, with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig keen to get him to strengthen their defences. Pavard's value has skyrocketed during the World Cup, but he will be available for €35 million (£31m/$41m) in 2019 due to a release clause in his contract.

Stuttgart sporting director Michael Reschke has confirmed the clause, but also indicates that the club could make a lot more money if they sold him this summer.

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"We make no secret of the fact that Benjamin has an exit clause for 2019," Reschke the  Sport Bild  . "We would forego a lot of money if he plays with us for another year. I think that he will change for the 2019-20 season and play for one of the top eight clubs in Europe."

If Pavard keeps playing like he has been for France, that prediction from Reschke definitely will come true. He has already gotten the blessing of Thuram: "I want to congratulate him, but not only for his goal, for all he does: defensively he is very good," the World Cup winner told Le Parisien.

"I never dreamed of scoring a goal like Pavard. I was not aware of what was going on. In training, I never even got one!"