Football Features

13 familiar players Le Havre’s youth system has given football

By Squawka News

Published: 15:55, 27 March 2021 | Updated: 2:26, 29 November 2022

There are a lot of clubs around Europe famous for being talent factories, but one that often gets overlooked is Le Havre.

The French club are currently in Ligue 2 but have made a name for themselves for bringing young talent through the ranks before either playing them or eventually selling.

Some of these players have gone on to star across the world, both at club and international level, proving the quality of the youth set up at Le Havre.

But who are these players? We’ve taken a look at 13 of Le Havre’s best exports, think of them as gifts the club have given the world of football.

1. Paul Pogba

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba applauds fans after 4-0 win over Chelsea

We start with the player Le Havre are famed for, the one that everyone references when talking about the club, even if he is just 28.

Pogba joined Le Havre in 2007, and even though he only spent a couple of seasons with the club, his performances were crucial for the academy and that quickly brought him to the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, joining Man Utd initially in 2009. He has since gone on to win a plethora of trophies, including the 2018 World Cup with France.

2. Lassana Diarra

Like other good players, Diarra found it hard to break into football because so many academies deemed him to be too small and weak.

It was Le Havre who gave him a chance, bringing him in during the 2003/04 season.

With regular football and a club who played him in his best position, Diarra excelled and, like Pogba, earned a big move of his own, this time to José Mourinho’s Chelsea.

It took Diarra a while again to prove himself on the biggest stage, but he did just that with Real Madrid and impressed once more with Marseille during the 2015/16 campaign, but was released in February 2017 after struggling for appearances. He last played for French side Paris Saint-Germain, spending a year with the club before announcing his retirement in 2019.

3. Florent Sinama Pongolle

Sinama Pongolle was born on the island of Réunion but joined Le Havre as part of their partnership with Saint-Pierroise, a club on the island, when he was still very young.

He spent six years with the academy before eventually joining Liverpool along with his cousin Anthony Le Tallec, although he made far more appearances than his relation.

Both players spent two years back at Le Havre on loan as part of the deal. Sinama Pongolle went on to have spells at clubs across the world including Blackburn, Atletico Madrid, Rostov and Chicago Fire before ending his career back at Saint-Pierroise.

4. Steve Mandanda

Most consider Steve Mandanda to be synonymous with Marseille, but he actually made over 70 appearances for Le Havre before moving on to bigger things.

He kept a clean sheet on his debut for Le Havre, and that display was certainly a sign of things to come as he excelled during an eight-year spell in Marseille, before moving to Crystal Palace in summer 2016. After making just nine league appearances for the Eagles he moved back to Marseille the following summer, where he remains to this day and is now captain.

5. Mamadou Niang

Despite spending his youth career with Le Havre, it was with Troyes that Niang turned professional. However, it wasn’t until he joined Strasbourg that he really started to show what he was capable of, before going on to enjoy great success with Marseille.

Whether playing out wide or up front, Niang was a fantastic player to watch and after spells in Turkey and Qatar, Niang returned to playing in France with Arles-Avignon but retired later on in July 2015.

6. Guillaume Hoarau

Like Sinama Pongolle, Hoarau made the journey from Saint-Pierroise to Le Havre but had to wait for his chance, with the club originally feeling he was too thin to make it as a potential player.

Hoarau eventually got his chance, signing his first professional contract at the age of 20. Even then it took him a while to really establish himself, with the forward having to go through four managers and one loan spell before playing and scoring regularly for the side, which quickly saw him snapped up by Paris Saint-Germain. He joined Swiss side BSC Young Boys in 2014 and scored 117 goals in 186 games, although he is now seeing out his career with Sion.

7. Dimitri Payet

Payet’s reputation in the game sky-rocketed after he followed up a breathtaking debut season in the Premier League with West Ham United by starring at Euro 2016 for the French national team.

Like Hoarau and Sinama Pongolle, he moved from the island of Réunion to Le Havre as part of their partnership. However, unlike most players on this list, the move really didn’t work out as there were concerns over his attitude and work-rate. After a controversial transfer saga at the Hammers, Payet returned to France with his former club Marseille in 2017 where he continues to flourish.

8. Carlos Kameni

After helping Cameroon win the Olympics in 2000 at the age of 16, Kameni was quickly signed by Le Havre who saw him as a long-term replacement for Alexander Vencel, who was well into his 30s at the time.

However, he couldn’t break into the first-team and was offloaded to Espanyol, with Mandanda coming in a short while later from the academy. Widely considered to be one of the finest African goalkeepers of all-time, at the age of 36, Kameni is currently without a club after leaving Fenerbahce in 2019.

9. Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez technically never played for Le Havre’s academy, as he turned professional with Quimper before moving to the French club.

However, it was with Le Havre that he really started to make waves which attracted the attention of Leicester City, where became their chief tormentor of defences.

Mahrez was voted the Premier League’s Player of the Season after helping the Foxes claim the most unlikely title win in the history of the competition in 2016. The Algerian made a big-money move to Manchester City in 2018 and has scored 35 goals for the club so far.

10. Benjamin Mendy

One of many players who started with Le Havre and eventually ended up at Marseille, Mendy made plenty of appearances for Le Havre before moving to the South Coast of France.

He’s still just 25 but having made over 100 league appearances for Marseille, Mendy’s form influenced Monaco’s decision to spend over £10 million to sign him in 2016. This was bettered by Manchester City, who bought the defender to the Premier League 2017 for a mighty £52 million.

Mendy has since won the Premier League (x2) and EFL Cup with the Citizens, as well as securing a 2018 World Cup winners’ medal with France. That said, injuries have seriously hampered the number of minutes he sees on the pitch.

11. Jean-Alain Boumsong

Boumsong played for Newcastle United, Juventus and Lyon during his playing career, but it was with Le Havre that he first started in France, arriving in the country at the age of 14.

He left the club following relegation and won the Coupe de France with both Auxerre and Lyon, as well as one Scottish Premier League title and a Ligue 1 crown.

12. Vikash Dhorasoo

Perhaps not a name that everyone will remember. But with the ball at his feet, Dhorasoo was one of the finest dribblers Ligue 1 has seen.

He was born near Le Havre, so it’s little surprise that he ended up joining the club before quickly establishing himself as one of their best players.

He eventually won two Ligue 1 titles with Lyon, but his most lasting legacy will be the film “Substitute”, documenting his peripheral role in France’s 2006 World Cup campaign.

13. Souleymane Diawara

Diawara made over 100 league appearances for Le Havre before they were relegated from Ligue 1 and he joined Sochaux.

He was part of the side there that won the 2003/04 Coupe de Ligue and went on to win the trophy three more times with Bordeaux and Marseille, as well as winning a league title with each club.

English fans may remember Diawara’s one-season stint with Charlton Athletic in 2006/07.