Remember when Zinedine Zidane lifted the World Cup in 1998? Kylian Mbappe doesn't. The gifted young forward wasn't born when the French team became world champions for the first time. But it was Mbappe's unique talent that helped France to reach the summit of world football once again in 2018, erasing years of failure, rancour and shame.
These two crowning achievements made Les Bleus the envy of the world, but the road between these two highs was blighted by bitterly painful lows. Zidane's headbutt; a players' strike; infighting and recriminations; even sex scandals and blackmail. This was also a turbulent time for French society, as the promise of racial harmony in 1998 gave way to rising tensions and riots.
Mbappe witnessed it all, honing his prodigious talent in the banlieues of Paris as the nation threatened to implode. His story embodies France's journey from disaster to triumph; football's hottest new property growing up in a troubled neighbourhood and inspiring a divided country on and off the pitch.
In Sacre Bleu, Matthew Spiro traces the rise, fall and rise again of Les Bleus through the lens of Kylian Mbappe. Featuring a foreword by Arsene Wenger and interviews with leading figures in French football, including Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pires and Olivier Giroud, Spiro asks what went wrong for France and what, ultimately, went right.