Central defender Eliaquim Mangala has pursued a somewhat unusual career path, never having played in France, except for when wearing the blue jersey of the French national team. Born in Paris, Mangala moved to Belgium at the age of 5. He started playing professional football with CS Wépionnais, before moving on to UR Namur, where he was spotted by a scout from Standard Liege.
Mangala made his debut for the Belgian giants in 2008 aged only 17 and it was here, alongside a generation of superstars including Axel Witsel and Steven Defour that he kicked off his career in style by winning both the domestic league and the Belgian Supercup, and, two years later, adding the Belgian Cup to the list. It was during this 2010-2011 season that he caught the attention of FC Porto, and at the end of it the Portuguese club killed two birds with one stone, signing Defour along with the Frenchman.
After a season settling in, Mangala took advantage of the Brazilian Maicon’s injury to establish himself in Porto’s defence. He is a powerful footballer, always in the right place, good with his head and on the counter, as well as being a threat in the opposition box from dead-ball situations. After bagging his second consecutive championship title in Portugal, Mangala was called up by Didier Deschamps for the first time in June 2013. He had to wait until March this year for a second appearance, playing alongside Raphael Varane in a match against the Netherlands in which he successfully marked Robin van Persie out of the game.