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Football's hottest talent

International Sports

Great talents of the football.BBCGreat talents of the football.BBCIbrahima Traore smiles as he parks his black Range Rover outside the apartment block where his footballing story began.

He is back in Pantin, just outside the north-east corner of the peripherique - the ring road that separates central Paris from its suburbs.

Amid the din of sirens and the aroma of fast food, Traore buzzes in and takes the lift to the fifth floor. The doors open and his brother is waiting to welcome him back to their childhood home.

Inside, there are photos of the pair's Guinean father and Lebanese mother, as well as shots of grandparents and younger generations of the family. Dominating the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows, across a dual carriageway and tramline, is a vast sports complex, with two 4G football pitches.

"That's our Camp Nou, our Anfield," Traore says. "We used to jump over the fence at seven in the morning to practise our free-kicks. Before school and after school, it was football. Only football."

For many of the kids growing up here, constant practice can lead to the ultimate reward - a career in the professional game.

Traore, now 35, played more than 250 games for four different clubs in Germany's Bundesliga and captained Guinea at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

His inspiration growing up came from the success around him, rather than the television screen.

"I remember just across the street, we had the player who used to play for Manchester United: Gabriel Obertan," says Traore. "It's the dream from everyone and then even more when you have someone who comes from the same suburb who makes it.

"When you hear that it's possible that, being from this area, you can play for a team like Manchester United, that is something that you want to follow, you want to pursue."

As the clock strikes 4pm, children and coaches flood on to the pitches below. Aston Villa's Moussa Diaby, former Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe and France and Monaco defender Youssouf Fofana all started out at the same facility, which is shared by local clubs Esperance Paris 19eme and Solitaire Paris Est.

On the biggest stage of them all, Paris' finest are everywhere.

Thirty players at the 2022 men's World Cup in Qatar were born in the vicinity of France's capital. Compare that to two other hotbeds of youth football: Sao Paulo provided 12 World Cup players and Greater London eight.

There were 11 Parisians in the France squad that lost to Argentina in the final, with the other 19 spread across eight national teams: Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Portugal, Germany and Qatar.

And then you have the icons of the recent past. World Cup winners Thierry Henry, N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba all grew up in the banlieues(suburbs) of the French capital, as did Kante's former Leicester team-mate Riyad Mahrez.

How has Paris become a city that churns out more football talent than anywhere else?

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