Canada looks to future with Fulham’s dual national center back Luc de Fougerolles

Growing up in England, Luc de Fougerolles’ home was filled with tennis, not soccer, balls. The Fulham FC under-21 center back’s father, Jean, littered their home with the small green objects to help his three sons get comfortable kicking the ball. It was a practice Jean used himself, an ocean away in Montreal.

While Luc will join Canada’s senior men’s team for the first time for their upcoming friendly against Japan, his ties to the country started long before he was born.

Living a few blocks from the Montreal Forum in the 1970s, Jean de Fougerolles wanted to be professional hockey hall of famer Guy Lafleur, who led the Montreal Canadiens in their glory years.

When the winter weather became too biting to play outside, Jean and his brother would kick tennis balls back and forth in their kitchen, imagining themselves as different Canadiens players. Inadvertently, however, he developed some proficiency with a ball on both his right and left foot and, once he moved to Europe at 21, began playing soccer consistently.

Jean has since shared his adopted sport with his sons. Luc’s older brother Zac began playing with the Battersea Bedheads, a grassroots club in south London designed to give players of all walks of life experience in the game. Soon five-year-old Luc wanted in. And so began the soccer career of another Canadian dual national.

“Luc was shy off the pitch but incredibly confident on the pitch. He was a problem solver,” Bedheads coach Hasib Saeed said. “He had this amazing ability to transfer what the coaches said to him onto the pitch.”

De Fougerolles could also solve problems for the Canadian men’s national team. Born in London with English citizenship, he could become the next impactful dual national for a team that needs them, especially if he continues his current trajectory. Recruiting dual nationals, just as former Canada head coach John Herdman did with the likes of Stephen Eustaquio, is crucial for Canada’s success leading into 2026.

The purpose of Canada’s Oct. 13 friendly against Japan is to provide the team’s regulars, who are expected to lead Canada to the 2024 Copa America via November qualifiers, with interim head coach Mauro Biello’s updated tactical plan. It’s also a chance for Biello to inject his own vision for the future of the team.


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“Part of this selection is also a long-term approach,” Biello said. “But at the same time, it’s bringing someone of (de Fougerolles’) ability and his ceiling into the environment and seeing how he’s able to compete.”

De Fougerolles grew up comfortable with competition. While his brother is 18 months older and more naturally gifted according to Jean, Luc’s inner confidence at an early age meant he never stopped striving to catch up to his older brother when the tennis balls were out.

“If he lost, he just kept on wanting to play,” Jean said.

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Despite his smaller stature as a child, De Fougerolles’ fearlessness on the pitch is what draws attention. (Photo courtesy of Jean De Fougerolles)

De Fougerolles didn’t just keep up with his brother, however, his athleticism and desire to win at seven years old caught the eye of former Fulham scout Jamal Reid. Reid had been sent to Ruskin Park in London to scout another player but returned to Fulham’s training ground raving about this small but dedicated center back.

“His commitment and winning mentality just stood out compared to everyone else on the pitch,” Reid said.

Chelsea had also scouted de Fougerolles. He spent a handful of training sessions at each club’s academy, but the family wanted to wait to decide if he should be focusing on soccer so intently. One year later, as Reid watched de Fougerolles’ Bedheads defeat a heavily favored Lambeth Tigers thanks to the young center back’s play, he was even more convinced.

So too were the academy staff. The challenge some young players face when moving from playing seven-a-side to full-field games is their inability to adapt to larger spaces around them. But de Fougerolles’ excelled with his athleticism and fearless attempts with the ball. Even as a defender, de Fougerolles grew up idolizing Eden Hazard and wanted to bypass the first line of forwards in front of him by implementing the dribbling prowess he saw in Hazard.

As he progressed, the Fulham academy staff realized they had a modern center back at its disposal.

His dribbling allowed him positional versatility. The staff deployed him at right-back and central midfield through his teens, and he earned the attention of the team’s under-18 academy team staff when he was just 15 before he began playing every week with that team as a 16-year-old.

“Which told you he was on the fast track,” Steve Wigley, former Fulham under-18 coach and current Fulham academy technical director, said of de Fougerolles. “As he’s moved up, his performances have been pretty seamless.”

It was around this time that Jean reached out to Biello, then Canada’s men’s national team assistant coach and Under-23 program director, via LinkedIn to let him know of a progressing young player who could play for Canada. Originally hired by Canada Soccer in 2018, Biello oversaw the likes of future star Tajon Buchanan at the 2020 Concacaf Olympic qualifying, among others.

Though de Fougerolles was invited to Canada’s under-20 team’s friendlies in April 2022 against Costa Rica, he contracted COVID-19 the day before he was set to leave. Exams then prevented him from attending Canada’s games at the Concacaf U-20 Championship a few months later.

But Biello maintained regular contact with de Fougerolles. And as Canada’s interim head coach, Biello has given the 17-year-old his first senior team call-up.

“He’s knocking on the door at Fulham,” Biello said.

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De Fougerolles spent preseason with Fulham’s senior team. (Photo courtesy of Jean de Fougerolles)

De Fougerolles’ consistency stands out to Fulham coaches. His one-on-one defending and positional play improved thanks to his intelligence, according to Wigley. What he might lack in size as a 5-foot-10 center back he makes up for with that aforementioned fearless approach in the air.

“It’s unique in young players,” Wigley said of de Fougerolles’ defending abilities. “I don’t see a lot of young players developing the tools he’s got.”

This season, de Fougerolles has been a regular starter in Premier League 2, comprising Premier League Under-21 teams. He signed his first professional contract with Fulham in April. If he continues to progress and plays regularly for Fulham’s Under-21 side – and if playing time with the senior team is not available – a loan deal in the future is not out of the question, according to a source briefed on de Fougerolles’ future.

Center back is a difficult position to master for young players. But his preseason minutes with the senior team reassured many inside Fulham that he can eventually master the position.

“He’s ahead of schedule, that’s for sure,” Wigley said.

And it’s those abilities that could potentially benefit Canada moving forward. Center back remains the only position of true weakness for Canada. Steven Vitoria is 36 years old and has lost a step when defending. Alistair Johnston has played as part of a back-three but his passing ability makes him better suited to play as a full-back for Canada. Scott Kennedy, 26, was not called into the squad for the friendly against Japan.

De Fougerolles could eventually form a nucleus of young center backs including 23-year-old Moise Bombito and 25-year-old Derek Cornelius who could grow into trusted roles for Canada ahead of 2026.

A request to speak to de Fougerolles was declined via Fulham’s academy, but multiple sources briefed on the dual national player’s future maintain he is intent on playing for Canada’s senior team long-term.

De Fougerolles’ with Canada could look different than fellow dual national Luca Koleosho’s. Koleosho, who is also eligible for Italy and the United States, accepted a call-up to Canada’s September 2022 friendlies, drew praise from Herdman and put himself in contention for a World Cup roster spot. Instead, Koleosho did not play for Canada and has since appeared for Italy’s Under-23 team, casting doubt over whether he will return to the Canadian ranks. It’s these scenarios that Canada Soccer is undoubtedly looking to avoid in the future when recruiting dual nationals

In de Fougerolles, the youngster who was all-in on beating his older brother on the pitch, Canada has a player who appears all-in for the country.

(Photo: Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images for Premier League)

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