The bright spark behind ‘France’s greyest man’

Marie-Charline Pacquot, a beautiful 26-year-old academic with a cute cat and an active Twitter account, has worked wonders in boosting the public image of her boyfriend - France's balding and boring 55-year-old Finance Minister. But is it all a ploy?

The bright spark behind 'France's greyest man'
Marie-Charline Pacquot, 26-year-old philosophy PhD student, shares a moment with her boyfriend of five years, 55-year-old Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici. Photo: P Kovarik/AFP

Who is Marie-Charline Pacquot?

She’s a 26-year-old philosophy PhD student best known for going out with France’s finance minister, 55 year-old Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici.

Why has she been in the news this week?

On Wednesday she caused a stir by taking to Twitter, as she often does, to reveal details about France’s pre-budget announcement. She was accused of stealing her boyfriend’s thunder.

Tell me more

Well, Pacquot has entered the consciousness of the French public in the last year or so.

A pretty, playful but enigmatic presence in interviews and on social networks, the underlying question behind the tone of most French media coverage of her is, “What is she doing with him?”

Moscovici, as well as being 30 years her senior (he will be 56 next week), has something of a reputation as the most boring man in French politics.

His career trajectory has been fairly standard, if suitably impressive by most people’s standards: a degree in economics and philosophy, graduate of ENA – France’s training ground for senior politicians and bureaucrats – some time spent in Brussels, and now the unglamorous, though high-profile finance ministry.

Pacquot, however, has shed light on the unlikely couple’s private life, and – whether strategically or inadvertently – boosted Moscovici’s previously rather austere reputation, talking sweetly about her balding boyfriend in interviews, and tweeting pictures of him sitting at home with the pair’s much-adored cat Hamlet.

“We have a normal life, going out to restaurants in the evening, or watching old Westerns on DVD, with Hamlet on our knees,” she told local paper Le Pays.

A Twitter pic of Moscovici and Hamlet shows the 'normal life' Pacquot tries to portray in public.

Where did she come from?

She’s originally from Montbeliard, in eastern France, and was still a undergraduate philosophy student in Besançon when she first met Moscovici at a football match, back in 2008.

“We felt very close to one another right away,” she told Le Pays.

“I had in front of me someone straightforward and honest. Together, we could talk about books all night. He helped me discover Flaubert,” she said, in terms that only in France could be considered folksy and down-to-earth.

The two have been together since then, only publically “coming out” in 2012, after having sued French gossip magazine ‘Voici’ in 2011 for printing holiday snaps of them.

In the meantime, Pacquot has picked up Masters degrees in public affairs and philosophy from the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris, where she is currently studying for a PhD in philosophy.

Interestingly, her Master’s dissertation was entitled “The democratic problem of popular participation in public affairs – a question of competence?”

Pacquot, seen here with her cat Hamlet, 'happy to get back to the books' after her summer holidays.

Is she sincere? Or is this all PR?

It’s impossible to know. Pacquot has certainly added colour to her boyfriend’s grey public image, and helped to increase his popularity in France.

And in a time of economic crisis and austerity measures from the Socialist government of President François Hollande, the minister of finance can always do with any boost to his image that he can get.

After Moscovici was accused in April of being aware or complicit with the tax fraud of disgraced Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac, Pacquot was on hand to show the human face of that calumny.

“People can’t imagine, very few people see the man behind the politician, and he was really hurt [by the claims],” she told Le Journal Du Dimanche.

All the same, Pacquot does seem to enjoy toying with her public persona, bantering with Twitter users and making cryptic and enticing statements like: “I show [the public] a little of myself, just to prove that there’s nothing to see.”

Ultimately, however, it might just be that the bookish, bright and beautiful 26-year-old has found happiness with a “sensitive, simple and honest” older man, who just happens to be at the helm of the Eurozone's second-largest economy.

The Local's French Face of the Week is a person in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as French Face of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

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Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.