Connect in the back of the net

With the football season just around the corner, it promises to be another exciting season across Europe.

One of the leagues whose made a big splash certainly in this summer’s transfer window is Ligue 1, with its riches attracting many players across recent years including Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and most recently Neymar.

Yet many people perceive Ligue 1 as the weakest of the 5 major leagues in Europe, but here are 3 reasons why you should be watching Ligue 1 this season.

 

Neymar

Let’s start with the obvious. No matter the price or the reasons behind his move, Neymar moving to PSG is massive for Ligue 1.

Ever since Ibrahimovic left PSG at the beginning of last season, Ligue 1 lost a bit of its spark. Yes there were plenty of starts on offer such as Cavani, Di Maria and Draxler, but it had lost its biggest selling point.

With the signing of Neymar, it brings so many advantages to PSG and the league. The merchandise for example will certainly help PSG’s FFP problems and the fact that sponsors such as Nike will want to work with the club even more is only a benefit.

League wise, TV money will most certainly go up. Across the five major leagues in Europe, Ligue 1 received the fewest amount in TV revenue.

With the arrival of Neymar, far more TV outlets across Asia and North America will want the rights to broadcast Ligue 1 and bring in a lot more money, which will be distributed to all 20 clubs, which will be of such a big benefit.

 

It’s still producing a lot of talent

Before and even after the surging investments into Ligue 1, it’s always produced and developed a lot of talent. We’ve seen the likes of Ronaldinho, George Weah and Didier Drogba pass through Ligue 1.

More recently, we’ve seen the likes of N’Golo Kante, Alexandre Lacazette and Anthony Martial, young French talent who are making a name for themselves who started out in Ligue 1.

Yet, there are so much more young players who haven’t left Ligue 1 who have big futures ahead of them. Obviously, we’ve all become aware recently about the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar with their dazzling performances for Monaco, but there are so much more.

Take Alban Lafont for example. The 18-year-old goalkeeper had an outstanding season for Toulouse last season, keeping 11 clean sheets.

While it seems everyone is raving about Gianluigi Donnarumma, Lafont has widely gone under the radar. With his distribution attributes and his command of the defence, a move to a bigger club has to be on the cards soon.

Then you’ve got Malang Sarr. The 18-year-old, along with Lafont, had a brilliant season with an overachieving Nice side.

He is also the France U-18 captain. Sarr played 27 games in his debut season in Ligue 1. With Sarr being a vocal presence on the field and the fact he is predominantly left footed, he is certainly a man to look out for this season.

If Ligue 1 keep producing these kinds of players, and then managing to sell them on for big money in the coming seasons, it will bring more money into the league and make it far more attractive for overseas players to play in France.

 

It’s becoming less of a two-horse race

For many seasons now, Ligue 1 has been dominated by the riches of Monaco and PSG and the other 18 teams haven’t really got near them, but is this about to change?

Obviously, PSG are heavy favourites for the title this season. With the signing of one of the best players in the world, they are overwhelming favourites.

Yet, I believe they do have some issues.

With the money used to buy Neymar, their FFP is in a bit of trouble, and they will have to offload a few fringe players, such as Javier Pastore, Gregorz Krychowiak, Serge Aurier and Jese Rodriguez will most probably be sold.

Then you’ve got the issue of some of their first team being wanted by other European giants. Blaise Matuidi for example has been heavily linked with Juventus for many years, while Marco Verratti has been touted as many as Iniesta’s replacement at Barcelona. While they are favourites, not everything will be plain sailing for PSG.

As for Monaco, it will be incredibly difficult to replicate their magnificent season. Many of their major stars last season such as Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko all left this summer.

Add to this the uncertain futures of Thomas Lemar and Kylian Mbappe, things don’t look very cosy in the principality. Yet they have made some good signings in Youri Tielemans and Terence Kongolo.

Plus, they’ve handed new contracts to Kamil Glik, Djibril Sidibe and Radamel Falcao, as well as a contract extension for their manager Leonardo Jardim. Monaco will be contenders, but they’ll find it very difficult to regain the title.

We saw last season the rise of Nice. The Riviera club gave the two big clubs a run for the money at one stage of the season.

They recruited very well in the transfer windows, bringing in players such as Mario Balotelli and Dante, who really performed well for the club. Add to that the amazing performances of Jean-Michel Seri, Wylan Cyprien and Alassane Plea, OGC were absolutely flying.

And all of this coming together under the management of Lucien Favre in his first season in the top flight of French football. Now with the signings of Wesley Sneijder and Christophe Jallet, can Nice challenge for the title again?

Then you’ve got Lyon.

OL finished in fourth place last season and in reality were well off the title challengers. And it’s been a tough summer at the Stade des Lumières, with the departures of key players such as Alexandre Lacazette, Corentin Tolisso and Maxime Gonalons.

But with the signings of Bertrand Traore from Chelsea, Kenny Tete from Ajax, Mariano Diaz from Real Madrid and the fact they’ve still got Memphis Depay, could Lyon spring a surprise this season?

Also in the south of France we have Marseille. A very successful club but who have lost their way over recent years with bad ownership.

Now with Rudi Garcia at the helm and new owners, OM have made a resurgence.

With the signing of Dimitri Payet in January, they’ve added Valère Germain, Luiz Gustavo and fan favourite Steve Mandanda to their squad this summer. Will we see OM at the top of the table this season?

And who can forget about Marcelo Bielsa.

The Argentine is now in charge of Lille, a club who had so much potential at one stage with the likes of Dimitri Payet and Eden Hazard. Yet last season LOSC were fighting a relegation battle.

But we’ve seen before that Bielsa can work miracles with a team like he did with Marseille and at Athletic Bilbao. And he’s recruited a lot of young talent to Northern France such as Luiz Araujo and Thiago Maia. Could we see Lille around the top of the table again?

All these factors show that Ligue 1 is one of the most exciting leagues in Europe and the season ahead promises to be an intriguing one in France.

 

Written by Sion Misra

Follow Sion on Twitter @sionmisra

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