Why Ligue 1's renaissance has potential to rival the Premier League

Monaco’s Ligue 1 triumph has finally broken Paris Saint-Germain’s domestic dominance and a Ligue 1 renaissance means competition will be even greater next season, potentially making it one of Europe’s most exciting leagues.


Captain of AS Monaco Radamel Falcao holding the trophy Source: Getty Images

What Leonardo Jardim has achieved at Monaco this campaign has been truly remarkable.

Last season PSG won the title by a massive 31 points and few would have expected much different this campaign with their expensively assembled squad of superstars.

Yet not only did Monaco shock France, they also stunned Europe by knocking out Manchester City en route to a UEFA Champions League semi-final appearance.

Jardim has also unleashed some extraordinary young stars - 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe chief among them.

The mind wanders back to Ronaldo’s early Barcelona days to recall a teenager of such explosive efficiency.

While Mbappe has stolen the headlines, Thomas Lemar, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Bernardo Silva, all in the early 20’s, have all been extremely impressive.

Standout players like those mentioned are now spread across Ligue 1 and are also likely to stay, with the billion-dollar TV deal having kicked in this season.

It’s fuelling a French club football renaissance, with several clubs now able to afford Europe’s top talent both on the pitch and on the sideline.

Ex-Premier League stars Patrice Evra, Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin, Remy Cabella and Bafetimbi Gomis are all at Marseille, now coached by former Roma boss Rudi Garcia. The sleeping giant of French football may just have awoken and have a real shot of returning to the big time next season.

Ever wondered what happened to Mario Balotelli? He went to Nice, not only for the sun and sea, but also the rediscover some form, having notched up 15 goals this campaign.

The man who led Borussia Monchengladbach to the UEFA Champions League, Lucien Favre has now done the same with Nice, playing a similarly exciting style of football. If the club can keep both their coach and other stars, like Jean Michael Seri, watch out Europe!

Lyon remain competitive, showing their quality in a UEFA Europa League run that only narrowly ended to Ajax in the semi-final, and are now more capable of keeping the sparkling talents coming through their youth system, even though Alexandre Lacazette appears certain to leave.

Former champions Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne and Nantes (coach Sergio Conceicao has taken them from 19th to 7th) are going to finish in the top 10 and all have competitive squads that play, exciting football.

But the team that appears ready to explode next season is Lille.

New owner Gerard Lopez is determined to restore the mid-table side to its former glory and has already signed up mad scientist coach Marcelo Bielsa for next season and that’s guaranteed fireworks!

Bielsa is searching the globe for exciting young players (or guinea pigs) ready to put his uber attacking and pressing philosophy into practice at the Northern French club.

With the TV revenue shared equally, unlike Spain’s La Liga, and with France not constrained by ownership rules that financially hold back some Bundesliga sides, Ligue 1 may soon be a genuine competitor to the English Premier League.

The potential of Brexit and the more amenable French weather could even make Ligue 1 a more attractive competition for top playing and coaching talent.

The recent stadium refurbishments for UEFA EURO 2016 has helped create a great spectacle in the stands, particularly at clubs like Marseille, Nice and Saint-Etienne.

That will help the TV product and in turn produce even great revenue for the clubs, further fuelling competitiveness and excitement.

Monaco’s title win was just the beginning, the Ligue 1 renaissance is in full flight.

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4 min read
Published 18 May 2017 at 12:02pm
By Vitor Sobral