Compared to the depth of the Barclays Premier League, the physicality of Bundesliga, the star power of La Liga, or the precision of Serie A, it could be easy to overlook France’s Ligue 1, or look towards it as a feeder to Europe’s elite.
Over the course of this decade, the two most prominent teams, Paris-Saint Germain and AS Monaco, have risen from recent relative obscurity to international buzz, largely due to the injection of foreign money. With this boost, the former signed stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, and Edinson Cavani, and the latter attracted talents such as Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez.
Tellingly, neither of the aforementioned players for Monaco stayed, with departures to Manchester United and Real Madrid, respectively.
Now, what looked to be an athletic experiment of Manchester City-esque design would seem to shrink back to a more supporting role, with the danger of the Parisian team running roughshod throughout the season.
However, Ligue 1 is by no means a two-horse race.
Notably, teams such as Lyon, who were a dominantly unparalleled force to be reckoned with during the 2000’s, and Marseille, the most recent French team to win the UEFA Champions’ League in 1993, have rich histories and promising futures, with young French starlets such as Yassine Benzia and Florian Thauvin ready to lead the way.
Additionally, clubs such as Lille and St. Etienne, finishing 3rd and 4th in Ligue 1 last season respectively, are gaining traction as legitimate European teams.
Even with all of this promise, times have been tough for domestic French soccer; in its most recent rankings, UEFA ranked Ligue 1 as the seventh most competitive league in Europe, falling behind the perhaps less socially reputable Russian League.
While only a fool would think that Ligue 1 could be considered on par, both economically and in terms of skill level, with the likes of the Premiership and Liga BBVA, Ligue 1’s ranking came so low jolted many domestic French supporters, potentially motivating a turnaround this season.
Moving forward, largely the same can be expected in terms of league play, with PSG looking to win their third straight Ligue 1 title.
Beyond that, the field seems to be wide open, with a depleted Monaco having to face the full force of attacks such as the previously discusses Lille, St Etienne, Lyon, Marseille, and even an outside chance of a dark horse such as Bordeaux to make a run.
With two Champions League spots and three Europa League positions available, the jockeying between various clubs will help to prove to the rest of the European soccer community that Ligue 1 and its constituents should not be taken lightly.