PSG, Lyon, and Marseille are three of the most successful clubs in the French league. They have all signed some of the biggest stars in Europe to their squads this summer, but is it enough?
The league 1 french is a soccer league in France. PSG, Lyon, and Marseille have been the top three teams for many years now. They have not lost any of their key players this summer, but they also haven’t signed any new ones either. Can these three clubs make it count in Europe?
After years of being seen as a selling league, Ligue 1’s “farmers” have discovered their GOAT. The most amazing transfer window in the history of the French Ligue 1 has finally ended. Paris Saint-Germain, of course, are the frontrunners, having signed Lionel Messi, one of the best players our sport has ever seen, but their competitors have also shown their muscles: Marseille brought in a World Cup winner and a Champions League winner, Lyon brought in a World Cup winner and a Champions League winner, Rennes (sixth last season) spent more than Real Madrid and Barcelona combined, and a slew of other teams made smart moves.
For most of the modern period, the French leagues served as dependable “feeder” leagues for their continental competitors, with numerous clubs spying and doing business there. Some next-generation talent left this summer — Eduardo Camavinga, 18, from Rennes to Real Madrid, and midfielder Boubakary Soumare from Lille to Leicester, to mention a few — but the greatest name of them, and maybe the most significant, remained.
Kylian Mbappe has spent the past eight days torn between PSG and Real Madrid, between news and false news, and back to news, as content to remain in Paris as he would have been to go to Spain. Madrid tried (as hard as they could? ), but Paris refused to budge, ensuring Mbappe will play out the last year of his contract in the French top division before becoming a free agent at the age of 23. But, at least for this season, he will be surrounded by a fantastic squad, since Paris enjoyed the greatest transfer window of all time.
PSG won this summer, whether you like them or not: Of course, Messi is the ultimate diamond, particularly as a free agent, but other standouts include fullback Achraf Hakimi, Nuno Mendes (loaned from Sporting CP), and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. It’s an amazing summer of recruiting when you add in two more seasoned free agents, Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum and Real Madrid’s senior defender Sergio Ramos.
This summer, PSG was able to recruit a number of world-class players, including Messi (right). The task now is to turn those good intentions into Champions League victory. Getty Images/David Rogers
Obviously, the other French teams lack Paris’ financial might, but they have been innovative and astute in their recruiting this summer.
First and foremost, the major names.
Lyon was (relatively) late for business, but they made it in the end. Jerome Boateng, a starter for Bayern Munich last season, has signed, and despite his age of 33, he should be a valuable addition to his new club. Xherdan Shaqiri, who left Liverpool for the south of France with a point to prove and a lot of skill, is in the same boat. Emerson Palmieri may not be a household name, but he is a two-time European champion with Chelsea and Italy!
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Some athletes were also “returning home,” in a way, after lengthy stints in Europe. Mamadou Sakho, a product of PSG’s youth system who spent eight years in the Premier League with Liverpool and Crystal Palace, has returned to Ligue 1 and will immediately improve Montpellier’s defense.
Mario Lemina is settling in nicely in Nice after spells at Juventus, Southampton, Galatasaray, and Fulham, while Kevin Gameiro has returned to Strasbourg, the club where he began his professional career in 2004, and defender Adil Rami is now at Troyes after spells at Sevilla, Milan, and Sevilla over the last decade.
Real Madrid should be thrilled about the possibility of signing Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes, according to Julien Laurens.
We also saw some smart reconnaissance and deft maneuvering. Nice opted for the speed and talents of Justin Kluivert (from AS Roma) and Calvin Stengs (from AZ), as well as the work rate of Pablo Rosario (from PSV), while also signing Jean-Clair Todibo on a permanent basis and bringing in the veteran striker Andy Delort. Manager Christophe Galtier, who won the league with Lille last season, may be the most important signing for Les Aiglons.
Rennes has also been very shrewd, bringing in talented winger Kamaldeen Sulemana, who shone in Denmark, as well as Lovro Majer, dubbed the “next Luka Modric” by some, and Loic Bade from Lens. Liverpool, Arsenal, and Leeds United were all interested in signing Bade, but the talented 21-year-old center defender chose to remain in Ligue 1. Gaetan Laborde’s transfer from Montpellier, where he scored 16 league goals last season, was also a coup.
Marseille were active above them, among PSG’s possible championship contenders. Their transfer window included deals for midfielder Matteo Guendouzi and midfielder William Saliba (on loan) in England (well, at Arsenal), defender Luan Peres and midfielder Gerson in Brazil, U.S. international winger Konrad De La Fuente, who developed in Barcelona’s academy, in Spain (well, at Barcelona), and Pau Lopez and Cengiz Under and Pol Lirola in Italy (well, at Roma) (Fiorentina). Overall, manager Jorge Sampaoli may have eight new first-team regulars on his hands!
De La Fuente, dressed in white, is an intriguing addition to a Marseille club that has essentially built a brand-new squad this summer. Getty Images/PASCAL GUYOT/AFP
Midfielder Lucien Agoume, who joined Brest from Inter Milan, might be a good addition, as could Lille’s Amadou Onana and goalkeeper Ivo Gbrich, Monaco’s Myron Boadu, Lens’ defender Christopher Wooh, and Saint-attacker Etienne’s Juan Ignacio Ramirez.
Ligue 1 has also kept some of its promising young talent this summer despite heavy interest from big clubs. Lille defender Sven Botman — linked to Wolves and Sevilla — is still in France, while Aurélien Tchouameni, who was getting interest from Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea, is still at Monaco. (His teammate, Cesc Fabregas, even called him the “modern midfield player” in a Twitter Q&A.) Houssem Aouar is still at Lyon despite a late push from Tottenham, while Amine Gouiri (Nice) or Bouba Kamara (Marseille) also remain.
There were several famous talents that left Ligue 1 in search of fresh challenges, greater money, better clubs, and better leagues. Not so much 2018 World Cup winner Florian Thauvin, who left Marseille for Tigres in Mexico, or Alphonse Areola, who was loaned to West Ham by PSG and has so far sat on the bench, but more promising players like Mohamed Simakan (from Strasbourg to RB Leipzig), Camavinga, Soumare, Boulaye Dia (Reims to Villarreal), or Imran Louza (from Reims to Villarreal) (Nantes to Watford).
Mike Maignan, who was the greatest goalkeeper in France last season while leading Lille to a stunning league championship, will now be hoping to do the same in Serie A with AC Milan. After a disastrous spell at Manchester United, Memphis Depay revived his career with Lyon, earning him a lucrative free agent transfer to Barcelona. He took the position of the GOAT, Messi himself, and may now honor Ligue 1 by storming LaLiga. With two goals and an assist, he’s off to a good start.
Now the French league must capitalize on a strong transfer window, particularly in European tournaments, following a string of poor performances in previous years. (PSG will be hoping that their summer business will be enough to win their first Champions League crown, while Marseille, Lyon, and Monaco all seem to be in good shape for long runs in the Europa League.)
There’s also an interesting battle of strategies going on, with some of the top clubs building quickly through dynamic spending, others taking chances on undervalued, unwanted players from top clubs outside France, and still others trying to stay competitive through good scouting and smart investment.
Let’s hope Ligue 1 reaps the full advantages this season.
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