Money can’t buy you happiness they say; well not if you are a supporter of Paris Saint Germain; who seem to have all the money in the world and can literally buy any player in the world they set their sights on. It would have been easy to say PSG would be crowned Ligue 1 champions once again making it back to back championships; however somewhere on an island, a principality, a tax haven threatens the capital club’s desire of being the first club in the last 6 years to retain the league championship. Monaco enter the equation by virtue of their promotion to the elite division after time spent in the lower league with Russian money fully backing their project; the aim of the principality club is to plant its foot on the French football landscape by claiming the Ligue 1 title for the first time since 2000.
The Battle of the Capital and the Principality may just grab all the headlines and allow someone else sneak in to grab the title from right under their noses. We look at the season ahead, highlighting those that are likely to rain on the parade of the two favourites.
The Capital v The Principality
Monaco make a return to Ligue 1 with the “tinkerman” Claudio Ranieri at the helm; if ever there was a need to make a statement of intent or shake the very foundation of the French game; Monaco owner Dmitry Rybolovlev made his intentions very clear and early too with the purchase of Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez from Porto just as the season came to an end. If the world thought that those transfers shook the world; the signing of Radamel Falcao, the most sort after striker in the whole of Europe must have caused an earthquake. It was believed he would be heading to a more illustrious club like Real Madrid or even former European Champions Chelsea; but Monaco came from nowhere to snatch the striker. Not to be out done by the new boys; PSG had to show that the Sheriff was still in town by pulling off two huge transfers for another prolific and in demand striker; Edison Cavani and young promising defender Marquinhos from Roma at a combined prize of approximately £90Million; even though they had to live with the fact that their title winning manager was been courted by Real Madrid. In stepped, Laurent Blanc (obviously not first choice, but available) to take the reins and steady the ship before it set sail for the new season. The encounter between both sides would determine the actual direction of the title this year. However, preoccupation about themselves may just leave the door open for the likes of Lyon or Marseille creep in to snatch the title from under their noses.
Champions League Qualification
I believe it’s a foregone conclusion that first and second place would be taken by the money bags leaving the other champions league slot for Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Saint Etienne to fight for the last spot; this is where I believe it would be really interesting. Saint Etienne ended the season on a high with a 16 game unbeaten run; but the loss of Pierre Aubameyang and his 19 league goals would be difficult to replace; even though nine new faces have been brought in to soften the effect of Aubameyang’s loss. Marseille and Lyon have to be considered as actual favourites to go head to head for the last Champions league slot; Lyon have lost Bafetimbi Gomis and his 16goals would be tough to replace; but defensive solidity seemed to be a priority with the signing of Bedimo from Montpellier to cater for the losses of Lovren and Reveillere; the arrival of Lopes and Kone should dampen the effect of losing Gomis and Lopes. Lille have also move quietly and efficiently in the market by getting Meite (from Auxerre) and Simon Kjaer (from Wolfsburg) whist resigning Vincent Enyeama to conclude the strengthening of their defensive line.
The acquisition of Dimitri Payet from Lille by Marseille might prove to be a work of genius as Pierre Gignac would relish the supply that Payet can provide.
Relegation Dog Fight
Nancy, Troyes and Brest were condemned to Ligue 2 at the end of last season; enter Monaco, Guingamp and former champions Nantes. Where in the world has it happened that two past champions of recent memory would make a return to the top flight the same time; only the French know how they do things like this. The likes of Ajaccio, Evian and Sochaux barely stayed up; it may just be another tough season for all three of them, although something tells me Ajaccio and Sochaux may just hold on to their Ligue 1 status by the skin of their teeth.
Champions: PSG once again; they have got enough winners in their ranks and I feel Monaco may not settle down into the groove early enough.