For many people until Qatar based group Qatar Investment Authority bought Paris Saint-Germain Ligue 1 had become a bit of a forgotten thing. Of course, the recent import of talent from this league such as Gervinho, Yohan Cabaye, Marouane Chamakh, Laurent Koscielny and Asamoah Gyan has alerted people to the increasing stature of French football. With a number of promising youngsters developing quickly combined with an influx of financial muscle, the French league could look to establish itself amongst Europe’s greats again.
Of course, the first place to start is with the league leaders PSG who are currently three clear from the rest of the pack. When the Qataris invested they knew what they wanted, the league title and within a number of years the Champions League. In order to achieve this they provided funding beyond most clubs’ wildest dreams. In a spending spree that totalled over €85 million in came Nicholas Douchez, Javier Pastore, Kevin Gameiro,
Jeremy Menez, Mohammed Sissoko, Blaise Matuidi, Salvatore Sirigu and Diego Lugano. The new firepower has worked already and after 22 games the Parisians are top with some of the leading goalscorers and assist creators in the league. Unless Lyon or Marseille (who make up the “Big Three” in France) can produce a special second half of the season it is hard to see the title heading anywhere except the capital.
If Robin Van Persie is the one man show in England then for France it has to be Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman, who plays for Montpellier has scored 15 goals with 5 assists in 21 games. He has single-handedly propelled his club to second in the table with a very promising chance of a Champions League spot. He has been strongly linked to Newcastle because of their chief scout Graham Carr, but after Papiss Demba Cisse’s start he may move elsewhere. Giroud is on a list of players that could find themselves crossing the channel to play in the Premier League. Lille star Eden Hazard has been on the radar of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea for a while now and the Belgian ace has recently been quoted as saying that he will move to England in the summer. His destination is unknown but there is no question that he has the talent to succeed at any level. Rennes is the club that provided the Premier League with Petr Cech amongst others and now it looks like another homegrown talent could be about to make his way to England in the shape of Yann M’Vila. The tenacious and hardworking defensive midfielder is one of Stade’s most consistent performers and one of the reasons they currently sit in 6th place.
At the other end of the table things are not going well for FC Sochaux-Montbéliard who currently sit bottom of Ligue 1. However, they are a team with a number of highly promising players so if they do end up getting relegated do not be surprised to see these players linked to the Premier League. Modibo Maiga is a player that Newcastle fans will recognise as he was linked to them for quite a while and he is looking to push a move in summer to test himself in the Premier League. He could be a useful player for a team like Everton or Stoke. In midfield their two undisputed stars are Marvin Martin and tricky winger Ryad Boudebouz. Martin is the team’s playmaker whilst Boudebouz is a wing wizard. These two certainly deserve to be playing at a higher level and a summer move is surely beckoning.
I believe that this season could be a defining one for the future of French football. PSG will certainly enter the Champions League and could Montpellier, should they strengthen and persuade Giroud to stay, potentially cause some sort of upset in the competition? Elsewhere Marseille need frontman Loic Remy (the subject of a deadline day €18 million bid from Spurs) to keep firing along with the new African Player of the Year Andre Ayew.
Lyon boss Remi Garde (who has recently backed Arsène Wenger to become the new France boss after Euro 2012) will hope the next few months are an improvement on his team’s first 22. Whilst Lille will look to utilize Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard for as long as possible.
Lyon have lost more than any other members of the top 9.
Finally, it seems like the excitement has returned to French football.