Another season of the Ligue 1 is fast approaching. Friday August 9, 2019, is the day when the 2019-20 season of the French top-flight launches. Over the course of nearly 10 months, 20 French clubs are going to play each other in the hope of winning the trophy. For some, that hope seems realistic; others just want to finish the season at a respectable place, while there are some teams that would be satisfied with anything apart from relegation.
As always, the biggest thrills will be at the top, where the reigning champion Paris Saint-Germain will try to win their ninth league trophy in history. If they manage to do it, it is also going to be this team’s seventh Ligue 1 title in this decade. Actually, since the Qatar Sports Investments took over the club, PSG has won six league titles, while coming as the runner-up two times.
What do Bookies Say?
Obviously, with such successful seasons behind them, this team is once again the biggest favorite to win the Ligue 1 in the eyes of offshore sportsbooks. The million-dollar question is, “are there any dark horses in France that have what it takes to ruin PSG’s plans?”
Remember that since the Qataris have taken over the club, it took PSG only one year to get to the Ligue 1 throne. After that, this club went into a domestic title winning streak that was disrupted only in the 2016-17 season when AS Monaco won the trophy.
This season, however, AD Monaco isn’t a team that looks capable of challenging the title. They’ve finished the last season just above the relegation zone. They are expected to make some big signings over the summer, but even their most passionate fans don’t seem too optimistic about their chances.
Eyes on the (Champions League) Prize
The mere fact that the team value of Paris Saint-Germain is almost three times higher than the value of the second most valuable French club, Lyon, shows that the sportsbooks probably haven’t made a wrong choice with their odds. The fact is that PSG players have the quality, but do they have the motivation needed to bag in another trophy?
The thing with PSG is that despite being dominant in France, they still haven’t become a household name worldwide. Sure, they did bring in some real superstars in the club, but they’re still missing major trophies. Obviously, the Champions League is what’s been on their minds for year.
After investing literally billions of dollars into the club, the owners want to see returns on their investment. They want a big return and the biggest one they can get is the Champions League trophy. It’s been their goal ever since they purchased the club back in 2011, but so far, it’s been out of reach. The closest they got to it was the quarter-final stage of the competition.
And the most painful thing for their owners and fans alike is that PSG players had a really good chance of advancing forward on several occasions. Last season, for example, they played Man United in the round of 16, the first leg of which finished in their favor. It was 2:0 for PSG in Manchester, but then in Paris, the Red Devils beat them 3:1 and went forward due to the away goal rule.
Getting knocked out by Manchester United last season was not the biggest disappointment PSG players made for their fans. That dubious honor goes to La Remontada a.k.a. The Comeback which happened in the quarter-final of the Champions League 2016-17 when PSG played Barcelona.
After Les Parisiens beat Barça by 4:0 in the first leg, The Comeback came in the second leg. Barcelona managed to pull one of the biggest comebacks in football history, hammering PSG 6:1. With two goals to his name, Neymar was crowned the man of the match. And just a few months later, PSG signed him for a record-breaking fee of €222M.
Potential Trouble in the Dressing Room?
Speaking of Neymar, he could be on the move again. And much sooner than expected. According to the newly appointed sporting director of PSG, Leonardo, the forward can leave the club if the right offer arrives. Still, money is not the main reason why Neymar is for sale; it’s his attitude toward the club that’s been bugging the management. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Neymar failed to return for preseason at a previously agreed date.
If Neymar ends up leaving, he’ll join a couple of his countrymen who have decided to say farewell to Paris this summer. Dani Alves, who captained Brazil on their route to winning Copa America recently, has left the club after running out of his contract. It’s a similar story with Thiago Motta, who used to be a coach at PSG before deciding to part ways with the club.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for PSG fans this summer. One of the happy news they got was that Ander Herrera has agreed on joining the club from Manchester United on a free transfer. The word ‘free’ might not be totally appropriate here because despite not paying a cent to the Red Devils, PSG still have to pay to Herrera, who’s now their second highest paid player, after Neymar.
But, if there’s a club with money to spend, it’s PSG. Regardless of whether Neymar leaves or not, it is fair to expect them to splash hundreds of millions of dollars once again in the hope of winning all the trophies they can this season.