GFFN AWARDS 2024 | The Winners

After the publication of the Get French Football News Ligue 1 Team of the Year and in the wake of the conclusion of the 2023/24 season, we round off our annual awards season with the winners of our individual categories, including Player of the Year, Signing of the Year and Flop of the Year. 

As was the case with last season’s awards, your votes over the past few weeks have been weighted 50/50 with the GFFN team’s picks to select the winners in each category. 

GFFN Ligue 1 Player of the Year – Pierre Lees-Melou

In the space of just under a decade, Pierre Lees-Melou has climbed from playing sixth-tier football to establishing himself as Ligue 1’s finest midfielder. That winding journey – which included a short-lived spell in the Premier League – has culminated in a season that has seen him lead Brest’s unlikely charge to Champions League football.

Pairing industrious defensive work with an unwavering willingness to venture forward, the 30-year-old has been the league’s most complete performer this year, and as SB29 sporting director Grégory Lorenzi told GFFN, he is “ageing like a fine wine.” As modest off the pitch as he is daring on it, the former Bordeaux academy player – discarded at 16 for his frail build – has been central to Les Ty-Zefs’ newfound success.

Lees-Melou’s season – which was prematurely ended by a calf injury at the start of May – has included several pivotal moments to keep the Bretons on course for Europe. Among them, a strike against Reims after a driving run from his own half and a solo effort to win the game against Marseille notably spring to mind.

Behind those headline moments, though, Lees-Melou has also laid much of the groundwork for Brest’s sensational rise in his reliably consistent tackling, interceptions, and line-breaking passes. It may not have been enough to crack France’s squad for the Euros – much to his manager Eric Roy’s disappointment – but Lees-Melou’s talents will not go unnoticed on the continental stage next year. Raphaël Jucobin

GFFN Ligue 1 Manager of the Year – Eric Roy

When I made the choice to hand over the reins to Eric Roy, lots of people were very critical,” Brest sporting director Grégory Lorenzi told GFFN earlier this season. That scepticism was well-founded. Prior to taking the managerial role at Les Ty Zéfs midway through last season, Roy’s last job in management was in 2011, with OGC Nice. Roy had not left the industry, assuming sporting director and technical director roles at Nice, Lens and Watford. Nonetheless, his return was a big surprise to many, with the Breton club mired in a battle for survival.

Roy has worked miracles at Brest, taking them out of the relegation zone and leading them to a comfortable mid-table finish last season. That upward trajectory has continued this season. Despite being tipped by many for relegation, the Frenchman has led Brest to their first-ever European qualification in their 74-year history. Les Pirates will play Champions League football next season and given the consistency in the playing squad during his time at the Stade Francis Le-Blé, recruitment cannot explain this unexpected success –  it is Roy who deserves the plaudits. LE

GFFN Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year – Warren Zaïre-Emery

Warren Zaïre-Emery only turned 18 in March but he has already become an essential component of Luis Enrique’s Paris Saint-Germain plans. The young Frenchman had had a meteoric rise this season as the world has begun to pay attention to the jewel in the heart of the Paris midfield.

Les Parisiens have not always entrusted their academy with the keys to their future, so it speaks volumes of the level that the teenager has played at in this campaign that the club has thrown everything at keeping their ready-made star in the capital. A contract extension was long suspected and in late April it was confirmed he would remain with PSG until 2029.

Even Didier Deschamps who can be notoriously slow to trust new players in his France setup appears to have fallen for Zaïre-Emery’s blend of grit and grace when he made him the third youngest French international to ever play for the country in November.

Of course, there have been some low points in the season, and the teenager has looked fatigued by a long season in recent games, but that should do nothing to distract from the fact that a star has been born, and the future looks blindingly bright for Zaïre-Emery. Nick Hartland

GFFN Ligue1 Signing of the Season

With Lyon shackled by DNCG transfer restrictions, many people saw the signing of Jake O’Brien as the club taking advantage of their newly-formed relationship with Crystal Palace under the ownership of Eagle Football Group to allow them to add squad depth. However, it has been quite the opposite, with the Irish defender becoming an instrumental figure in OL’s dramatic turnaround. 

O’Brien has been a mainstay throughout the season for Les Gones, making 26 appearances in Ligue 1. Despite a difficult start to life in the Rhône region of France, since the appointment of Pierre Sage, the 23-year-old has become a stalwart at the back and a fan favourite in the stands at the Groupama Stadium.  

The former Crystal Palace defender has been undoubtedly influential in his own box but his greatest contribution arguably came in the opposition box. 

After ten matches, Lyon were winless and rooted to the foot of the table. Some were already predicting their unexpected relegation. Until O’Brien stepped up with a header to win the game late for OL against Rennes and give them their first win. This goal was a turning point in their season and announced the Irishman’s arrival in Lyon. Liam Wraith

GFFN Ligue 1 Flop of the Year – Randal Kolo Muani

Randal Kolo Muani’s debut season at Paris Saint-Germain has been an expensive disappointment. Signed from Eintracht Frankfurt for €95 million on transfer deadline day, the Frenchman has looked completely out of step with his new team. A return of nine goals across all competitions was hardly what PSG expected when they made Kolo Muani their third most expensive signing.

There have been reports since that Luis Enrique had significant doubts about the suitability of the forward to his system, with the transfer being pushed forward by the club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. Already there are rumours of the player leaving in the summer for half of what the French champions paid for him, as Borussia Dortmund circle the waters.

However, PSG appear to have no intention of letting Kolo Muani walk after only one season. They’d probably suggest that the forward did not have a suitable preseason with them and that next campaign there will be a better illustration of his talents. However, until the Frenchman can prove otherwise, it is hard not to consider him being one of the worst signings that the club have made. NH

GFFN Best Frenchman Abroad – William Saliba

Arsenal’s early 2000s golden years had a distinct Francophile feel to them, and with William Saliba helping to create the best defence in England, there is a sense that a return to those halcyon days is just around the corner.

Saliba’s rise from a promising young talent who had impressed at AS Saint-Étienne and Olympique de Marseille into one of the best centre-backs in the world has directly coincided with Arsenal’s challenge to Manchester City’s dominance of the Premier League.

It was no coincidence that Arsenal’s run for the title last season fell apart as injuries curtailed the Frenchman’s involvement, nor is it a coincidence that the London club have been able to maintain their momentum into the final day of this year’s campaign with Saliba at the heart of their defence.

All that has been missing from the centre-back has been recognition with the national team. While the rest of the world has fallen for the young defender, Didier Deschamps remains unmoved and reluctant to select him as a central part of his France setup. NH

GFFN Ligue 1 Team of the Year

Lucas Chevalier; Wilfried Singo, Jean-Clair Todibo, Leny Yoro, Bradley Locko; Vitinha, Denis Zakaria, Pierre Lees-Melou; Edon Zhegrova, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kylian Mbappé. 

>> READ: Our full Ligue 1 Team of the Year profile piece

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

More European Football News