The dust has barely settled on France’s triumphant World Cup campaign, but Ligue 1 returns this weekend with French champions Paris Saint-Germain under new management and with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar taking superstar billing.
Less than four weeks after France beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to lift the World Cup for the second time, sparking huge celebrations on the streets of Paris and around the country, the trophy will be paraded at the Stade Velodrome when Marseille play Toulouse in the first game of the season on Friday.
Eight players based in Ligue 1 were in Didier Deschamps’ squad in Russia, although of that group only PSG’s teenage superstar Mbappe was a regular.
The 19-year-old took the tournament by storm and won the award for the best young player after scoring four goals in Russia, including one in the final.
While Neymar’s long-term future remains the source of constant speculation, Mbappe’s World Cup performances suggested he can be the real poster boy for PSG going forward.
That applies for the league as well, which still boasts the two most expensive players in the world — the transfer window does not close until the end of the month — and will now be eager to capitalise on the national team’s success.
Ligue 1 still lags behind its main European rivals financially, but things are changing for the better.
TV rights for the four seasons from 2020 were sold in May to Chinese-owned group Mediapro for €1.15 billion a year, a huge increase.
In an attempt to build on the impact of the World Cup, while also acknowledging Ligue 1’s status as a fertile breeding ground for brilliant youngsters, the LFP are promoting their competition internationally as “The League of Talents”.
“Even if there are only eight members of the France team playing in Ligue 1, the word France is there as the common theme. It is an extra argument in our favour and makes investors want to watch what is happening in France,” said Didier Quillot, the LFP’s director general.
Foreign investors are showing more interest, with an American group closing on a takeover at Bordeaux.