SPIRO: Exciting times for Ligue 1
Ranieri, Bielsa, Mbappé, Falcao, Verratti, Alves and maybe, just maybe, Neymar! Hold on to your hats, folks. It's going to be quite the season, writes an excited Matt Spiro.
Not since the late 1990s has France's top tier boasted so many exciting names. Whether it is managers, players, or WAGs (Pamela Anderson is coming!!), Ligue 1 Conforama these days is bursting with talent and glamour. Much of the credit for the surge in quality must go to PSG.
By capturing so many elite players - from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to most recent buy Dani Alves - the capital club has emerged as a European force and grabbed the attention of the footballing world. Significantly, Paris forced the others to raise their collective games. For four seasons, they dominated, but last year Monaco caught up. Some of the football played by Leonardo Jardim's dashing young side, and some of the many goals they scored, were quite scintillating and had Europe's biggest clubs contacting agents and bank managers alike.
WATCH: Monaco tear Metz apart
So far, as announced in the spring, the champions have sold just three members of their starting XI, as well as local favourite Valère Germain. Tiemoué Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and, especially, Bernardo Silva, will be missed, yet their sales had been planned for and good replacements have been found. Youri Tielemans, signed for €25m from Anderlecht, might prove a mark-up on Bakayoko. Adama Diakhaby, Soumahilo Meité, Terence Kongolo, Jordi Mboula are all highly promising.
Furthermore Rony Lopez and Allan Saint-Maximin return from loans, while Silva's departure will open the door to the exciting young Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Boschiglia whose previous campaign was curtailed by injury. He could easily become a big player for Monaco this season. I don't know if Monaco will be good enough to win the league again, but I'm certainly not worried about them.
By winning the title, Monaco sealed a remarkable triumph. But they also annoyed PSG - something the rest of Europe might live to regret. It was ultimately a sobering campaign for Unai Emery's charges, despite their winning both domestic cups. The 6-1 drubbing in Barcelona, coupled with the surrendering of their domestic crown, have triggered a determined reaction. PSG's Qatari owners want to make an almighty statement and not just to their Ligue 1 rivals. Indeed, should they pull off the signing of Neymar - and it looks increasingly likely - it would be one of the biggest transfer coups in footballing history, and not just because of the astronomical fee.
WATCH: PSG produce a classic Classique
Signing Ibrahimovic from AC Milan was huge, but luring Neymar, aged 25 and in the peak of his career, from the clutches of the institution that is FC Barcelona would be sensational. Not least because at the start of the summer Barcelona were the ones hampering PSG for Marco Verratti. In terms of finding an argument to convince Verratti to stay, telling him that PSG would be signing one of Barcelona's star men and the principal architect of the famous 'remontada' is pretty strong. Neymar will bring his class, of course, but will also inject intrigue and bring Ligue 1 huge amounts of media attention from around the globe.
This season, though, will be about so much more that PSG and Monaco. Marcelo Bielsa's arrival at Lille and their subsequent assault on the transfer market, the gathering of pace of Marseille's ‘champions project', the arrival of the miracle-worker Claudio Ranieri at Nantes, the quiet ambition of Lucien Favre's exciting Nice side, the new faces and new era being announced at Lyon… the plotlines are manifold and some thrilling stories seem sure to emerge.
So let's push the speculation and transfer talk to one side momentarily this weekend and let the football take centre stage once more. Bring on Friday night!