The dust had barely settled on Paris Saint-Germain’s first league triumph since 1994 before newly promoted AS Monaco stole the headlines with a double purchase to rival the Qatari-backed PSG’s transfer dealings.
Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez both signed from Porto for a combined £60m and the latest reports indicate Radamel Falcao will be prized from Atlético Madrid for £51m, bringing Monaco’s spending to £111m on three players in the same week after their successful promotion from Ligue 2 as champions.
Whilst many clubs throughout Europe will bemoan the appearance of another billionaire-backed club spending excessive amounts of transfer fees, player’s wages and agent’s fees, this will be seen as good news for health of Ligue 1. The top tier of French football has a long history but within the last 20 years it has struggled to compete with Europe’s other top leagues as the financial rewards and pulling power of bigger clubs has meant French footballing greats such as Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira have spent the majority of their careers abroad.
The emergence of AS Monaco will also bring a huge sigh of relief from fans of Ligue 1. PSG had threatened to create an era of dominance similar to that of Olympique Lyonnais, which saw them win the title for seven successive seasons from 2001/02. Although Ligue 1 has often enjoyed a favourable rating from UEFA (it is currently ranked sixth) it has a poor history in European competitions with only Marseilles winning the European Cup in 1992/93, which is shameful as lower ranked leagues such as the Dutch Eredivisie can boast 10 European Cup wins but is only ranked ninth in UEFA’s table of European Leagues.
Of course there is a long way to go before AS Monaco can start competing with Europe’s elite in major competitions but the performance of PSG in this season’s Champions League (only exiting the quarter-finals on the away goals rule to Barcelona) will give them great encouragement. The major spending already will have thrown down the gauntlet to PSG, not to mention Lyon and Marseilles who will all have been caught off-guard by the principality club and their highly ambitious owner Dmitry Rybolovlev. Within a couple of seasons Ligue 1 has gone from a league with only two teams regularly competing for the title to now having four – not to mention the potential for recent winners Bordeaux and Montpelier to strengthen and fight for European places.
For the first time in a long time the top tier of French football looks like will be a competitive league and featuring some of the biggest names in football, as the new AS Monaco trio join the likes of Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Lucas, it is time for domestic French football to join Europe’s elite leagues.