Ligue 1 Football Match

Ligue 1

Ligue 1 has solid footing in the football world, but, even still, it is often underappreciated. It’s a league positioned at the centre of things. There are, for instance, many teams in the world that have a spine of French talent born and bred by clubs and academies in Ligue 1. The likes of Lyon, Strasbourg, PSG, Marseille, Bordeaux, Sochaux, and Rennes produce generation after generation of players who carve out a significant piece of land in the top-five European leagues.

For the most part, Ligue 1 is dominated by PSG. This is undeniable. Since Qatari Sports Investment became the owner of PSG in 2011, the league’s course has changed. PSG are now almost guaranteed winners; they are a team that sustains good form and performances across the season. As a minimum, two things must go wrong for PSG to lose the title. However, it has happened. 

The unequal distribution of wealth in the league has forced those with smaller budgets to become more intelligent. For instance, the likes of Lorient, Lens, and Lille have worked wonders with minimal budgets to sustain challenges to the top six, if not top-four. Prestige teams like Marseille, Lyon, and Monaco aren’t expected to be top-four finishers – they have to fight. All supplement their excellent academy graduates with shrewd signings from domestic rivals, lower divisions, and cheap coups from foreign leagues.

It’s an exciting league in and of itself. And there is some excitement in the continued success of PSG in that they can attract Neymar, Messi, and Mbappé as well as afford to pay them so that audiences from around the world can see three geniuses strut across the pitch.

There’s more to Ligue 1’s history than the last ten years, though. And we’ll get into that here in this DAZN Bet’s guide.

Ligue 1 101:

  •  Ligue 1 has routinely changed size throughout its history. It will do so again next season. This season – 2022/2023 – 20 teams play in Ligue 1. In 2023/2024, only 18 teams will compete for the title.
  •  Out of the 74 teams that have played at least one season in Ligue 1, 18 have lifted the trophy. PSG and Saint-Étienne hold the record for the most title wins, at 10 a piece.
  • Not every team that plays in the French football league is French. AS Monaco is the most notable example, residing outside the country as a sovereign city-state.
  • All teams play each other twice throughout the season, which results in, for this year, a total of 38 games each.
  •  To be crowned champion, a team must have the most points in the league. If two teams are level, a champion is crowned by having the best goal difference, and then the best goal scored. If everything is equal, a playoff game determines the champion.
  • The top two teams in the league proceed into the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League. Third place enters the Champions League in the Third Qualifying Round. Fourth place goes into the UEFA Europa League Group Stage. Fifth place joins the UEFA Europa Conference League.
  • The team to play the most seasons in Ligue 1 is Olympique Marseille. 
  • Only four members currently play in the Ligue 1 that formed the league way back in 1932: Marseille, Montpellier, Nice, and Rennes.

The Influential History of Ligue 1

Ligue 1’s life started with some difficulty. A vote in favour of professionalism in 1930 led the French Football Federation to create criteria for applications to the league. Many clubs didn’t agree with the FFF’s criteria, including Rennes, Strasbourg, and Amiens SC. 

Despite this rocky start, the National began in the 1932/1933 season. A 20-team league competed, with Olympique Lillois being crowned champions.

By 1933/1934, National became Division 1.

Much of Ligue 1’s early history was defined by struggle and fluctuation. No one team dominated during this time, with Sochaux the only team to win two titles before the league was suspended as WWII broke out. In the first three seasons after the war, Ligue 1 shrunk and expanded 3 times: from 18 to 20 and then back to 18 again.

There was stability, though, in terms of on-field performances, during this post-war period, as Lille OSC – a club founded by a merger of Olympique Lillois and Fives – and Reims were consistent features of title challenges. Marseille, Bordeaux, and Nice won titles as Lille and Reims were at their best, but the latter two teams eventually made their mark. 

The Mid-Century Onwards…

Reims were consistent finishers in the top three and played in two European Cup finals – in 1956 and again in 1959. In both finals, they lost to Real Madrid. They were the first French team to compete in the European Cup final.

The 1960s again featured numerous changes in the league’s size. It started the 60s as a 20-team league before shrinking, expanding, and shrinking – finishing the 60s as an 18-team league. In 1970, though, it returned to a 20-team league and would stay that way until 1997.

Saint-Étienne’s golden age was in the late-1960s to mid-1970s. They had two title streaks, separated by a couple of trophyless years. They also were the second French team to contest a European Cup final. They lost the 1976 European Cup final to a Bayern Munich side featuring Gerd Müller, Karlz-Heinz Rummenigge, and Franz Beckenbauer.

The next spell of domination Ligue 1 saw began in the late 1980s. Olympique Marseille won four consecutive titles, mirroring that of Saint-Étienne, and competed in two European Cup finals – well, technically one European Cup and one Champions League – like Reims did in the 1950s. Unlike Reims, though, Marseille won at their second attempt, beating A.C. Milan in the 1993 Champions League final. The team consisted of generational talents like Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Rudi Völler, Abedi Pele, and Didier Deschamps. 

The Twenty-First Century

After Marseille’s spell at the top of Ligue 1, the millennium ended with an array of different champions. However, that soon changed when Lyon went on a streak of seven consecutive titles from the 2001/2002 season to 2007/2008. Players from this team would define much of this period of European football: 

  •               Juninho would wow audiences with his dead-ball prowess
  •               Sidney Govou would terrify defences with his dribbling ability
  •               Michael Essien would break up attacks from Chelsea and Real Madrid in era-defining teams
  •               Florent Malouda would play creative roles for Chelsea during their golden age
  •               Eric Abidal would create an emotional and untouchable legacy with Barcelona under Pep Guardiola
  •               Sylvain Wiltord joined Lyon after his role in Arsenal’s Invincibles season
  •               Karim Benzema would go on to play a leading role in Real Madrid’s Champions League roaring successes in the 2010s, including a Ballon d’Or in 2022

A lot of threads lead to this team.

In 2011, the league entered a new era. When QSI invested in PSG, becoming their owners, they promised to build a team capable of winning the Champions League. That’s a common promise of new owners. But not all owners have their funding. Only Manchester United and Manchester City have spent more on transfers than PSG, who both play in the most lucrative league in the world. They’ve brought exciting talent to the league: Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Neymar, and Lionel Messi. Ligue 1 fans see these stars week-in-week-out and, though, at the same time, still witness the early blossoming of massive stars like Ousmane Dembélé, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni. It’s a league that’s always worth watching.

Ligue 1 Timeline

  •               1932/1933: Professional football in France begins as the very first season of Ligue 1, known then as National, takes place. Olympique Lillois are the inaugural champions.
  •               1933/1934: the National becomes Division 1.
  •               1945/1946: National’s first champions Olympique Lillois merge with Fives to become Lille OSC and win the 1945/1946 title. This is the first season to be played after WWII, during which the league was suspended.
  •               1945/1946-1947/1948: the number of teams in the league fluctuates in back-to-back-to-back seasons, from 18 to 20 and back to 18.
  •               Late 1940s to mid-1950s: Lille, Nice, and Reims dominate the league. During this period, though, Reims take their excellence to the European stage, losing to Real Madrid in the 1956 European Cup final.
  •               1958 to 1970: the league expands and shrinks four times. In the exact same fashion, as it did during the 1940s, the league bounced between 18 teams and 20 teams.
  •               Late 1960s to mid-1970s: this was the period of Saint-Étienne’s golden age. They went on a streak of four consecutive titles to end the 1960s and then three consecutive titles from 1973/1974 to 1975/1976. They competed in the 1976 European Cup final, losing to a brilliant Bayern Munich team. This was the third attempt a French club had to win the European Cup and the third failure.
  •               Late 1980s to early 1990s: this was the period that Marseille announced itself to the European stage with a team of Marcel Desailly, Rudi Völler, Eric Cantona, Abedi Pele, Didier Deschamps, Chris Waddle, and Ballon d’Or-winning Jean-Pierre Papin. They won four league titles consecutively and became the first French team to lift a Champions League title (or a European Cup before its revamp) in 1993 after failing to win it in 1991.
  •               1988/1989: Zinedine Zidane makes his professional debut for AS Cannes. He’d score his first goal in 1991. This is the same season Zidane helped AS Cannes to an unprecedented UEFA Cup qualification place.
  •               1993/1994: AS Cannes again show their ability to act as a springboard for future stars as Patrick Vieira makes his professional bow at 17. He would go on to be captain at 19 before transferring to Inter Milan in 1995.
  •               1993/1994: David Ginola of PSG wins Ligue 1’s inaugural Player of the Year award after leading his team to a Ligue 1 title with 13 goals.
  •               2001/2002: At Guingamp, future Chelsea teammates Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda create an effective partnership, which earnt both players transfer to bigger clubs, Marseille and Lyon, respectively. 
  •               2001/2002 to 2007/2008: Olympique Lyonnais go on a record-breaking run of seven consecutive titles. During this period, Michael Essien, Juninho, Florent Malouda, and Karim Benzema win Ligue 1 Player of the Year across four years – the first players to ever do so for the club.
  •               2007/2008: Lille’s young starlet Eden Hazard makes his debut off the bench against Nancy.
  •               2012/2013: Zlatan Ibrahimović transfers from AC Milan to join the project at PSG for €21m. He won Ligue 1 Player of the Year in his debut season. PSG won the title this year, too – their first in 19 years.
  •               2015/2016: Kylian Mbappé makes his debut for AS Monaco in a 1-1 draw with Caen, becoming the youngest debutant for the club’s first team at the age of 16 years and 347 days.
  •               2017/2018: In the same summer, PSG sign both Neymar and Mbappé. Neymar’s fee is world-record breaking, while Mbappé signs on loan, initially, and his transfer is made permanent the following summer for in excess of €180m.
  •               2021/2022: To add to their riches, Lionel Messi signs for PSG on a free transfer after his heart-breaking and much-publicised move away from Barcelona. He’d win the Ballon d’Or that year, technically becoming the second Ligue 1 player to win the Ballon d’Or despite hardly having played for PSG by that time.

A Fresh Season: Ligue 1 22/23

It’s hard to begin thinking about a Ligue 1 season without assuming, expecting, and, despite anomalies, knowing PSG will be sitting in first place. They dominate the league. It’s not always a foregone conclusion, as Lille and Monaco have disrupted their dominance over the last decade. Nonetheless, with a front three of Messi, Mbappé, and Neymar – still together despite a summer of rumours and drama and supposed fallings-out – it’s hard to see how many domestic teams’ defences can stop them. The hiring of Luis Campos and Christophe Galtier has signalled a change in ethos at the Parc des Princes, one focused more on the practical and functional side of creating a Champions League-winning team. Ligue 1 is always seen as a warm-up for the Champions League for PSG, and right now, they sit top of the league, ahead of Lens, and are looking pretty.

Lens, though – the surprise and exciting package of Ligue 1 in the last couple of seasons – remains close. In fact, when Ligue 1 resumed after the World Cup break, Lens put PSG to the sword in a 3-1 victory, which saw Frankowski, Openda, and Maurice score the goals. It’s a team that isn’t after the attack, but, importantly, they have a mean defence, conceding the least number of goals in the league. They look like a strong bet for Champions League qualification.

The new element to this season is that four teams will be relegated, as the league will shrink to 18 teams next season. Angers are adrift at the bottom, their fate practically sealed already. Above them, Auxerre, Ajaccio, Brest, Strasbourg, Montpellier, and Troyes are separated by mere points. This area of the league will arguably be the most exciting one to watch as the season progresses, and the table mutates.

Ligue 1 23/24: DAZN Bet’s Predictions

Next season could be one of change in Ligue 1 not only because the league is contested by 18 teams rather than 20 – no. The change could well be with the defending and pre-eminent champions themselves, PSG. Mbappé continues to court and be courted by Real Madrid, which many see as an inevitable match. Whether that happens in the summer of 23/24 is anyone’s guess. Also, though, Messi’s contract is up in June. If PSG were to lose both Messi and Mbappé, Neymar would lose his best friend and a player who wanted him gone in the summer of 22/23. Who knows where his head will be? As such, could PSG lose all of their esteemed front three?

If so, who will be there to lead the charge as title challenges? Lens, should they keep their team together and continue to improve, will surely be hoping it’s their time to cap off this impressive rise to top-four finishers. However, they won’t be alone. The likes of free-scoring Monaco and Marseille will be sure another season under their coaches will put them in great positions to pounce on a weakened PSG. Lyon, now under the stewardship of Laurent Blanc, will also expect to be title challengers if PSG does suffer an off-season.

At the bottom end, after a four-team relegation the season before, those in the lower-mid table will be looking over their shoulder. Their buffer has been removed. They are closer to the bottom. As such, Nates, Toulouse, Reims, Clermont Foot, and, depending on if they can recover some form, Nice will all be concerned.