A new era of French football begins in earnest on Sunday evening. Paris-Saint Germain and Monaco – the two financial giants of Ligue 1 - meet for the first time since Monaco entered the benefactor elite of the European game.
The French league has never made too much of an impression in Europe, with just one European Cup win to their name – Marseille in 1993. But that could change in the next few years, given the enormous wealth at the disposal of Paris and Monaco, as shown by their respective summer buys of Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao.
“This is a first in France, it has never been done before,” said Ginola – formerly of PSG, Newcastle and Spurs, and now an analyst for BT Sport’s European football coverage. “For us there is a bit of expectation, what will the future be in France. We are not used to that, buying a lot of foreign players is not what we normally do, but Paris and Monaco are doing it differently.”
And after a difficult and poorly-planned summer, Paris legend David Ginola fears there might be some problems for them to retain their Ligue 1 crown.
“They made some average decisions, especially towards the end of last season,” Ginola said of the club’s management. “For a club like that, being in a position where you are just a few weeks away from the new season with no manager, and you have to rush to get someone on board, I think that was pretty bad.
“Sometimes you need to be wiser when you are doing that, money cannot buy everything. Carlo Ancelotti went to Real Madrid, they expected him to stay, but he didn’t. They wanted Rafael Benitez, they wanted Andre Villas-Boas, they wanted Jose Mourinho.”
In the end Paris appointed Laurent Blanc, and Ginola said Blanc cannot be distracted by the fact that he was not first choice. “It is difficult knowing that, always. But he should not think too much about it, he is charge now, people expect him to do that job and that is it. He knows that.”
The big issue for Blanc is how to partner his two world-class strikers, Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Both brilliant players, certainly, but not an obvious partnership. “Cavani is a goal-scorer, Ibrahimovic is one too, and both will want to be top-scorer for the season. It is going to be difficult, difficult not to play them both, but on the other hand in some games, someone will have to step out and stay on the bench. It is going to be tough for the manager.”
“At the moment it seems that Ibrahimovic is not really happy. It is going to be really complicated. Ibrahimovic got 30 goals last season. If he does not this year, I think he will ask to go.”
Monaco, where there is only one big name striker, seems a relatively calmer place. “With Claudio Ranieri in charge, the players have found someone they want to work with and work for.”
“Watch BT Sport’s exclusively live coverage of PSG v Monaco on BT Sport 1 from 8pm on Sunday 22 September. Build up to the big game with Sunday Night Football, which covers the game across the continent, from 6.45pm on BT Sport 1 on Sunday 22 September.” [please keep]