Football in France –part 2
Many of Frances top international footballers start their careers in the country’s football league. The top league in the country is the Ligue 1 which is contested by 20 sides. At the end of each season the bottom three sides are relegated and replaced by the top three sides from Ligue 2. The current champions actually come from outside of the country, and they are AC Monaco FC who won their 8th title in 2016. Hailing from the principality, the side still possesses a team in which the majority of players are French nationals.
Their success in Ligue 1 has also been mirrored by their success in European competitions. In 1992 they finished as Runners up in the Cup Winners Cup and in 2004 they also finished as runners up in the European Champions League.
Their most successful manager was Arsene Wenger, who was in charge between 1987 and 1984. He managed to sign many famous players such as Glenn Hoddle, Jurgen Klinsmann, and George Weah during this period, and the side also benefited from its youth policy in which Thierry Henri and Emmanuel Petit emerged. The side that has won the most Ligue 1 titles is AS Saint-Etienne. Situated in the Massif Central, the side is famed for their distinctive green shirts and they are nicknamed “the greens”. They were founded in 1919 and have won 10 Ligue 1 titles.
The club, however, has not won a league title since the 1980-81 season when it was captained by Michel Platini. This was the end of a period that saw the side win the championship nine times in eighteen years. It possessed a number of players who played in many of the championship winning games.
George Bereta was a striker for Saint-Etienne in 6 championship winning seasons. He was from Polish descent and he managed to score 53 goals in the 281 appearances that he made for the side in between 1966 and 1974. During this time, he won 44 caps for the French National team scoring 4 goals. Saint Etienne’s fiercest rivals are Olympic Lyonaiss, who are also located nearby in the Massif Central. They hold the distinction of winning 7 consecutive Ligue 1 titles between 2002 and 2009. The side is well supported in the country as it is seen as developing young talent.
In its glory years, at the start of the 21st century, it introduced several young players who later went on to sign for bigger clubs in other parts of Europe. These players included Michael Essien, who was later signed by Chelsea, and Karim Benzema, who today plays for Real Madrid after signing for them in 2009. During their title winning run, the club hired and fired 5 separate managers. The first to achieve the French double of Ligue 1 and Cup win was Alain Perrin, who later went on to manage their rivals Saint Etienne. He had taken the job from Gerard Houllier who, after two league title wins in two years, left to manage Liverpool.
No side has been in Ligue 1 for more seasons than Olympique de Marsielle. The side has competed in 68 seasons and during this period it has won the title on 9 occasions. The home stadium, the Stade Velodrome, holds 67,000 fans, and the supporters of the side are among the most passionate in the country.
In 1993 the side became the only team from France to win the European Champions League when they defeated AC Milan 1-0. Over the years many famous players have played for Marseilles, including Didier Drogba, Franc Ribery and, in the 1974 season, even the great Brazilian Jairzinho played for the club.
The clubs most successful period was at the end of the 1980s when they won the Ligue title four times in consecutive years. The most recent title win was in 2009-10 when their ex-player Didier Deschamps managed them to the victory before leaving to become the manager of France. No side is currently investing more money on players in the country than Paris Saint-Germain. The club has won 6 Ligue 1 titles and overall has secured 35 trophies including a UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1996. Since 2011 the club has been purchased by Oryx Qatar Sports Investments, which makes it one of the richest clubs in the world.
This has led to a number of star signings including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Luis and Edinson Cavani. But in August 2017 they went one step further when they purchased the Barcelona player Neymar for a world record transfer fee of 222 million Euros.