Cast your mind back to May 17. Monaco were confirmed as Ligue 1 champions,
Paris Saint-Germain had been dethroned by an exciting team of young upstarts, failing to win the title for the first time since 2012.
Back then you could have been forgiven for thinking that Ligue 1, a division PSG had run roughshod over for five years, was about to to become a bastion competitiveness.
Nice hung around in the title race for longer than most would have expected and Marseille and Lille were the subject of takeovers, generating hope they could again contend at the summit of French football.
Fast forward to the present day and, going into PSG’s visit to Monaco, hopes of Ligue 1 being competitive for the long-term have been emphatically dashed.
PSG’s response to losing the title and their Champions League last-16 humiliation at the hands of Barcelona was always going to be emphatic, but nobody could have predicted the business the capital club went on to pull off.
Beating Manchester City to the signing of Dani Alves from Juventus was impressive, but what followed was simply astonishing. PSG completed the most stunning transfer in history by acquiring Neymar – the architect of their Camp Nou downfall – from Barca in a world-record €222million move.
By contrast, Monaco’s golden generation was picked apart by the Premier League before PSG took the crown jewel, luring Kylian Mbappe away in a loan deal with a view to a permanent move.
Fabino, Djibril Sidibe and Thomas Lemar remain at Monaco, but a squad robbed of the likes of Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko pales in comparison to that of PSG, whose star-studded forward line of Neymar, Mbappe and Edinson Cavani has fired them to 11 wins from their opening 13 league games and a six-point lead over Monaco, with Marseille and Montpellier the only opponents to offer any kind of threat to their unbeaten start.
PSG’s arch-rivals Marseille, along with Lyon, have shown signs of promise. Lyon are third, nine points adrift of the leaders, with Marseille are a point further back, but those hoping for some semblance of parity in France must now be wondering where the next legitimate challenger is coming from.
Nice are a lowly 17th, just a point above the drop zone and two ahead of second-bottom Lille, who have failed drastically to live up to expectations as Marcelo Bielsa’s return to Ligue 1 has proved an unmitigated nightmare.
With PSG able to to call on the likes of Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura in addition to their teriffic attacking triumvirate, their monoply appears poised to be re-established and remain in place for some time.
But hope for the rest of French football comes with PSG’s magnificent Champions League form. Unai Emery’s men are unbeaten, scoring 24 goals and conceding just one, and finally look like a team ready to threaten for a place in the final.
Should PSG begin reaching, and perhaps winning, Champions League finals, then it will be a significant boost to a French UEFA coefficient that ranks below Spain, England, Italy and Germany.
More opportunities for European football, and the financial incentives that come with them, would be available for French clubs with a greater Champions League fortune for PSG.
Ligue 1 again looks like a lost cause, but the immediate pain for the rest of the league may well be worth the long-term gain.