The world’s best footballer plays there for one of the most passionately supported teams on the planet, so why don’t more Aussies tune into France’s wildly entertaining Ligue 1?
Kylian Mbappé is back in the Paris Saint-Germain starting XI – and back doing what he does best – putting last year’s Ligue 1 runners-up Lens to the sword in front of a sold-out Parisian crowd on Sunday morning.
The French international scored his 150th and 151st league goals for PSG in a 3-1 win over northern giants Lens in front of just under 48,000 spectators at a rocking Parc des Princes.
Luis Enrique is the latest big-name manager parachuted in at the Parisian giants, and he’s got a new-look team now shorn of some big names – and huge egos – with the likes of Neymar, Sergio Ramos, and Lionel Messi having all been moved on.
One man who keeps a closer eye on proceedings in Paris than most is Network Ten’s inimitable football commentator Robbie Thomson.
The multilingual Thomson spent almost 20 years covering French football as journalist and commentator – having first stood on each of the Parc des Princes’ intimidating terraces way back in 2000.
“My link is with French football,” Thomson told me in an animated phone call over the weekend.
“As soon as the A-Leagues are finished, I go back, because I’ve still got lots of connections back in France… both personally and professionally,” he said.
Thomson still hosts the Official Ligue 1 Podcast and a chat with the Canberra native – and no chat with Robbie is ever a quick one – veers entertainingly from his thoughts on the current PSG squad, to which clubs in Ligue 1 produce the best atmospheres, to the pivotal role France plays in Europe’s transfer ecosystem.
“It’s a well-known fact that the Paris basin and the Sao Paulo basin in Brazil are the two biggest suppliers of footballers around the world,” Thomson said.
“You look at any big club around the world and they have former Ligue 1 players,” he added – not long after Manchester City signed Rennes winger Jeremy Doku for £55 million ($107 million).
And with a host of big names arriving in Ligue 1 this season – the likes of Nemanja Matić, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Denis Zakaria will realistically all be looking to knock new PSG signings Ousmane Dembélé and Manuel Ugarte off their perch – this should be yet another enthralling campaign.
For all their supposed dominance, Paris Saint-Germain made heavy going of their domestic championship last season – topping the table by just a point from a tenacious Lens outfit.
Lens are back in the UEFA Champions League and remain one of France’s most fanatically supported sides, and while they sold last season’s 21-goal top scorer Loïs Openda to RB Leipzig in Germany, they’ve reinvested in Montpellier’s eye-catching young striker, Elye Wahi.
Thomson names Lens, Marseille and Nantes as clubs Aussie fans should check out for their atmospheres, along with second-tier outfit Saint-Étienne, plus PSG.
“Racing Club de Lens have an amazing stadium,” Thomson said.
“It wasn’t built for Euro 2016 but redone for France ’98, and it’s one of several stadiums in France where the capacity is actually bigger than the population of the town it’s located in.
“And it’s got an amazing set-up with the terrace running along the sideline.”
Yet while Thomson has attended games in just about every major stadium in France, he says Aussie fans should tune in for more than just the atmospheres they produce.
“I think for fans that want to see good football – entertaining football – and above all else, find out where Europe’s next big player is going to come from, they should follow Ligue 1.”
And with the goals flying in once again over the weekend – along with PSG’s 3-1 win over Lens, Nantes held Monaco to a 3-3 draw and Le Havre fought back from two-goals down to draw 2-2 at Rennes on Sunday – there’s no doubt Ligue 1 remains one of Europe’s most entertaining leagues.
You can watch every Ligue 1 game, plus highlights and preview shows, on beIN Sports Connect.