Paris (AFP) – The 2022/23 Ligue 1 season kicks off this weekend with Paris Saint-Germain overwhelming favourites to win what would be a record 11th French title following Kylian Mbappe’s decision to snub Real Madrid and remain with the Qatar-owned club.
While Mbappe stays, AFP Sport looks at five newcomers to watch in the campaign ahead:
PSG have Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi but they were also keen to snap up one of the most exciting attacking prospects to emerge last season in French football. The 20-year-old Ekitike was a target for Saudi-owned Newcastle United before Qatar-backed PSG swooped. They have signed the Reims striker in an eyebrow-raising loan deal with an option to make the transfer permanent next year for a reported 36 million euros ($36.5 mn). According to reports that option will be exercised so long as PSG finish in the top two in Ligue 1. Ekitike, who stands 1.89m tall, impressed with 10 league goals last season for Reims after returning from a loan spell in Denmark. The France youth international will not be a regular starter but will certainly offer something different when needed to step in.
The 27-year-old Japan international winger has joined Monaco, boosting their already formidable attacking options, after the principality club paid Liverpool a reported 15 million euros for his services. The ex-Cerezo Osaka player has a point to prove after failing to make an impact at Anfield in the wake of a move from Red Bull Salzburg in January 2020. Minamino made just 21 starts for Jurgen Klopp’s side, and started just one Premier League game last season. He will hope the move to Monaco will help relaunch his career before going to the World Cup with the Samurai Blue.
The Wales midfielder was another one looking to kickstart his career ahead of the World Cup. Ramsey left Juventus when his contract was terminated at the end of July, and swiftly reappeared just across the border at Nice, the club owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. According to reports, the 31-year-old has penned a one-season deal. Injuries hampered his time at Juventus and he spent the second half of the last campaign at Rangers, missing a penalty in their shoot-out defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final.
Lacazette has joined World Cup winner Corentin Tolisso in returning to boyhood club Lyon, who are eager to bounce back after finishing a disappointing eighth last season. While midfielder Tolisso signed a five-year deal upon the expiry of his contract at Bayern Munich, Lacazette agreed a three-year contract. He returns to Lyon, five years after being sold to Arsenal. Now 31, Lacazette never really fulfilled his potential in London and he managed just four Premier League goals last season. He quickly fell out of favour with France coach Didier Deschamps following that move in 2017 but he and Lyon supporters will hope he can pick up where he left off at OL, for whom he scored 28 goals in his last Ligue 1 campaign in 2016/17.
While historic names Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux were relegated along with Metz, Toulouse were promoted back to the top tier as Ligue 2 champions following a two-year absence. Ajaccio and Auxerre have also come up, but the prospects of Toulouse are the most intriguing. Owned by US fund RedBird Capital Partners –- who recently agreed a deal to buy AC Milan -– Toulouse’s well-documented reliance on data to sign players has led to them building a cosmopolitan squad. Dutch midfielder Branco van den Boomen and ex-MK Dons striker Rhys Healey starred last season. The latest additions include Norwegian goalkeeper Kjetil Haug and Dutch striker Thijs Dallinga at a club whose president is Damien Comolli, the former Liverpool sporting director.
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