For the most part, Ligue 1 sticks to a predictable and lacklustre script of Paris Saint-Germain dominance. Year after year, we see the French giants flex their financial muscles to bulldoze their way to champion status. And, amidst all the financial concern in French football, the same narrative was expected to be written. Yet here we are, in late February, with Lille leading the pack by four points to produce the underdog story of the season.
The aforementioned script has been torn apart- re-written by a young, hungry yet financial stricken Lille side. PSG’s financial muscles have so far been outweighed by the sheer determination of Lille to steal their Ligue 1 crown in true underdog fashion.
Despite Financial Concerns, Lille are Producing the Underdog Story of the Season in Ligue 1
French Football in Financial Crisis
Following the collapse of a TV deal, the future of French football has been thrown into doubt. As it stands, Ligue 1 is set to lose 49% of its television revenue this season after the deal with Mediapro collapsed.
Many teams in Ligue 1 will have already felt the effects of this, with star players’ price tag significantly dropping as they look to raise some much-needed funds. Marseille, for example, sold star midfielder Morgan Sanson for a meer £14 million in January to Aston Villa.
In today’s market, losing a star player for that price is almost unthinkable; usually, at the very least, the fee demanded is £30 million or above. But those in Ligue 1 are desperate amid the uncertainty, and it’s showing.
That desperation and uncertainty, in itself, makes for a pretty remarkable underdog story for French football. But, it is that desperation and uncertainty that brings unity, strength, and, determination; all traits Lille have shown.
For a long time, PSG’s financial power has wiped away any chance of a change of narrative. So, naturally, when Ligue 1 is in its worse financial position for years, the belief was that PSG would once again stroll towards the title.
Except, despite how many Kylian Mbappe’s and Neymar’s they have thrown into the title race, it is now, more than ever, that PSG’s dominance looks likely to come to a refreshing halt.
Even with Pochettino appointed and those around them facing potential financial collapse, this seems to be the year another king is crowned to tell the unlikeliest of underdog stories in Ligue 1 history.
Lille’s Sudden Emergence
Since last lifting the title in 2011- a decade ago- Lille, like most in Ligue 1, have found themselves bowing down to PSG’s constant coronation. As previously alluded to, the financial loss this season has turned their desperation into a hunger to reach the Champions League.
The financial gain alone that would secure means Lille had no choice but to take the battle to the division. It was that, or face a summer clear-out to raise some funds. So, they stopped bowing and, instead, began to battle the seemingly unstoppable PSG machine.
And that machine is now faltering when French Football needs it to most, and Lille are taking advantage. Defensively, no team has conceded less whilst no side has suffered fewer defeats than Lille, who keep providing the sign of champions.
There is a long way to go, yes, and fixtures with PSG and Lyon to contend with, but so far, so good from a Lille point of view. In a season when an underdog story should have been impossible in Ligue 1, Lille are providing us all with a much-needed spectacle.
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