The 2023/24 French Ligue 1 season kicks off this weekend with Paris Saint-Germain the overwhelming favourites to win another title despite Lionel Messi’s departure and the uncertainty surrounding the future of Kylian Mbappe.
Here are five new signings to watch in the campaign ahead:
GONCALO RAMOS (Paris Saint-Germain)
With Messi having left and Mbappe possibly on his way out too, PSG needed to strengthen their attack. In truth Ramos might be exactly the profile of striker they have been crying out for since Edinson Cavani departed in 2020. The 22-year-old scored 19 goals on Benfica’s run to the Portuguese title last season and helped the Lisbon giants reach the Champions League quarter-finals. He also announced himself to the wider world with a hat-trick in Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup. Ramos has already started to prove himself at the highest level but also has bags of potential still unfulfilled. He has joined on an initial loan deal but PSG have an option to make the move permanent at the end of the season, and the fee could eventually reach 80 million euros ($88m) according to reports.
LUCAS HERNANDEZ (Paris Saint-Germain)
PSG looked short in defence last season and have moved to rectify that by signing Inter Milan centre-back Milan Skriniar as well as Hernandez, who arrives from Bayern Munich on a five-year deal for a reported fee in the region of 40 million euros. Born in Marseille but brought up in Spain, Hernandez offers versatility as the 27-year-old can play in central defence or at left-back. However, there are some doubts about the injury record of a player who won the World Cup with France in 2018. The former Atletico Madrid man missed the second half of last season after rupturing the ACL in his right knee at the World Cup in Qatar.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Marseille)
Having failed to reach a deal to persuade Alexis Sanchez to stay after a successful season at the Velodrome, Marseille swooped for another former Arsenal attacker in Aubameyang. On the face of it, the move is a big risk, as OM have given a three-year deal to a player who is 34 and scored just three goals in only 11 starts last season for Chelsea. Yet the French-born Gabon international still has plenty of pace, is a predatory finisher and could be electric for Marseille if he returns near to the form he showed at Saint-Etienne, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal earlier in his career.
LUDOVIC BLAS (Rennes)
The 25-year-old was an outstanding player in the Nantes team that won the French Cup a year ago and enjoyed a good run in the Europa League last season. A fleet-footed creator with an eye for goal, he was allowed to leave the Canaries after they narrowly avoided relegation. That Blas did not move abroad might come as a surprise, as he instead swapped Nantes for their bitter rivals Rennes on a four-year deal for a reported fee of 15 million euros. He will hope joining a club with ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League will improve his chances of a France call-up. Blas won the Under-19 European Championship in 2016 alongside Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Thuram but has never won a senior cap.
SAMUEL UMTITI (Lille)
Lucas Hernandez is not the only injury-prone member of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning side to have moved to Ligue 1 this summer. Umtiti was a key part of that French team but his progress was then slowed due to a knee injury and he rarely featured for Barcelona after 2018. However, the former Lyon central defender recovered fitness to play regularly last season on loan at Lecce in Italy. After agreeing a deal with Barcelona to sever a contract that was due to run until 2026, he returned to France to join Lille on a two-year deal. Umtiti is still just 29 but his experience will be precious to a team that has lost its 39-year-old defensive stalwart Jose Fonte.