Ligue 1 gets a lot of shit these days. As the fifth-best league in Europe, it’s often derided as a “farmer’s league” by the snobbier football fans. Anyone who has actually paid attention to Ligue 1 over the last few years knows this isn’t the case. With the addition of Lionel Messi to the league now official, here are five reasons you should watch Ligue 1 not named Messi.
As someone who loves the beautiful game, I don’t understand why people shit on specific leagues. Whether it’s calling Ligue 1 a farmer’s league or saying MLS is and always will be garbage, certain elitists (usually Premier League fans) refuse to acknowledge the joy of watching soccer outside of England.
Is Ligue 1 the best in the world top to bottom? No one but the biggest of homers would make that claim. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit.
Here are five reasons you should watch Ligue 1 this season beyond the obvious (Messi).
The farmers have a new … pic.twitter.com/4Vd2N52z7v— Ligue1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) August 10, 2021
5 Reasons To Watch Ligue 1 In 2021-22
1. This league isn’t just PSG and some scrubs
Quick, name the team with the most Ligue 1 titles? PSG? Nah. Marseille, Monaco or Lyon? Nope.
It’s Saint-Étienne, with 10, followed closely by Marseille and PSG with nine each.
While PSG has dominated over the last few years since Qatar Sports Investments decided it wanted to buy a Champions League title, the Ligue 1 title hasn’t been a given. Lille won its fourth title last season and Monaco has had a few unforgettable campaigns.
In many respects, Ligue 1 could be the most intriguing league in Europe this season. With the addition of Messi, PSG will be the massive favorite. But as last year showed, anything is possible, and every week PSG will get the very best from its opponents. Lille, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille should all give PSG a run for its considerable money.
2. Can Lille repeat?
The easiest way to convince Americans to watch the French league is to point out the exciting young Americans playing for top clubs in France, and the most notable example is Tim Weah.
Weah began his third season will Lille by coming off the bench in a wild 3-3 draw with Metz in the season opener. Son of Ballon d’Or winner and Liberia president George Weah, the 21-year-old is likely to see at least some playing time with Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT during the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
Lille is the Ligue 1 defending champion, shocking PSG for the crown by one point. Les Dogues did it with a unique roster of young talent and veteran journeymen — players who refused to lose. And we mean it when we say they refused to lose, as Lille was beaten three times in 38 matches last season, five fewer than PSG.
With Canadian rising star Jonathan David — who, like Weah, was born in Brooklyn — the Turkish influence of Burak Yılmaz and Yusuf Yazıcı and Portugal’s enigmatic Renato Sanches, there’s a lot to like about Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side. There’s even 19-year-old Mexican Eugenio Pizzuto to check out for El Tri fans.
3. Marseille is going to be so much fun
The other American of note in France is a newcomer: Konrad de la Fuente. After a few years in Barcelona, Konrad made the move to Marseille in search of more playing time (he never made a senior appearance for the Blaugrana). Based on Marseille’s season opener, Jorge Sampaoli’s team is going to be fun to watch.
Konrad, 20, was brilliant as a hybrid wingback-winger-attacking midfielder in Sampaoli’s fluid system in the curtain raiser. He torched a fullback to set up the first goal in a 3-2 comeback win over Montpellier. Konrad was one of the standout performers in the league in Week 1, earning a spot on the WhoScored? Ligue 1 team of the week.
ICYMI, start your Monday with a little goodness from @konradjr!Making his @Ligue1_ENG debut for @OM_English on Sunday, Konrad dished this assist to Cengiz Ünder to spark Marseille's 3-2 comeback win at Montpellier.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) August 9, 2021
After PSG, Marseille might be the most fun team to watch in France. In addition to Konrad, this team has the sanguine Dimitri Payet leading the attack, joined by Cengiz Ünder and Dario Benedetto. The defensive efforts are led by a pair of Arsenal loanees, box-to-box midfielder Matteo Guendouzi and center back William Saliba, which means there will be goals whenever Marseille takes the pitch.
4. PSG is still pretty damn good, with or without Messi
I suppose we eventually had to get to PSG itself, right? PSG has one of the most stacked lineups of all time even before adding Lionel Messi to the mix.
After reaching the Champions League semifinals last season and the final the year before, PSG had arguably the greatest offseason of all time heading into 2021-22. The Parisians added one of the best center backs of the generation, arguably the best keeper in Europe, a highly underrated midfield Champions League winner and the greatest player of all time — all for free. Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Messi would make any team a contender, not to mention one that already had Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, two unmissable talents.
It’s mind-boggling the talent available to Mauricio Pochettino this season. Anything short of a Champions League title (and Ligue 1 crown) will be a massive failure.
And if I know anything about soccer fans, it’s that they enjoy rivals losing as much as their own team winning. So watching just in hopes PSG will fail will be a huge source of entertainment this season.
5. It’s called the Ligue 1 Uber Eats for Pete’s sake
Who doesn’t want to watch a league named after a food delivery service?
While the title sponsors for other top leagues in Europe are banks or telecom giants, Ligue 1 is all about getting you tacos and cookies when you’re too high to get off the couch and pick something up yourself.
And this league has plenty to offer for fans who want to hate on the richest clubs in the world. Everyone knows to despise PSG and Qatar Sports Group, but there’s an underdog in Ligue 1 to hate too: Troyes. Owned by City Football Group (yes, the same folks who own Manchester City, NYCFC and a dozen other clubs), Troyes’ most notable moment as a club was beating Newcastle United in the 2001 Intertoto Cup final. Now Troyes is back in Ligue 1, confusing anyone who thinks the name should be pronounced like toys with an R and giving fans plenty of reason to hate them.
Excited to watch Ligue 1 yet? Here’s how
To watch Ligue 1 in the U.S., you’ll need a subscription to the beIN SPORTS cable channel. Most cable providers do not offer beIN SPORTS, so your best bets are Sling TV or fuboTV. Because beIN SPORTS no longer has the U.S. TV rights to LaLiga, the network is going all in on Ligue 1, so there will be no shortages of opportunities to watch the French top flight this season.