PARIS (AFP) – The 2022/23 Ligue 1 season begins this weekend with an overwhelming favorite from Paris Saint-Germain who would win the 11th French title that would be a record after Kylian Mbappe decided to leave Real Madrid snub and stay with the Qatari club.
While Mbappe stays, AFP Sport takes a look at five newcomers to watch in the upcoming campaign:
PSG have Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi but they also desperately wanted one of the most exciting attacking prospects in French football last season. Ekitike, 20, was a target for Saudi Newcastle United before Qatar-backed PSG crashed. They signed the Reims striker on a surprise loan deal with an option to make the transfer permanent next year for €36m ($36.5m). This option will reportedly be exercised as long as PSG finish inside the top two in Ligue 1. Ekitike, who is 1.89m tall, impressed with 10 league goals for Reims last season after returning from a loan in Denmark. The France youth international will not be a regular starter but will certainly provide something else to fill in should the need arise.
The 27-year-old Japanese winger joins Monaco, adding to an already impressive attacking capability after the Principality of Liverpool reportedly paid €15m for his services. The ex-Cerezo Osaka player needs to prove he failed to impress at Anfield following a move from Red Bull Salzburg in January 2020. Minamino made just 21 starts for Jurgen Klopp’s side and only started in one Premier League game last season. He hopes the move to Monaco will help restart his career before heading to the World Cup with Samurai Blue.
The Welsh midfielder was another player looking to boost his career ahead of the World Cup. Ramsey left Juventus when his contract expired at the end of July and resurfaced just across the border at Nice, the club of British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. The 31-year-old has reportedly signed a one-season deal. Injuries hampered his time at Juventus and he spent the second half of last season with Rangers, where he missed a penalty in their shoot-out loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final.
Lacazette has returned to youth club Lyon alongside World Cup winner Corentin Tolisso, who is keen to bounce back after a disappointing eighth-place finish last season. While midfielder Tolisso signed a five-year contract after his contract with FC Bayern Munich expired, Lacazette signed a three-year contract. He returns to Lyon five years after his sale to Arsenal. Lacazette, 31, never really lived up to his potential in London and last season he only scored four Premier League goals. He quickly fell out of favor with France coach Didier Deschamps after that move in 2017, but he and Lyon fans are hoping he can pick up where he left off at OL, for which he played in his last season in Ligue 1 scored 28 goals in 2016/17 .
While historic names Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux were relegated along with Metz, Toulouse rose back up to the top flight as Ligue 2 champions after a two-year absence. Ajaccio and Auxerre are also included, but the views from Toulouse are the most fascinating. Toulouse is owned by US fund RedBird Capital Partners – who recently agreed a deal to buy AC Milan – and Toulouse’s well-documented reliance on data to sign players has meant they have built a cosmopolitan squad. Dutch midfielder Branco van den Boomen and former MK Dons forward Rhys Healey starred last season. Recent additions include Norwegian goalkeeper Kjetil Haug and Dutch striker Thijs Dallinga at a club whose president is Damien Comolli, former Liverpool sporting director.