Paris Saint-Germain will start strong favorites to retain their Ligue 1 crown, but a rocky summer, a new manager and the money being splurged on transfers by AS Monaco mean the plot has been thickened considerably as the season looms.
No sooner had they won a first title in 19 years than coach Carlo Ancelotti made public his wish to join Real Madrid.
After several big-name snubs, Laurent Blanc, by no means a first choice, was appointed.
Shortly after sporting director Leonardo, the man behind last summer’s signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, resigned, saying he could no longer do his job because of a 13-month ban for pushing a referee.
Leonardo’s farewell offering though was engineering the signing of Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani from SSC Napoli for a French record fee of 64 million euros (US$84.74 million) and his partnership with Ibrahimovic promises to be formidable.
“I think that Cavani and Ibra will perfectly fit together. Ibra is tall and strong, but he’s also able to play deeper in a playmaking role. Last season, it was the case and we often were missing someone in the box,” Leonardo told daily Le Parisien.
Blanc’s squad looks even stronger than the one assembled for Ancelotti with no major departures and defenders Marquinhos and Lucas Digne having joined.
“The will of PSG is to win every possible trophy,” Blanc told a news conference, hours before his team clinched the French Supercup by beating Girondins de Bordeaux 2-1 at the weekend.
“With the players [we have], we can’t be timid. We will have to be bold. I like my teams to control possession, find space on the pitch, to attack. I tend to field many attacking players,” he said.
However, the danger posed by Monaco is clear and present.
Owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, the side have spent about 150 million euros to sign Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, James Rodriguez, Eric Abidal and Jeremy Toulalan.
They are widely tipped to fight PSG for the title, yet coach Claudio Ranieri has warned against expecting too much, too soon.
“We want to be back on the European scene so we have to be on the podium as soon as this season, but it won’t be easy since the squad has been dramatically renewed,” he said of the aim to get Monaco into the Champions League.
“We will have to recreate a team, an identity, a history. We won’t do it overnight,” Ranieri said. “We know our rivals are way ahead from this point of view while we are almost starting from scratch.”