Although Monaco interrupted Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance in Ligue 1 with their enthralling title victory last season, the nine figures Les Parisians are about to lavish on Neymar emphasises the power still firmly resides in the capital.
Monaco have also become victims of their own success with five important members of their championship-winning team already exiting and at least one more potentially following in Kylian Mbappe before the end of the month.
With the Principality club kicking off the new season on Friday against Toulouse at Stade Louis II, here are the big talking points ahead of the campaign…
As it stands, the defending champions have done well to restrict their significant departures to just Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Nabil Dirar and Valere Germain.
If Mbappe and Thomas Lemar were to follow, that would be hugely damaging and raise questions over their ability to qualify for the Champions League – let alone mount a title challenge.
But they have bought well in Youri Tielemans – long monitored by a number of Europe’s elite and a like-for-like replacement for defensive midfield anchor Bakayoko and Terence Kongolo – a dynamic left-back in the mould of Mendy who was fantastic for Feyenoord last season.
Both possess international and top-flight experience and have high ceilings in terms of their potential ability and should ease into life in France pretty seamlessly.
The real issue is with Silva (and then subsequently Mbappe and/or Lemar), while Germain’s 10 league goals was an underrated aspect of their triumph. Leonardo Jardim will hope former Barca prospect Jordi Mboula can take up some of the creative slack, although tasking that solely on a 18-year-old is a tough ask and in reality he’s a medium to long-term project.
Former Manchester City academy graduate Rony Lopes could be the man Jardim in fact turns to. The 21-year-old has echoes of Silva’s dribble-first approach and excellent vision for the game but, then again, didn’t overly impress while on loan at Lille.
The swashbuckling, fast-paced, counter-attack style of last season which dazzled France may well have to be reined in a little.
Neymar’s imminent arrival is cause for celebration in Paris, but it also only amplifies the pressure on PSG coach Unai Emery who did well to hold onto his job in the wake of losing out to Monaco and yet more Champions League failure for the club.
The Brazilian’s presence means success must be achieved, and not in the Coupe de France. The league is a given and you would imagine Champions League semi-finals at a minimum. But how does he fit in with an attacking midfield unit that also includes Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Lucas Moura and Hatem Ben Arfa?
Emery is likely to deploy him in a forward role to compliment Edinson Cavani, who scored 35 of their 83 goals last season but that still affects at least two members of the aforementioned quartet, especially against the better teams.
It’s a nice problem to have but at the same time Emery doesn’t have long to get it right especially as he tries to cure the main issues of last term, namely in defence and an apparent lackadaisical attitude among his top stars.
Welcome back Marcelo Bielsa, the man previously charged with reigniting Marseille only to last a tempestuous single season at the Velodrome, punctuated by transfer disagreements and sitting on hot cups of coffee.
New employers Lille offer a more refined approach and potentially a more coherent strategy for improvement with Bielsa afforded greater autonomy than he was on the south, although his relationship with general manager Marc Ingla will need to be watertight.
In theory, Lille has a young and emerging squad ripe to be crafted in Bielsa’s image and become a force in French football, restoring their identity lost in the wake of their unexpected 2011 title win.
But this is Bielsa, so who knows? He will be endlessly fascinating and entertaining but while Lille will embrace that for a time, they also need to see some success.
It will be the first full season for OM under the stewardship of ambitious American tycoon Frank McCourt who is targeting a Champions League place to make the first step in restoring Marseille as a giant of European football.
There’s been a modest turnover in the squad from the team which finished fifth last term with top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis a potentially notable loss, but winger Florian Thuavin (on loan last season), goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, centre-back Adil Rami, defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo and forward Valere Germain arriving.
They are all, to varying degrees, common sense and solid additions but none which are likely to lift Marseille to Monaco or PSG’s level.
Slow and steady seems McCourt’s course of action which bodes well for a club which has lurched from crisis to calamity all too often this decade.