Rich Riviera Rivals Battling it out for Supremacy

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The English Premier League has undoubtedly led the way in becoming the global league.

But with its clubs now valued at huge multiples, an established ‘big six’ and uncertainty around Brexit, France is emerging as a challenger to that title.

The Qatari investment in Paris Saint-Germain is well-documented, but a foreign invasion is also afoot on the Mediterranean coast, as all of OGC Nice, Monaco and Olympique Marseille are now under the control of non-French billionaires.

Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev was the first to arrive in 2011, taking a majority stake in Monaco. American Frank McCourt – the former owner of the LA Dodgers – was next in 2016, acquiring Marseille.

And just last summer, Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe spent £89m to buy up Nice.

The multinational flavour extends to the dugout, with two Portuguese, Andre Villas-Boas and Leonardo Jardim, in charge at Marseille and Monaco respectively.

Patrick Vieira – whilst French – also brings his experience to his first European managerial role at Nice.

So what has the nascent 2019/20 season told us about these sides?

That each of their owners employed these managers for a reason – to play attacking football.

Monaco have scored 18 goals in 10 games – second only to PSG – and in Wissam Ben-Yedder (£1.20) and Leicester-loanee Islam Slimani (£1.02), have one of the most dangerous front pairings in Ligue 1.

Ben-Yedder’s eight strikes – delivered at a rate of one every 71 minutes – have seen him elevated to the French national team’s starting lineup.

Slimani’s five goals have been complemented by as many as six assists, which have come in only seven appearances.

If Jamie Vardy (£0.93) suffers an injury or loss of form this season, might it look like a mistake from Brendan Rodgers not to have kept the Algerian at the King Power?

Marseille have their own marksman too in 29-year-old Argentine Dario Benedetto. His five goals in just nine appearances are all the more remarkable given this is his first spell playing in Europe after a career forged in South America.

Such has been his form that Valere Germain (£0.37), a teammate at the Orange Velodrome, recently likened him to Sergio Aguero (£1.83). If he can be anything like as prolific, then his returns on our index will soar.

It’s at the other end that these sides need attention. Monaco and Nice have the league’s worst defences, with 21 and 17 goals conceded respectively and will have to tighten up if they have designs on the top four.

Aside from PSG – who continue to dominate – the Champions League spots look within reach for any number of Ligue 1 teams. It is just this lack of closed shop that validates the three aforementioned owners’ decisions to alight in France.

Marseille, sitting fourth after ten games, currently look the most balanced outfit – but the coming Sunday will be a test of their progress.

They travel to the Parc des Princes to face Thomas Tuchel’s pacesetters and will hope that Dimitri Payet (£0.85) – returning after a four-game suspension for insulting a referee – can provide the attacking threat alongside the ballast of Kevin Strootman (£0.34) in midfield.

Three points there would affirm their status as bona fide challengers this year, but with long-term plans in place at each of their Riviera rivals, there’s some distance to travel yet before any of them can declare Mediterranean supremacy.


About Author

Rob is a football writer who has featured on Football Espana, Crystal Palace FC and BBC Sport. A long-time Indexer, he prefers an assist to a goal.

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