2013 is comprised of two excellent half seasons of football in France’s Ligue 1, but there is one constant in all of that: Paris Saint-Germain are top of the league.
The capital club started the calendar year atop the pile and finished it in the same place, having celebrated their first Championnat title in 19 years.
Carlo Ancelotti, the coach who led PSG to that success, has departed. His replacement, Laurent Blanc, looks like he will be able to continue the winning tradition started by the Italian although there is still a long way to go.
AS Monaco’s return to the French top-flight over the summer has increased the pressure on the champions, but so far Blanc’s players have responded to the challenge and raised their game from 2012.
Outside of those two, Olympique de Marseille enjoyed an unexpected second-place finish last term, but they are struggling in sixth and have fired Elie Baup.
Lille OSC have recovered from a disappointing finish to last season to currently sit third in Ligue 1, with Saint-Etienne once again sniffing around the European spots and Girondins de Bordeaux now in contention after a slow start.
FC Nantes have surprised after their return to Le Championnat, while Nice have struggled to replicate the same impressive form that saw them finish fourth last time out.
With so much talent on display in France at present, here are the 25 best players from Ligue 1 in 2013.
As with any list of this nature, there are bound to be a few players who miss out but could arguably have been included.
AS Saint-Etienne’s Romain Hamouma is one such player—an underrated attacking influence for Les Verts with seven goals and six assists in 2013.
Hamouma has been in impressive form so far in this current campaign, notching six goals and four assists (an improvement on last term’s five and three), as ASSE seek to build on last season's fifth-place finish.
FC Nantes’ Filip Djordjevic has also been in great shape, scoring eight times and laying on another goal as Les Canaris quickly readjust to life in the French top-flight after four years away.
AS Monaco duo Mounir Obbadi and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco also deserve a mention as both have played important roles in helping Claudio Ranieri’s side to second in the table in their first season back in Ligue 1.
However, Radamel Falcao does not make it onto this list, despite scoring nine goals so far this season.
The Colombian has been in poor general form and there are question marks over how suitable he is for this current Monaco side as well as his future in the principality.
Lille OSC's longtime midfield duo Rio Mavuba and Florent Balmont deserve recognition for their re-emergence after it had looked as if they were nearing the end of their time at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
Stade de Reims’ goalkeeper Kossi Agassa, an outstanding performer last term, has been in good form once again for Hubert Fournier's surprise achievers.
The Togolese international is one of Le Championnat’s most reliable current net minders, along with AC Ajaccio’s Guillermo Ochoa and PSG’s Italian star Salvatore Sirigu.
*All statistics are courtesy of ligue1.com.
Anthony Modeste, who joined TSG 1899 Hoffenheim this summer, sent the 2012-2013 campaign with SC Bastia.
On loan from Girondins de Bordeaux after a similar stint with English club Blackburn Rovers the season before (pictured), six goals and two assists in 2013 contributed to an overall term total of 15 goals and three assists.
It had been expected that Modeste would return to fight for a place in the Bordeaux starting XI, but Francis Gillot’s decision to sell him was something of a surprise.
Although Florian Thauvin was the undoubted star for SC Bastia last season and Anthony Modeste a close second, creative midfielder Wahbi Khazri was another key performer for the Corsican side.
This year the Tunisian international has four goals and two assists to his name. Added to last term’s four goals and two assists, Khazri has scored eight and provided four in 2013.
The big question with Khazri: How much longer can Bastia keep hold of him?
At the start of 2013, FC Lorient’s Jeremie Aliadiere was one of France’s most in-form strikers and talk about his representing France on the international stage was rife.
Finishing the Ligue 1 campaign with 15 goals in 31 appearances, last season was prolific by the 30-year-old’s modest standards, created by a career plagued by injury.
Those well-documented injury issues have returned to haunt the Lorient man this term though, and Aliadiere has only managed two goals since the start of the season.
Ten goals in 2013 is still a massive achievement though, considering that he had only made it into double figures once prior to that.
With so many changes in personnel at Olympique Lyonnais over the past few seasons, youth has been given a chance at the Stade Gerland.
One of the players to have worked his way into the first team is Alexandre Lacazette, who, under Remi Garde, is becoming a key player for his club and starting to figure for his country.
Two goals and one assist in 2013 en route to three and three for last season have been well and truly put in the shade by the 22-year-old’s tally of nine goals and one solitary assist this campaign.
Lacazette has 11 goals and two assists for the whole calendar year of 2013 and, without those goals, Lyon would be worse off than they already are in 10th.
Simon Kjaer and Vincent Enyeama’s good form for Lille OSC would arguably not have been possible without the commanding influence of Montenegrin international defender Marko Basa.
The 30-year-old has been one of Ligue 1’s most underrated players since arriving in France back in 2005 with Le Mans.
Despite a three-year spell in Russia with Lokomotiv Moscow between 2008 and 2011, none of his shine diminished. He is better than ever and one of the main influences in this current LOSC side.
PSG’s irrepressible midfielder Blaise Matuidi was a key component in last season’s title-winning PSG side under Ancelotti.
Despite arguably not being at the same stellar level of form this time around, the French international has still been one of the best midfielders in Ligue 1.
Matuidi is as indispensable to Blanc as he was to Ancelotti. Since the start of the 2012-2013 season he has been a regular for Les Bleus.
Along with his all-round contribution and energetic performances, the 26-year-old has added two goals so far this season as well as five last year.
Four of those goals were scored in 2013.
Despite the importance of Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti, Matuidi is arguably the player PSG’s midfield cannot be without.
After initially struggling to make an impact in the opening weeks of the 2013-2014 season with AS Monaco, summer-signing James Rodriguez has started to set Le Championnat on fire recently.
Three goals and seven assists so far in a debut campaign for the former FC Porto man represents a good introduction to French football for the Colombian international.
Rodriguez’s recent good form is made all the better by the fact that he did relatively little in his first four games played and did not score his first goal until the end of November.
One player who was responsible for carrying a struggling side into the upper reaches of Ligue 1 last season was Dimitri Payet.
The French international notched 12 goals and the same number of assists, but six of those strikes came in 2013, along with five assists.
Added to Payet’s four goals and one assist so far this term, the now Olympique de Marseille man boasts 10 goals and six assists in 2013.
Last season, French international Clement Grenier was indispensable in Olympique Lyonnais’ run towards Champions League qualification.
The 22-year-old chipped in with seven goals and five assists, with six strikes and two assists coming in 2013.
So far this season, Grenier has added three goals and four assists.
However, Lyon are struggling to replicate the form that secured the third spot for them in the last campaign and Garde’s side are struggling in 10th place.
Overall in 2013, Grenier has provided nine goals and six assists for OL.
Olympique de Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena has emerged as a key player for club and country in 2013.
Despite having scored just one goal and providing three assists this season, he was in form last term and tallied three goals and 12 assists.
Two goals and nine assists in 2013 makes Valbuena OM’s second most valuable player for the year, behind Andre-Pierre Gignac.
2013 has been a difficult year so far for Olympique Lyonnais’ Bafetimbi Gomis.
The French international scored 16 times last season and, despite OL President Jean-Michel Aulas publicly trying to force him out of the club this summer, the 28-year-old is now the club’s second top scorer in the current campaign.
Five of Gomis’ goals last term came earlier this year and the Frenchman has seven to his name at present.
Twelve goals in total for 2013, in an underachieving team and with limited game time thanks to his ostracising, is still a good achievement for a player who has never scored more than 16 goals in a domestic season.
After scoring just twice for Valenciennes last season, in a 6-1 in over FC Lorient incidentally, Vincent Aboubakar has been a revelation so far this term for Les Merlus.
After completing his free transfer from VAFC over the summer, the Cameroonian international has netted 11 times for a Lorient side that have struggled until recently and now sit ninth in Ligue 1.
The 21-year-old has outscored AS Monaco’s star Falcao by two goals, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that only one of Aboubakar’s goals has been scored from the penalty spot.
2013 has been a particularly eventful year for Olympique de Marseille’s Thauvin.
The 20-year-old Frenchman started the year with SC Bastia, before moving to Marseille via a controversial transfer from Lille OSC without even playing a single game.
Despite the furore that surrounded his switch to the Stade Velodrome, the attention has not affected Thauvin’s rich vein of form.
Eight goals for Bastia in 2013 as well as five for Marseille and three assists (one for Bastia and two for OM) sees the precocious talent finish the year with 13 goals and three assists.
As well as all of that, Thauvin was also a key member of France’s under-20 World Cup-winning side this summer.
While Motta has undoubtedly been the catalyst for PSG’s improved form as far as the capital club’s midfield goes this season, fellow Italian Verratti has enjoyed a superb start to the 2013-2014 campaign.
The diminutive 21-year-old midfielder has four assists to his name so far this term, and he provided three last season.
Five of those have come in 2013 and the Azzurri star has shown remarkable maturity this campaign compared to last when his lack of discipline undermined a very good top-flight debut season.
It has been a lean few years for Girondins de Bordeaux, but Senegalese striker Cheick Diabate secured a fourth Coupe de France in the club’s history with a double to defeat Evian Thonon Gaillard at the Stade de France in May.
The 25-year-old was enjoying a hot streak of form at the time in a season that saw him score eight times.
Diabate has added seven so far this term and has 14 goals in total in 2013.
Thanks largely to the towering striker’s contribution, Francis Gillot’s side miraculously rose from 18th in September to fourth at present.
Thiago Silva and his PSG teammates may be top of Ligue 1, but the Brazilian and his side have not been the most dominant Ligue 1 defence over the first half of the 2013-2014 season.
Lille OSC’s tightness at the back is not entirely down to Vincent Enyeama’s heroics in goal.
Danish international Simon Kjaer has been a revelation since arriving from VFL Wolfsburg and has rebuilt a reputation that had been damaged by poor spells in Germany and Italy (on loan with AS Roma).
Having arrived as something of a gamble in the summer, the 24-year-old has become a cornerstone of Rene Girard’s disciplined Lille side.
PSG captain Silva was outstanding in the capital club’s run to a first Ligue 1 title in 19 years last season.
At the heart of the defence, the Selecao captain contributed towards a league-leading back line that only shipped 23 goals.
Silva was also voted into the Ligue 1 team of the season, and not even a controversy-sparking red card for manhandling referee Alexandre Castro in a home match against Valenciennes towards the end of the season could taint his achievements.
This season has been more difficult for the Brazilian—he has missed six weeks with a thigh injury suffered against AS Monaco.
Despite that, he has been a regular member of a PSG defence that has only conceded one goal more than they had at the same point last year under Ancelotti.
Although he is no longer playing in Ligue 1, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang enjoyed his best ever season with AS Saint-Etienne last term.
Christophe Galtier’s side finished fifth in 2012-2013 and Aubameyang contributed 19 goals over the course of the campaign.
The Gabonese netted 11 of those in the first half of 2013 and provided eight assists in the same space of time before moving to Germany with Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
Aubameyang was also a key figure in their Coupe de la Ligue cup victory, the club’s first silverware in 32 years.
One Ligue 1-based South American star to have enjoyed 2013 is PSG’s Edinson Cavani.
Twelve goals and one assist so far this season represents a good introduction to Ligue 1 football from El Matador.
Considering that the Uruguayan international is playing in a new country with a different style of football, in a league populated with many defence-oriented sides, it is an impressive debut.
Factor in playing alongside a teammate as dominant as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it becomes even more outstanding.
OGC Nice finished an incredible fourth place last season, qualifying for European football.
A large factor in Les Aiglons success, aside from Claude Puel’s ability to get the best out of a limited group of players, was Dario Cvitanich’s 19 league goals.
The Argentine has seven goals in Ligue 1 this season, and since the start of 2013, Cvitanich has provided 15 goals and notched one assist.
Despite not being an international for his country at any level, the 29-year-old has been one of Ligue 1 and Europe’s most prolific players over the calendar year.
This time last year, Lille OSC’s Salomon Kalou was considered an expensive mistake with only two goals to his name by the time the Christmas break rolled around.
In fact, at the start of February of this year, the Ivorian international still had just two goals.
However, Kalou finished the campaign with 14 strikes, and he has added a further six to the 12 he scored earlier in 2013.
The LOSC man has tallied 18 goals, also providing three assists, in this impressive calendar year.
One of the revelations of 2013 in Ligue 1 has been the re-emergence of PSG’s Italian international midfielder Motta.
After an injury-hit 2012-2013 season, in which he was only able to make 12 appearances, few expected the 31-year-old to play a major part again for the capital club.
However, since Blanc took over from Ancelotti, Motta has been an indispensable member of this new-look PSG side.
The change in formation from a 4-2-2-2 to a 4-3-3 has suited the Italian and he has become an integral member of the side in his position just in front of the back four.
One goal and two assists in 2013 does not sound like much, but when you consider the nature of his role and his position on the pitch, those statistics are not necessarily the best way to quantify his impact.
Motta is one of four players to have completed more than 1,000 passes this season (another is teammate Verratti), and his 116 completed passes against Stade Rennais earlier this month is a Ligue 1 record so far this campaign.
Prior to the 2012-2013 season, Olympique de Marseille’s Gignac appeared to be living on borrowed time at the Stade Velodrome and was considered an expensive flop.
Didier Deschamps departed Provence for the French national team and his successor, Elie Baup, put his faith in the chunky striker.
Gignac repaid his faith with 13 goals last term, and the 28-year-old has continued his fine form in the current campaign with eight goals to his name at present.
Seven of last season’s 13 goals were scored in 2013, meaning that the Frenchman has scored 15 goals in 2013 and making him one of Le Championnat’s most prolific marksmen.
2013 has been a mixed year for Lille’s Nigerian international goalkeeper Enyeama.
The 31-year-old started the year on loan in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he won the league title, before returning to France to become Les Dogues’ undisputed No. 1.
Now firmly installed between the posts at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Enyeama posted an incredible record earlier this year.
The Nigerian has kept 14 clean sheets already this season, one of the best records in Europe.
He was also in sight of Gaetan Huard’s record of 1,176 minutes without conceding before being beaten after 1,062 in the defeat at Girondins de Bordeaux earlier this month.
Huard’s record has stood since 1993 and, despite not breaking it, Enyeama is undoubtedly one of Europe’s top net minders at present.
What a year it has been for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede’s goals last season almost single-handedly fired PSG to their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years. He has rediscovered that impressive form this campaign and currently looks unstoppable.
Ibrahimovic has 15 league goals and six assists so far this term. Added to the 12 goals and four assists he scored last season in 2013, he has netted 27 times and provided 10 goals this calendar year.
Last year’s 30-goal haul was the French top-flight’s first since Jean-Pierre Papin managed the same feat in the 1989-1990 season and the talismanic Swede was also named Ligue 1’s player of the year.
In his current form across all competitions, Ibrahimovic looks in more dominant form than ever before and it is difficult to see past PSG winning a second consecutive title at present.