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5 Ligue 1 Clubs That Could Flourish with Financial Backing

Nicholas McGeeContributor IMarch 7, 2014

5 Ligue 1 Clubs That Could Flourish with Financial Backing

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    Paris Saint-Germain have dominated Ligue 1 since the takeover by the Qatar Investment Authority in 2011 and appear set to win the French title for a second successive season.

    Meanwhile, with the backing of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, Monaco have gone from Ligue 2 also-rans to championship contenders in less than two years.

    Both of those teams have benefited from significant investment, although that is not to say that all clubs should seek the attentions of wealthy benefactors.

    Indeed, a number of clubs prefer to grow organically with the development of promising young talents and have continued to compete in the higher reaches of the Ligue 1 table despite a lack of spending.

    But which Ligue 1 clubs could become potential European powerhouses with some financial backing?

    Here I take a look at five clubs in France that have the fanbase, the stadium and the history to be able to replicate the achievements of PSG and Monaco should they receive the support of a wealthy investor.

     

    Note: Attendance statistics courtesy of Soccerway.

Lille

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    Michel Spingler/Associated Press

    If any French club has enjoyed as much success as Paris Saint-Germain over recent years, it is Lille.

    Lille won a league and cup double in 2010-11 under Rudi Garcia and have continued to occupy the upper echelons of the Ligue 1 table despite the departures of Garcia and an array of key players such as Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy.

    Rene Girard's side are third in the table with 11 games to go and could receive the substantial boost of a place in the Champions League if they stay in that position.

    That would be a significant achievement for a club that has had to operate by selling most of its best players, but with limited financial resources, it is unlikely that Lille will ever be able to compete with PSG and Monaco.

    Yet, Les Dogues have all the tools to be able to prosper with the some extra support from a wealthy backer.

    In addition to a shrewd manager and an underrated team, Lille possess a passionate and committed fanbase and average an attendance of just over 37,000 at their 50,000 fan capacity Stade Pierre Mauroy home.

    Lille's brief spell of Ligue 1 supremacy may now be fading into the realms of history, but with the third-highest attendance in the league, a large stadium and a highly respected manager, there would be little to stop the northerners from becoming title challengers once again if they were to receive some extra monetary support.

Saint-Etienne

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    If you're a wealthy businessman and you're interested in turning a sleeping giant into a European force once more, then Saint-Etienne should be one of your first choices.

    Les Verts reached the European Cup final in 1976, only to lose 1-0 to Bayern Munich in a game that will always be remembered in France for Hampden Park's famous square goalposts, which denied Saint-Etienne on a number of occasions in the encounter in Glasgow.

    Since that day, Saint-Etienne have spent much of their time mired in French football's wilderness, but now they are back competing with the country's elite, thanks predominantly to the work of manager Christophe Galtier.

    Saint-Etienne are a point behind Lille in the race for the final Champions League spot and are coming off a superb 2-0 win over Monaco.

    Claudio Ranieri's side are not the first side to struggle in the intimidating spotlight of the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, which has recently undergone redevelopment ahead of Euro 2016.

    PSG, Marseille and Lille have all failed to win at Saint-Etienne this season, although fierce rivals Lyon did earn a last-minute victory there back in November.

    Galtier's men won the Coupe de la Ligue last season and are once again producing excellent performances this term despite the loss of star star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Borussia Dortmund.

    Saint-Etienne is a club hungry for sustained success. All they need is the right backer to turn those ambitions into a reality.

Marseille

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    In French football, the name Olympique de Marseille has always been synonymous with success.

    That is why it is so surreal to see one of Ligue 1's great historical powers struggling to even achieve a place in the top three.

    Marseille are some way adrift of Lille in third and looked completely overwhelmed in last weekend's 2-0 defeat to archrivals Paris Saint-Germain.

    Much like the majority of France's top-flight clubs, Marseille do not have the financial might to compete in European football.

    This was evidenced by Marseille's dismal performance in this season's Champions League in which the Provencal club failed to earn a single point from their six group stage games.

    Marseille's response to the superiority of PSG has been to sign a number of the country's best young players including Florian Thauvin, Giannelli Imbula and Benjamin Mendy.

    It is an admirable approach but also one that could take some time to bear fruit and attract some of Europe's biggest clubs to their stars.

    The 10-time champions could yet be successful with the policy of buying promising home-grown talents, however, Marseille remains one of the most famous names in the French game and, with the Stade Velodrome undergoing a dramatic redesign, they should still be an attractive proposition for potential investors.

     

Lyon

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    After a period of unparalleled success, Lyon are slowly becoming of Ligue 1's lesser lights.

    Lyon won seven titles between 2001 and 2008 but are seven points behind third-place Lille and in severe danger of missing out on the Champions League after being knocked out in the playoff round of this year's competition.

    Failure to finish in the top three could spark a fire sale of Lyon's top players, including captain Maxime Gonalons.

    President Jean-Michel Aulas is renowned for being stubborn when it comes to parting with his players, rejecting a €17million bid from Napoli for Gonalons in January, per FourFourTwo.

    But Aulas may have to resign himself to losing some of his stars at the end of the season if Lyon cannot overturn the deficit to Lille.

    The good news for Les Gones is that they have one of the best youth systems in France and continue to churn out high-quality prospects each year.

    Lyon are also set to move to a new 58,000-seater stadium, the Stade des Lumieres, in 2015 after over 60 years at the Stade de Gerland.

    Remi Garde's side are far from the force they once were, but the combination of a new arena and a team adept at developing young players is one that could tempt potential investors into reviving Lyon as a title contender.

Nantes

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    In terms of history, few clubs can match that of Nantes.

    The Brittany club have won eight Ligue 1 titles, and after a stint in the second tier, they are once again back where the fans believe they belong.

    Michel Der Zakarian's side have slipped into the bottom half with a poor run of form following a start to the season that had seen them as high as fourth.

    Nantes should still be able to survive and retain their Ligue 1 status. However, a club that has produced greats such as Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps, Christian Karembeu and Claude Makelele deserves to be competing at a higher level.

    Les Canaris may not possess the same quality of the likes of Marseille and Lyon, but Nantes continue to draw sizeable crowds at the 35,000 fan capacity Stade de la Beaujoire and undoubtedly have the potential to return to former glories with the right amount of investment.

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