Ranking the Top 10 Contenders to Win the Ligue 1 Golden Boot

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 Contenders to Win the Ligue 1 Golden Boot

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    The opening weekend in Ligue 1 saw five different strikers score twice in their first fixture of the season, even Bastia midfielder Christopher Maboulou got in on the act. It points towards the 2014/15 campaign becoming an exciting and unpredictable race to become Ligue 1’s top goal-scorer.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the man to beat, he has finished as top scorer in his two seasons in France, and so far no one has been able to get close to the big Swedish striker, although the chase behind him has been exciting in its on right.

    It was before Ibrahimovic’s arrival that we had a proper battle for the title. Back during the 2011/12 season five players scored over 15 goals and PSG’s Nene and Olivier Giroud finished the season on 21 goals, Lille’s Eden Hazard just one back on 20.

    From that list, Ligue 1 has lost some top striker over the years, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bafetimbi Gomis, Loic Remy and Lisandro Lopez to name a few.

    However, the most beautiful thing about the league is the emergence of new talent ready to step up and find the back of the net.

    Here are the top ten contenders to finish Ligue 1’s top scorer this season.

10. Mathieu Duhamel: SM Caen

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    It’s never too old to make it at the top, so says 30-year-old SM Caen striker Mathieu Duhamel.

    Saturday’s match against Evian was the strikers first-ever match in Ligue 1. As Caen won promotion last season he scored 24 league goals, this followed up the 13 goals in his debut season for Caen and 10 for Metz the season before.

    His career has been played predominately in the lower divisions, and now he has the chance to shine on France’s biggest stage, a chance he looks set to grab with both hands.

    Watching the two goals against Evian, you can see everything that Duhamel is great at. The first is a case of right-place, right-time, pouncing on the fumble from Jesper Hansen to turn in Lenny Nangis shot.

    His second came from a lovely cross from Florian Raspentino, Duhamel made the superbly timed run and headed expertly past Hansen.

    Duhamel is a poacher, and he will score goals this season, and if Caen wants to stay in Ligue 1, he will need to score over 10 times. It’s very possible that he could push past the 15 goal mark.

9. Vincent Aboubakar: FC Lorient

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    When Lorient president Loic Fery signed Vincent Aboubakar from Valenciennes last summer, he told website French Football Weekly that one of the reasons was that Aboubakar’s talents were ready-made for life in the English Premier League.

    Lorient are famed for buying players for a low price and selling on for a huge profit, after one season, the Aboubakar move looks like it will pay off at some point down the line.

    After scoring just 10 goals in four seasons for Valenciennes, the Lorient hit-man managed 16 goals in his first season in Brittany.

    His second season is underway, and he has already opened his account. He both won and dispatched the penalty that saw FCL take the lead against AS Monaco on Sunday night. It helped Lorient beat Monaco away from home for the first time in the club's history.

    With the ideal combination of power and pace, he has always had an eye for goal, only now for Lorient he has started to realise his potential.

    It would be a great season if Aboubakar could match last season’s 16 goal haul, if he does, then President Fery’s phone may start ringing more often next summer.

8. Mevlut Erding: Saint-Etienne

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    This could be the season that Mevlut Erding finally gets his chance to prove he is worthy of top billing as a Ligue 1 striker.

    Last season he finished the season with 11 goals, but seven of his strikes came in the last nine games of the campaign, now he has to show that consistency for a whole season and help Saint-Etienne fight for a top three finish.

    He will have competition from on-loan Norwich City striker, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, but the former Rennes and PSG striker will be confident he can keep his place in the side on a regular basis.

    On Saturday he converted a penalty and took advantage of a late Guingamp mistake to start his campaign with a double, he’ll need more of that sort of luck if he wants reach the 15 goal mark.

    He last reached that tally back in the 2009/10 season when he made his debut for PSG. Now is the time that the opportunistic striker hit those heights once again.

7. Wissam Ben Yedder: Toulouse FC

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    Over the past two seasons, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored more Ligue 1 goals than Wissam Ben Yedder.

    That is a wonderful statistic for the player that only made his debut for Le Tefece back in 2010, and only played his first full season two years ago.

    During the 2012/13 season, Ben Yedder finished with 15 goals, and last season, behind two hat-tricks he went one better and scored 16.

    The former futsal player doesn’t look like your typical centre-forward. He is small and looks very slight, but his acceleration, low-centre of gravity and his amazing balance, plus his awareness make him a very deadly weapon.

    He can score with nearly every legal part of his body; can finish with runs in behind and with lovely pieces of skill and improvisation.

    Ben Yedder really does have all the tools to become a top talent in Europe, another season with 15 or more goals will certainly have teams clamouring for his signature.

6. Dario Cvitanich: OGC Nice

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    Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

    Last season was one to forget for the Argentine striker, he only managed to find the net eight times in 31 games, and only one of those goals came after the winter break.

    It was more of a surprise coming after the 19 goals he scored for Nice in his debut season. Les Aiglons finished 4th that year, and you can link their poor finish of 17th last season, with Cvitanich's bad season in front of goal.

    Coach Claude Puel hopes that the bad spell has gone and now Cvitanich can go back to being Nice’s leader and main goal-threat, because when he is, he helps the midfield express themselves and the team just plays with more cohesion.

    All his troubles looked behind him as he smashed a wonderful curling effort past Toulouse ‘keeper Zacharie Boucher on Saturday. He finished with a double, and it is hopefully just the start of an excellent season in the Cote d’Azur for the former Ajax forward.

5. Alexandre Lacazette: Olympique Lyonnais

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    Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

    He may have been heavily linked with a move away from Lyon this summer, but it looks like Alexandre Lacazette is staying in the Rhone Valley for another season, reports Patrick Haond of Sky Sports, and that is great news for everyone in Ligue 1.

    Last season was his breakout campaign, and with the pressure on him to provide more goals coupled with a move further forward, he didn’t disappoint.

    Finishing the season with 16 league goals, it was by far his best season to date, and his combination of lightning acceleration, skill on the ball and eye for goal, he was deadly in the final third.

    With Gomis gone, the team’s goal-scoring abilities are now resting on Lacazette’s shoulders. He has a new partner in young Mohamed Yattara, but this is Lacazette’s team, and his goals will be so crucial this season.

    Another 16 goal season would see him cement his place as one of Ligue 1’s top strikers, but there is a feeling he could go a few better this campaign.

4. Andre-Pierre Gignac: Olympique de Marseille

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    It could be a match made in heaven. Bringing Marcelo Bielsa together with Andre-Pierre “Big-Mac” Gignac has the potential of finally taking the striker from Ligue 1 heavyweight, to leading front-man.

    Bielsa’s work with Spanish striker Fernando Llorente saw the Bilbao striker score 29 goals in all competitions back during the 2011/12 season, six more than his previous best.

    Gignac is now 28 years old and six seasons have passed since he scored 24 league goals with Toulouse. Last season’s total of 16 was his best ever return for Marseille, and now Bielsa is here to take him past the 20 goal total once again.

    On his day, Gignac has the whole package. His is fast for a big guy, can drift wide to create space, and is great in the air— as his goal against Bastia on Saturday showed— and can finish with the best strikers in the world.

    This could be the Year of the Gignac.

3. Radamel Falcao: AS Monaco

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    There is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Radamel Falcao this season.

    The departure of James Rodriguez to Real Madrid has handed responsibility onto his Colombian team-mate and now Falcao has to be the focal point and main goal-threat for a Monaco side that struggled to get the best out of the striker last season.

    After starting with seven goals in seven games, it looked like he would take Ligue 1 by storm, but just two in the next seven games showed that the league wouldn’t be such a pushover.

    Falcao struggled with the physicality of the league, some of Ligue 1’s toughest defenders gave him the sort of treatment that he hadn’t experienced in Portugal or Spain, and it had an effect.

    Injury then stopped his season short, but now he is back to fitness, he is off the mark with a penalty against Lorient, but that defeat shows that this Monaco side has a lot of lessons to learn this season.

    Falcao needs to score goals if Monaco are to finish second, and Falcao needs to score goals if he is to keep his status as one of Europe’s elite forwards.

2. Edinson Cavani: Paris Saint-Germain

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    Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani thinks he was played out of position last season, if so then he did fantastically well to finish the season with 16 league goals.

    Many of Cavani’s worries about his role can be completely rubbished when you look at the positions he was able to take up during most games last season, it looks like it is a mental issue rather than the actual role he is asked to play.

    However, Laurent Blanc has given the striker his wishes, and he will play a more central role this season.

    That move in itself puts pressure on Cavani. If he fails to add to his 16 goal tally this season, he only has himself to blame.

    PSG are changing how they play to suit the former Napoli forward, he then needs to make it worth their while.

    20 goals would be a great return, and there is little doubt he has the ability. It’s over to you Monsieur Cavani.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Paris Saint-Germain

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    Anyone who wants to be crowned Ligue 1’s top scorer needs to find a way past the King of France, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    His record is fairly impressive. After just two seasons in Ligue 1, he has scored 56 times.

    Back in 1990, Marseille striker Jean-Pierre Papin scored 30 league goals in a single season, it was Zlatan’s goal to try and break that record. In his first season he equalled it, but injury at the end of the campaign stopped him passing Papin.

    Last season he started slowly in the league, but can through in the end, but against finished short of his personal goal.

    This season will be Ibrahimovic’s best chance. PSG will be incredibly hard to catch at the top of the table, so Ibrahimovic will get all the chances he needs to find the back of the net.

    At 32 years old, this could be his last realistic chance. No one writes stories better than the Swedish talisman, could this be the perfect last chapter. There is no doubt that he is deserving of beating the record of a Ligue 1 legend.

    To become Ligue 1’s greatest ever goal-scorer, he would have to beat Josip Skoblar’s record of 44 goals from 1971. Even that might be too much for the great Zlatan.