The 2016-17 Ligue 1 season saw AS Monaco crowned as champions in a superb campaign that saw Leonardo Jardim’s men end Paris Saint-Germain’s four year hold on the trophy. It marked a stunning contrast to the season before with sub-plots and storylines gripping French football fans until the last. As it happened, there were fierce battles to claim not only the title, but also spots in the Champions League, Europa League and to avoid relegation with this being the first campaign to introduce relegation play-offs for the side in 18th.
Given the rather stale nature of the 2015-16 campaign, there were unsurprisingly some significant changes to personnel at the clubs in the close season. PSG continued their incessant transfer spending, bringing in Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jese and Hatem Ben Arfa among others. The trio were later supplemented by the signing of World Cup winner Julian Draxler and Argentine hotshot Giovani Lo Celso in the winter for a combined fee of €60 million.
Laurent Blanc, the three-time Ligue 1 winner with les Parisiens did not it make into the campaign, having been shelved by the Qatari leadership for his inability to land a Champions League trophy during his time in the capital. The former France international was replaced by Unai Emery on the bench.
Monaco continued with their ‘transfer-lite’ approach, signing young and inexpensively from across Europe. They bought highly-rated Benjamin Mendy for €15m from crisis-hit Marseille, with Kamil Glik and Djibril Sidibe also proving to be worthy additions to the side.
Marseille meanwhile were in freefall. With owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus refusing to bankroll the club, the board were forced to sell Mendy and Michy Batshuayi to plug a €30m hole in the budget. Reprieve was found in the last days of the transfer window when Frank McCourt, the former LA Dodgers owner and American businessman agreed a deal to buy the former European champions, who later signed four players - including fan favourite Dimitri Payet - in the January window for €45m.
It was a hugely exciting campaign for all fans, bar those from PSG admittedly as Monaco romped to a first league title in 17 years with a brand of swashbuckling attacking football led by Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva and spearheaded by club captain Radamel Falcao who had a point to prove after spending two years in the wilderness with Manchester United and Chelsea in England.
Leonardo Jardim’s side set the early tone with a surprise 3-1 home win against Unai Emery’s PSG in late August, a result which perhaps was the first indication that the title wouldn’t be a procession as in previous years for Paris.
But the early tone was set by Lucien Favre’s equally-as-exciting Nice side who boasted their own young talent in Wylan Cyprien, Mika Seri, Malang Sarr and with an erstwhile journeyman striker with a point to prove in Mario Balotelli. They too laid down an early marker by beating Marseille 3-2 before pulversing Monaco 4-0 in a memorable Cote d’Azur derby before holding on to the league lead until Christmas.
However, despite an acclaimed 2-2 draw in Paris in January, they were later decimated by injuries - including a serious one for Cyprien - but would hold on to claim 3rd place and a place in the Champions League for the first time in five and a half decades.
Monaco meanwhile accelerated their run to the title with big wins over Marseille (4-0, 4-1) and also avoiding defeat in Paris. They notched 10 league wins with a score of four goals or more, bundling in a record 107 goals as they claimed the title in May with a 2-0 win v Saint-Etienne. The Monegasques’ league form was all the more admirable in that they made the Coupe de la Ligue final, the Coupe de France semi-final and Champions League semi-final in a highly successful season.
Elsewhere, it was Marseille, now under new management both on and off the field, who secured a European spot, holding off Bordeaux’s challenge for 5th. Caen avoided relegation on the final day with a late, late equaliser against PSG, as Bastia and Nancy were relegated. Bastia would later be administratively demoted to the 5th tier for financial irregularities. Troyes were promoted from Ligue 2, beating 18th placed FC Lorient over 2 legs in the first-ever relegation play-off.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
A no-brainer here, as Jardim led Monaco to their first title in 17 years, breaking several records in the process, and doing so without unlimited funds at his disposal.
EDINSON CAVANI - 36 GOALS
The season where he emerged from Zlatan’s shadow, it was no surprise that Cavani would obtain the top scorer award in the Swede’s absence.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
SUBASIC; SIDIBE, T SILVA, GLIK, MENDY; VERRATTI, SERI; B. SILVA; MBAPPE, CAVANI, LACAZETTE
GOAL OF THE SEASON
MEMPHIS DEPAY announced himself with a stunning goal from the centre-circle against Toulouse after signing from Manchester United in January.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Wolfsburg to PSG
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Nice 3-1 PSG: A tempestuous and high-charged affair in early May that saw PSG lose their heads and two men in this unforgettable encounter that pushed Monaco on the brink of the title.