It was another fine season in Le Championnat, with various stories, headlines, sub-plots and the customary English media infatuation with David Beckham and Joey Barton crossing the channel to ply their trade with Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille respectively.
While neither – and especially the latter – will feature in the team of the year, the 11 chosen here have excelled in what was a seriously competitive league season, won by PSG who ended the stubborn challenge of OM to win a first Ligue 1 title since 1994.
Elsewhere, Nice shrugged off their struggler’s tag, capitalising on a few shrewd transfer dealings to stun Lille, previous champions Montpellier and Saint-Etienne to finish fourth, agonisingly below the Champions League spots.
There were new stars, the resurgence of old stars, and a couple of young gems that emerged. There could’ve been about 20-25 players short-listed here for Team of the Year – a testament to the ever-improving quality of football in Ligue 1.
Steve Mandanda (Marseille) – The OM captain narrowly holds off the challenge of PSG goalkeeper Sirigu. At times highlighting his world-class ability, while at other times criticised for a string of errors, Mandanda has matured well over the season, and in my opinion, is in the top ten goalkeepers in Europe.
He single-handedly kept OM in the title race at times, whilst the club’s run of not conceding a goal in seven matches in March-April highlights his ability between the sticks.
Sebastien Corchia (Sochaux) – Another alternative pick here. Christophe Jallet, Francois Clerc and Rod Fanni might have excelled at the big clubs, but Corchia remains a shining light in a Sochaux side that flirted with relegation for much of the season.
A supreme presence on the flank, the U-21 captain was instrumental in the fight to avoid the drop. A summer move to Lyon beckons.
Nicolas N-Koulou (Marseille) – the former Monaco star has starred for the club this season, and has turned into one of the hottest properties in France. The second best defender in the league after Thiago Silva, N’Koulou’s solid defending and great positioning has seen other clubs take notice of his talents.
Unlikely to leave the club, but expect even better next season.
Thiago Silva (PSG) – Joined Ligue 1 from AC Milan in a surprise move last summer, but Thiago Silva has shown exactly why he’s regarded as the best centre-back in the world. A rock at the back for les Parisiens, Silva was at times the only one with a cool head when others around him were on self-destruct mode.
He earned the captaincy, and the 27-year-old has rarely looked back since.
Lucas Digne (Lille) – Another young starlet who has performed at a level which belies his young age. A great player in the making on the left flank, with a series of assured performances.
Unlikely to remain at the club with PSG and Monaco swooping overhead.
Blaise Matuidi (PSG) – One of the best players at PSG this season, and arguably the most important at the side, after Sirigu and Ibrahimovic.
A fantastic midfielder who highlighted his goalscoring and creative abilities on many an occasion this season.
Florian Thauvin (Bastia, Lille) – Another revelation this term. The 20-year-old was officially named the Young Player of the Year and was the subject of a €3.5m bid from Lille, who immediately loaned him back to the Corsican club.
A fine youngster, whose creativity and attacking instinct saw Bastia pummel mid-table sides and score some surprising results. He linked well with Anthony Modeste, and even went on a run of four games in a row scoring braces.
Mathieu Valbuena (OM) – Valbuena’s performances are generally linked with OM’s successes, and it’s no surprise that once ‘Le Petit Velo’ is firing on all cylinders, the team is generally flying high.
A tricky customer, who was the team’s driving force for most of the season, Valbuena posted a league high 12 assists this campaign. He complemented his club form by becoming France’s most important player in 2012-13.
Dimitri Payet (Lille) – The Reunion-born winger starred for Lille with a number of impressive displays, which unfortunately, were not enough for the club to qualify for Europe this campaign.
Notched up a fine tally of 12 goals and 12 assists – one of the few players in Europe to hit double figures in both respects.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG) – Who else? The driving force behind PSG’s championship victory. Got going from the off in a controversial 2-2 draw against Lorient on matchday one. His goals alone were worth 14 points for PSG, who would’ve lost the title without his input.
At times, he endured difficult moments, but Ibra has been rightly regarded as a revelation since his move from Milan.
Pierre Aubameyang (Saint-Etienne) – Holds off the challenge from Dario Cvitanich of Nice, the signing of the season, to feature in the Team of the Year. This season has been the campaign Aubameyang yearned for, the one where his star really takes off.
19 goals, second only to Ibrahimovic, the lanky Gabonese striker was in red-hot form, especially in the second half of the season to propel ASSE to a League Cup triumph.
He will probably leave Ligue 1 for Dortmund, but it has been one hell of a year for the striker.