French Ligue 1 might be considered the fifth best league in Europe behind England, Spain, Germany and Italy, but the clubs in it aren’t exactly bathing in money, bar from PSG. The clubs do have a strong support and decent revenue to back up remaining a top-level league, but to bankroll buys they often are forced to sell. Some clubs do stand out being in stronger financial standing than others, though – these six stand out.
Easy first entry to the list. Paris Saint-Germain’s recent spending spree and rise in stature due to the money from Qatari Investment Authority is well-documented and obvious to see from recent big money splashes for major players. Perhaps due to fashionability of Paris as well they have managed to attract some players that are at absolute top of the world in their position, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva.
Current league leaders and the most successful French club of recent times, Lyon is a club that certainly has earned its place among the best. It is by far the highest valued club in France and holds highest revenues, raking in around 150 million euros a season.
Lyon isn’t in as strong financial standing as it was in its peak few seasons ago, but it still is the biggest powerhouse aside PSG in Ligue 1.
Owned by businessman Jean-Michel Aulas, Lyon is sometimes criticized for being run like a business – but it clearly has worked given club has retained it’s high position and is one of the most popular clubs in France.
The nine time French champions is one of the powerhouses of French football and its financial standing reflect that. They are the richest French club in terms of revenue and have been competing in the Champions League regularly over the recent years. They also have the highest average attendance in the league, so revenue does really come in from every source.
Last season ended as a disappointment though with Marseille finishing only at 10th place. They have promptly returned to top this season though, holding currently the third place in the league. Their last major-money moves were Andre-Pierre Gignac and Loic Remy during 2010/11 season, both costing the club in the excess of 10 million pounds. Marseille has tempered their spending since, and last summer’s biggest move was purchase of Lucas Mendes for mere £1.7 M.
Lille has become a major force in French football in coming seasons, and it has definitely become a rich club as a result – however, they have not been splashing around with the money, in fact quite stunningly they’ve raked even more profit through sales. According to transfermarket reports, over the last five seasons they’ve recorded a net profit of over 80 million pounds in transfers.
This season perhaps lack of spending has caught up with them as Lille reside in lowly eight place – however the table is very even beside the top three.
Their transfer profits come from selling players such as Eden Hazard, Gervinho, Michel Bastos and Jean II Makoun, among many others. Other clubs could take notes from the way Lille is managed, as its constantly bringing in players for cheap transfers and selling them in a season or two with handsome profit. Improved financial standing has seen them splash around too, with Marvin Martin claimed to have cost them £8.8 M.
Bordeaux strong financial standing is founded on its fairly strong revenues. It has fourth biggest proportion of supporters in France and it is owned by French television group M6.
Just as other French clubs, it has been primarily a selling club during recent years and its biggest transfer in has been Yoann Gourcuff for £11.8 M during 09/10 season – he was sold season later to Lyon for £19.3 M.
Last transfer window Bordeaux earned over seven million pounds of profit and didn’t make any major purchases.
6. Montpellier HSC
The reigning French champions must be doing something right, and managing their revenues is one thing they are indeed doing well. Montpellier are lead by a businessman chairman Louis Nicollin. Nicollin took charge of the club already in the seventies while they were still playing in lower leagues and with slow and steady work the club has risen to the top of French football and into indeed a strong financial standing.
However, perhaps as a good example of the fact that French clubs don’t have that much spending power, despite being champions and on good standing they have not spent much on transfers. In fact for most of last few seasons Montpellier has brought in profit in the transfer market, with deals such as the sale of last season’s top goalscorer Olivier Giroud to Arsenal for £10.5 M. The money was reinvested on four players.
Losing their top goalscorer has ended up to being a lose-lose deal as Montpellier has succumbed back to mid-table mediocrity meanwhile Giroud has not gained many admirers in England.
7. Stade Rennais
Owned by billionaire Francois Pinault, Stade Rennais holds one of the strongest financial backings of French league. However, Pinault is no Abramovich and like many owners of French clubs, doesn’t splash cash around. Club has been mostly investing money it gets from transfers so the biggest transfers has been sales, most lucrative of them being the sale of Asamoah Gyan to Sunderland for £14 M. Signing of Mevlut Erding for £6.6 M has been their biggest purchase so far.
Their strong financial standing shows in their consistent good league performance, but they just don’t seem to be able to make that leap into top level – they finished 6th last two seasons and are 6th on the current edition as well.