The 2023/24 French Ligue 1 season begins this weekend, with Paris Saint-Germain the clear favorites to win another title despite the departure of Lionel Messi and the uncertainty surrounding Kylian Mbappe’s future.
Here are five new signings to watch in the campaign ahead:
GONCALO RAMOS (Paris Saint-Germain)
With Messi gone and Mbappe likely on his way out, PSG needed to bolster their offense. In fact, Ramos may be the precise type of striker they’ve been looking for since Edinson Cavani left in 2020.
Last season, the 22-year-old scored 19 goals to help Benfica win the Portuguese league and go to the Champions League quarter-finals. He also made a name for himself by scoring three goals in Portugal’s World Cup victory over Switzerland.
Ramos has already begun to establish himself at the highest level, but he still has a lot of untapped potential. He came on loan initially, but PSG have the option to make the move permanent at the conclusion of the season, with the sum potentially reaching 80 million euros ($88 million), according to sources.
LUCAS HERNANDEZ (Paris Saint-Germain)
PSG struggled in defense last season and have tried to address that by signing Inter Milan centre-back Milan Skriniar as well as Hernandez, who joins from Bayern Munich on a five-year deal worth over 40 million euros.
Hernandez, who was born in Marseille but raised in Spain, is a versatile player who can play center defense or left back. However, there are some concerns regarding a player who won the World Cup with France in 2018.
After rupturing the ACL in his right knee during the World Cup in Qatar, the former Atletico Madrid player missed the second part of last season.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Marseille)
Marseille rushed for another former Arsenal attacker in Aubameyang after failing to reach an agreement to keep Alexis Sanchez after a good season at the Velodrome.
On the surface, the move appears to be a major gamble, as OM has offered a three-year contract to a player who is 34 and scored just three goals in 11 starts for Chelsea last season.
Nonetheless, the French-born Gabonese international has plenty of pace, is a predatory finisher, and could be electric for Marseille if he can recapture the form he displayed at Saint-Etienne, Borussia Dortmund, and Arsenal earlier in his career.
LUDOVIC BLAS (Rennes)
The 25-year-old was a standout for Nantes last season, when they won the French Cup and had a successful run in the Europa League.
He was permitted to leave the Canaries after they narrowly averted relegation. He was a quick-footed creative with an eye for goal. Blas’ decision not to transfer abroad may come as a surprise, since he instead signed a four-year contract with Nantes’ fierce rivals Rennes for a rumoured sum of 15 million euros.
He will be hoping that joining a club with Champions League aspirations will increase his chances of being called up to France. Blas won the Under-19 European Championship with Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Thuram in 2016, but has yet to earn a senior cap.
SAMUEL UMTITI (Lille)
Lucas Hernandez is not the only member of France’s World Cup-winning squad who has gone to Ligue 1 this summer. Umtiti was an important member of that French team, but his progress was delayed by a knee injury, and he rarely appeared for Barcelona until 2018.
However, the former Lyon central defender recovered his fitness to play frequently on loan at Lecce in Italy last season. After agreeing to terminate a contract with Barcelona that was set to expire in 2026, he returned to France to join Lille on a two-year deal.
Umtiti is still only 29, but his expertise will be invaluable to a team that has lost defensive mainstay Jose Fonte, who is 39 years old.