Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Dante Costa

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When Dante Costa hangs up his boots his story will be told that here is a player that got better as he got older. And at age 35 he put in some terrific displays for his club Nice, to be ranked as the 4th best defender in Ligue 1.

Dante Costa also known as simply Dante joined Nice from Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg in 2016, and has now made 96 appearances for the French club. His big break in football didn’t come until his late 20s and since then Dante Costa has not looked back.

His worst point of his career was perhaps when he was picked for Brazil to play in the semi-final of the World Cup against Germany in 2014, as a defender it couldn’t have got any worse when Brazil were infamously beaten 7-1 by the Germans who went onto win that years competition.

This season under the guidance of coach Patrick Vieira who himself this was his first term with Nice, Dante seemed calm, collective and full of confidence in the back four. This was recognised by Vieira who was only too happy to regularly pick the Brazilian for the side. In all Dante played 36 games from 38 and earned a total of 64 points just six points shy of 3rd place.

Dante of course is not expected to score goals or be in the build up to one but he still managed 1 goal and also had one assist. One question mark about him was his aggressiveness which led to 11 yellow cards for the season, though he managed not to get sent off in the league.

With Nice starting poorly in the league this affected Dante and he went the opening 3 games without scoring a point, indeed because of the goals conceded he was down by -3 points. It took sometime for Nice to group together and start believing in themselves and when the team started to gel together it was November and this is when Dante experienced the best period of his season.

He scored points in 6 consecutive games earning a massive 28 points as Nice went on a great run starting at Bordeaux and ending with a 0-0 result against Angers in December.

Dante Costa’s best game where he earned the most points was against Montpellier in April where Nice only won 1-0. But it was an all round game from the Brazilian who scored a goal, the only one for his season and also kept a clean sheet to earn 9 points.

The last match of the season was the local derby in which Nice beat Monaco 2-0 which earned Dante another 5 points. Indeed the defender had a decent consistent season overall if not spectacular, but for his age and being coached by a new manager this was an impressive display over the season.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Neymar

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Several books could be written on Neymar’s season with PSG, and this was supposed to be the season that Neymar helped the French champions to the Champions League trophy, the one the club are really after. What happened was that Neymar replicated last season and missed key games as the league ran down. It was a frustrating season for Neymar even if PSG did end up winning the Ligue 1 title again.

Most of this frustration was off the pitch. The Brazilian’s niggling injuries didn’t help- he played just 17 league games this season. Then he was outspoken about UEFA when Manchester United arguably did get the run of the luck when they dumped out PSG in Paris, he swore on social media and was handed with a 3 game ban. This means that whoever he is playing for next season he won’t play in 50% of the group games.

Then Neymar was involved with a Rennes fan after Rennes had upset PSG and won the Coupe de France. He appeared to hit the fan and after returning from injury he was suspended for another 3 games meaning that he didn’t even finish the season off properly with the club.

This was the nightmare season for Neymar in many ways, and yet he was still good enough to basically play half a season and finish as the 4th best striker in Ligue 1. He finished the season with 72 points and was able to score an incredible 15 goals from his 17 games and assisted in a further 7 goals. When he played PSG kept 6 clean sheets and no matter his temperament off the field on it he was almost impeccable receiving only 2 yellow cards.

What is remarkable about Neymar’s season is that the first 13 games that he played he always earned points. His best personal game was against Guingamp at the beginning of 2019 when PSG ran riot and won 9-0. Neymar helped himself to 2 goals and assisted in another in a very easy win.

On two occasions he earned zero points but he never finished a game this past season on minus points. His last contribution was against Angers on May 11th when PSG won 2-1 and he scored a goal and assisted in the other.

The question is, was that Neymar’s last game for PSG? It is no secret that the Brazilian wants away and wants to re-join Barcelona again for next season. Could PSG complain after spending over 200m euros on him, because they would make a profit on the player if they did sell him.

Despite some negative aspects surrounding Neymar, his showmanship and hard work rate have still been held high in France and it is difficult to judge a striker that scores goals. He has played 37 games in the league over two seasons and scored 34 goals. Injuries aside he has been one of the best players to grace the game in Ligue 1 in recent history.

What does the future hold? This summer will turn into a Neymar saga it appears.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Remi Oudin

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In Reims, Remi Oudin is known as a superstar, the one golden light in the club who from his position planted in attacking midfield gave Reims the hope of European football for a long time. That he is a local only adds to the lure and respect the fans give him.

Reims did not start the season well, but rarely lost instead they kept piling up draws, but by winter they had established themselves and flirted with the top 5 positions. A Europa League place or dare we say it a Champions League one still felt realistic even in February. Had they made it to the Champions League that would have been emotional enough given that this famous and historic team are linked to the beginnings of the European Cup. In the end the club ran out of steam and energy and so did Oudin.

However it’s worth congratulating both player and club, we have to remember that they finished in the top 10 after being promoted as champions of Ligue 2 last season.

As for Oudin he finished the season in the European Fantasy League rankings in 4th place for midfielders, 29th for midfielders in major leagues and 82nd for overall performance including every player. That’s not bad going for a player that was plying his trade in Ligue 2 last season.

Oudin finished with 70 points just 4 behind Wahbi Khazri of Saint Etienne and he started 32 games for Reims. He was impressive in front of goal too scoring 10 times and also assisted in another four goals. He didn’t see red all season and was booked just 4 times.

The player started the season by earning 6 points from his first two games as Reims kept two clean sheets in their victories over both Nice and Lyon, in the latter game he also provided the assist for the winner.

His best game of the season came on October 28th when Reims played Rennes away from home and won a normally tough fixture 2-0. Oudin was the definite hero of the day scoring both goals and getting extra points for a clean sheet. The only sour note was losing points for being booked but he still earned 9 points that day.

If any criticism could be pointed at Oudin it’s that he lacked consistency throughout the season and would appear brilliant in one match and average in the next, however in the month of February he was certainly one of the best in form players in Ligue 1.

In the 3 games that took place he earned 18 points as Reims had victories over Rennes and Montpellier and drew against Toulouse and Oudin scored against Rennes again. He also scored a brace against Montpellier.

Oudin finished the season quietly though earning a points total of 3 points from his last seven games as Reims came to the conclusion that their European hopes had faded for this season.

Oudin is currently valued at 10m and he proved this season why- it will be interesting to see what the 22 year old will produce next season and also interesting to see how long on this form Reims will be able to keep their man.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Edinson Cavani

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Edinson Cavani has had a great career at PSG where he has been with the club for 6 seasons, playing 279 games and scoring 193 times, and even at 32 he has been good enough to be recognised as one of the best strikers in France’s Ligue 1.

Of course his season was dealt many blows- being knocked out of the two domestic cups seemed a step backwards given how PSG have dominated in France. But they did win the league and won it in style with several games to go. Cavani missed big games including some in the Champions League when PSG lost over 2 legs against Manchester United.

For Cavani though this was another personal successful season that saw the Uruguayan forward score 18 goals only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe were able to score more this season. Cavani also assisted in a further 5 goals and when he played which was 20 games in the league for 50% of that time with him in the team PSG kept a clean sheet. Cavani’s cards records were great too where he received just 1 yellow card from the 20 games played.

Cavani ended the season in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 records with a points total of 83. Whilst that was 26 points shy of Nicolas Pepe in 2nd place Pepe had the advantage of playing 17 more games than Cavani who totalled 83 points to finish in 3rd place. Overall with all strikers combined in all the major European leagues Cavani finished in 15th place.

Cavani’s season started brightly as he scored a goal in each of his first three games. He only really had one bad spell which was in October when he failed to score in back to back games when PSG played Lyon and Amiens. Ironically the French champions won both games 5-0 but Cavani failed to register a goal or an assist.

The striker’s best game of the season came in January when PSG were playing Guingamp in Paris. The score was an incredible one which ended 9-0 to them. Cavani obliged with a hat trick and 2 assists, in a special game for him, it’s fair to say he kept the ball that evening.

Another memorable game occurred against Monaco earlier in the season when PSG beat the troubled 2017 champions at the Stade Louis III winning 4-0. Cavani helped himself to a hat trick and bonus points to go with that to get a total of 14 points.

Cavani’s last home game saw him get a goal against Dijon and in the last game of the season away to Reims, PSG lost 3-1 but he scored points by assisting Mbappe for PSG’s consolation goal.

Cavani’s total points of 83 is one of his worst under PSG but at the same time he only played just over half of the season due to injuries and in that respect he actually had a very solid season.

The player has talked about a move away from PSG and France and could be eyeing a Premier League club, if so Cavani will be very much missed in Ligue 1, he scored some fantastic goals and has been a big part of PSG’s fantastic success in the 2010′s. He remains one of the very best strikers in Europe.

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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Marquinhos

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Marquinhos is going to go down as a legend with PSG no matter how his career ends with the current Ligue 1 champions. It feels like he has been at the club forever commanding the back four. The truth is he is still only 25 and has seen players come and go including one of the very first stars for PSG- Zlatan Ibrahimovic and yet here he is having enjoyed his 6th season with the club.

In the European Fantasy League rankings for Ligue 1 defenders Marquinhos finished in joint 2nd place with Malang Sarr of Lille and got 70 points from his value of 7.5m. He played 30 games and so is still seen as an integral part of the team and he was able to help with 13 clean sheets as PSG conceded 24 goals for the whole season in Ligue 1.

Marquinhos in true Brazilian style for a defender even contributed to some goals. He scored 3 this season and assisted in another two. He received 2 yellow cards and 1 sending off for the season.

His final ranking was such that he finished in 20th place for defenders in all the major European leagues.

The Brazilian started the season off in solid fashion earning 5 points as PSG kept a clean sheet in their 3-0 win against Caen. However in the next five games Marquinhos went through a rough period, where PSG were winning but conceding goals which was hitting him as a defender and in those five games he earned no points. Indeed because two goals were conceded against Nimes, even though PSG won that game 4-2 he ended up with -1 point for that period of time.

However after those games Marquinhos picked up a huge 21 points in his next 3 matches including scoring 9 points when PSG beat Amiens 5-0. He kept a clean sheet and also scored a goal, this is the most points that he would earn in a single game all season.

Towards the end of the season there was another bout of non consistency as PSG ran away with the league and when it was confirmed the club struggled to stay focused especially when they exited the Champions League to Manchester United. It meant that in Marquinhos’ last five games he ended up with a total score of -4 points, as PSG kept conceding silly goals and were losing almost on a weekly basis.

For Marquinhos the job was done though and yet another Ligue 1 title came his way. It was also an improvement on the previous seasons score when he managed 52 points, and surely he would have earned more points had PSG remained on their game until the end of the season.

Marquinhos remains an important player for PSG and even more than that since he gets on with his job and isn’t looking for a move away he is very respected at the club.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Wahbi Khazri

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Wahbi Khazri was one of the delights of Ligue 1 football this past season and his quality in midfield helped fire his club Saint Etienne into a Europa League finish. He also finished with his highest points tally in European Fantasy League thus far with 74 points, and joined only four other players in midfield in Ligue 1 who were able to score 70 or more points.

Khazri has played for five clubs over an 11 year career which started at Bastia, to date playing for Bastia is still his longest stint at one club which lasted for five years. After that spell he switched to Bordeaux for two seasons and then made the move to the Premier League signing for Sunderland. Despite having a decent season in the north of England he wasn’t scoring enough goals for the club, just 3 in 38 league games plus he was obviously missing being in France and was loaned out to Rennes before Saint Etienne spotted his talents and bought him.

In his debut season for Saint Etienne Khazri has done well scoring 13 goals and assisting in another six meaning that he has been involved in 19 of the clubs 59 goals.

Khazri started the season by picking up 4 points as he scored a goal in Saint Etienne’s 2-1 win over Guingamp. The midfielder’s best game was against Monaco when his club won 2-0. Not only did he score both goals but because a clean sheet was obtained too he picked up 10 points.

Khazri’s most consistent and best period begun at the end of November when Saint Etienne were paired with Nantes and ended in mid January. In this time frame Khazri played in five games and gained points in every one of those matches. It was a fine period for the player that saw him score goals and make crucial assists as Saint Etienne started to believe that they could chase a European place. In that time he got 28 points.

The one problem for the 28 year old was his short temper which landed him with 10 yellow cards throughout the season and 1 red card. With better discipline he could have ended up earning easily another 10-15 points.

In the end Khazri helped Saint Etienne to reach the Europa League and it will be interesting to see if he stays around. He should do but his career suggests that he will be on the move soon. At the same time he has just had his personal best season as a football player so the thinking is that he will be fine at this club.

His value this season started at 7.5m, and that could be set to rise for the beginning of next season after his impressive return from midfield.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Alphonse Areola

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At the start of the season PSG’s number 1 goalkeeper Alphonse Areola would have taken a look around and gulped nervously a little when he saw that his club had just brought in Gianluigi Buffon from Juventus. While Buffon was 40 years old he is still regarded as a goalkeeping legend and as it turned out Areola had every right to be worried.

True Areola started the majority of games in the league for PSG but only just. Areola played 21 games to Buffon’s 17. Still the return was very good from Areola who produced 11 clean sheets from his 21 played.

In terms of a successful season, it can’t get much better as PSG won the league with ease, and in theory started to wrap up the title by the Christmas period. They finished on 91 points a cool 16 points in front of Lille and it would have been much more had the team not faltered towards the end once the league was wrapped up.

Areola’s value coming into this season was 6.5m and he finished 3rd in the European Fantasy League rankings for Ligue 1 goalkeepers, 29 points behind Nice’s Walter Benitez. Areola finished on 62 points and conceded 17 goals, his disciplinary was excellent with just 1 yellow card all season.

Areola did not start scoring points until his 3rd game of the season because PSG even though they won his first two games they kept conceding. His fortunes swiftly changed though and he went on a 5 game run without conceding a goal starting against Saint Etienne in mid September and running through until mid November. He earned a huge 35 points in that period where the bulk of his total points came from.

His worst game of the season was when PSG needed just 1 more win to secure the Ligue 1 title. Of course because of their massive lead in the league it was only a matter of time but it simply wasn’t coming. PSG had to play 2nd placed Lille away and Lille were up for a game that PSG didn’t really need to win, in the end and with full credit to Lille they inflicted PSG’s biggest loss of the season beating the champions 5-1. This in turn meant that Areola record -8 points for the game.

Just under 30% of his games ended where he didn’t score a point and his last game was the penultimate match of the season against Dijon where PSG ran out 4-0 winners and for that he got 7 points. He did not play in PSG’s final game of the season against Reims where Buffon was chosen instead, in a game that PSG eventually lost.

In the 2017/18 season Areola scored 103 points so this is a comedown for the goalkeeper although he will argue and rightly so that he wasn’t given enough games to prove his worth. Next season will be interesting. Will PSG stay with him in goal as their number 1 or will they opt to invest in another player?

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers In 2018/19: Nicolas Pepe

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You only have to look at the latest transfer stories to see that Nicolas Pepe is heading the way in terms of young brilliant players being linked to some of the biggest clubs in the world, and this should sum up the season Pepe has just had for Lille.

Pepe starred up front in a season that saw Lille finish in 2nd place to PSG and qualify automatically for next seasons Champions League.

Only two strikers in Ligue 1 were able to achieve 100 points in European Fantasy League, Kylian Mbappe and Pepe. Pepe scored 22 goals and assisted in another 11 meaning that he was involved in 33 goals for Lille this season out of their total of 68 goals, that’s almost 50%.

Pepe is 24 and did not show the promise of a player like Mbappe early on but his move to Lille in 2017 meant that he got to work with coach Christophe Galtier who also joined the club then and the two of them have connected in a way where Pepe respects Galtier and Galtier can see where Pepe’s game needed to be improved. Think of when Arsene Wenger converted Thierry Henry from a winger to a centre forward- and the rest is history.

Pepe started the season by scoring a goal and making an assist as Lille won their first game of the campaign 3-1 against Rennes. His best points tally came in September when Lille beat Amiens 3-2 away from home and he scored a hat-trick which also earned him 2 bonus points and he collected 14 points from one game.

Between early February and early March Pepe scored zero points from 4 games and it is evident that the one problem with his season is that the second half was not as strong as the first. From his last 15 games he only scored points in 5 of those, still because of a strong start that was good enough to amass 109 points for the season.

Pepe made a huge impact this season and finished in 5th place for strikers in the major league which is a massive improvement on previous years. Take the season before where Pepe finished on 55 points scoring 13 goals. He has managed 9 more this season and the sky looks the limit for a player who some would have thought missed the boat in his early years.

Pepe started the season with a value of 8m if you wanted him for your team. Whether the future lies with Lille or elsewhere his value is sure to go up next season. The good news is with Lille in the Champions League which is a rare sight for the club Pepe may just be tempted to stay with them.

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Why PSG should sell Neymar and get Gareth Bale

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For all his brilliance Neymar is becoming a headache for French champions PSG and perhaps now is the time to sell the Brazilian, and in his place they should get Gareth Bale.

At the moment Neymar is clearly unhappy at PSG and if we are being honest he never wanted to be at the club, his desire was to remain at Barcelona. However two seasons ago even Barca could not resist the 200m euros that PSG were offering for Neymar’s services and the Brazilian soon became the most expensive player in football history.

Neymar has not been able to help PSG with their ultimate dream of winning the Champions League but they have dominated in France and Neymar has been brilliant with only a succession of injuries hampering his time in Paris.

The truth is Neymar is unhappy and there was talk that he could be sold to Real Madrid, however Neymar only has one destination on his mind and that is to play again for Barcelona. The Catalan giants would most probably welcome him back as they look to sell Phillipe Coutinho who has had a terrible time with the club after his 120m move to them from Liverpool. Ousmane Dembele hasn’t adapted well too and he is another player who could be sold. This means that Barcelona would have the funds to buy Neymar back.

But what of PSG, who would rather not lose the services of Neymar? Well you have to question why they would want to keep a player who doesn’t want to play for them anymore. The solution then for PSG is to look around for a quality playmaker that is currently unhappy with his club and situation and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid seems to fit that description perfectly.

Bale has been tremendous at Madrid but it is clear that he is not in coach’s Zinedine Zidane’s future plans. The problem for a move for most clubs is that Bale demands around 14m euros salary a year. Again this is a figure that PSG could most likely afford and if the French club made a bid for Bale one would expect that the Welshman would be happy to join the club.

And that really is the key for both Neymar and Bale, motivation. Both would feel re energised and refreshed with their new clubs, scaling new heights and get their hunger and their mojo back. Could Neymar really go back to Barcelona and could Bale be on his way to PSG? In football you never know but on the face of it the moves would make perfect sense for both players.

Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Malang Sarr

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One of the outstanding defenders in Ligue 1 this past season might not be a household name yet but he has already made an impression at just 20 years old and his name is Malang Sarr.

Sarr who plays for Nice finished 2nd in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 rankings for defenders with 70 points. He was outstanding value and would have only cost you 5.5m to buy this season. Sarr started 34 games and was part of a defence that kept 15 clean sheets. He also scored a goal and assisted in one. Even though Nice just fell short of picking up any silverware and a European place for next season, personally Sarr shone under the leadership of Nice coach Patrick Vieira.

Sarr was born in Nice and this is already his 3rd season with the club, he has never been afforded the opportunity to play this many games for the club in a season and he has now been established as a regular call up. His next game for Nice will mark his 100th for the club.

The youngster remained very consistent throughout the season with his best points tally being 7 when Nice beat Nimes 1-0, he assisted in the winning goal and also kept a clean sheet.

His worst month was in September when he actually scored no points and indeed because of a booking- his only one of the season, he ended the month of -2 points. From October 28th to December 4th he stepped up his game scoring points in every match between that time and earning 32 points in the process.

Last season Sarr earned just 17 points and that signals a massive improvement this season earning over 3 times that in the past 9 months.

Sarr’s future looks bright. Vieira thinks very highly of him so much so that in the penultimate game of the season he named Sarr as captain of the team- this was partly down to rewarding Sarr for all of his commitment, dedication and hard work.

One wonders what could be in store for Sarr’s future and it could be away from Nice if he continues to be this good. One thing is for sure and that is getting a senior international call up with France. He has played at every level for the nation, and if he keeps in good health and form it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sarr at the 2022 World Cup. However he will also be eyeing up a possible place in next years European Championship, so another good season will be high on his agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

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