PARIS, France, Aug 8 – Neymar is still there, for now at least, and Paris Saint-Germain are set to kick off their defence of the French Ligue 1 title against Caen this weekend.
With Marseille playing Toulouse in the opening game on Friday, AFP Sport looks at five of the most interesting new signings in France ahead of the 2018-19 campaign:
THOMAS TUCHEL (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)
Position: Head coach
Previous club: Borussia Dortmund (GER)
The biggest change at PSG ahead of this season has come in the dugout. Indeed, the old season had still not finished when the capital club announced the appointment of the German Tuchel as their new coach on a two-year deal.
He arrives after a year out of the game following his departure from Borussia Dortmund, and succeeds Unai Emery whose last season in charge saw PSG win the treble but lose to Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16.
A successful defence of the Ligue 1 title combined with a better performance in Europe are the twin objectives for Tuchel.
However, with a large number of players returning late from holidays after the World Cup, pre-season has possibly not offered too many clues as to how Tuchel will fare at the Parc des Princes.
GIANLUIGI BUFFON (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)
Previous club: Juventus (ITA)
— The transfer window does not close for French clubs until the end of August, so PSG may yet get the cheque book out.
So far, however, the only new arrival has been Buffon.
Splashing huge amounts of money last year on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe while not recruiting a goalkeeper of proven quality left their squad looking rather unbalanced.
But it remains to be seen if bringing in the 40-year-old Buffon is the ideal solution.
The goalkeeping great had the advantage of being available without a transfer fee, although he was expected to retire at the end of last season before deciding to have another crack at glory in the Champions League, which has thus far evaded him in a long career.
PATRICK VIEIRA (NICE)
Position: Head coach
Previous club: New York City FC (USA)
— As France basks in the glow of the national team’s World Cup triumph in Moscow, one of the stars of the team that won the trophy in 1998 makes his return to the French game as a coach.
Vieira is following in the footsteps of other members of his generation of World Cup winners by making inroads into management.
Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane have enjoyed fantastic years, and now Vieira is hoping to make his name as a coach in Europe. Now 42, the former Arsenal midfielder arrives at Nice — just along the Cote d’Azur from where he started out at Cannes — after two years at New York City FC.
He will hope to build on the fine work done by predecessor Lucien Favre.
ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN (MONACO)
Previous club: CSKA Moscow (RUS)
— There have again been big departures at Monaco, but they have pulled off quite a coup with the signing of Golovin.
Born in Siberia, the 22-year-old midfielder arrives in the glitzy Mediterranean principality after enjoying an impressive World Cup with hosts Russia.
Monaco — whose billionaire owner and vice-president are both Russian — beat the likes of Chelsea and Juventus to his signature, agreeing a reported 30 million-euro deal to sign him from CSKA Moscow.
He will have a big role to play in Leonardo Jardim’s team, with Thomas Lemar, Fabinho and Joao Moutinho all having been sold.
JEAN-EUDES AHOLOU (MONACO)
Previous club: Strasbourg
— Ivorian Aholou will be one to watch after joining Monaco from Strasbourg on a five-year deal for a reported 14 million euros.
Aholou’s rise has been remarkable — two years ago he had just been promoted to Ligue 2 with Orleans before being sold to Strasbourg for 350,000 euros in January 2017 and helping them to promotion.
His profile means a successful spell in the principality could have him eventually following the likes of Fabinho, Moutinho, and Tiemoue Bakayoko before them, to England.