The 2016-17 Champions League season was mixed for France’s competitors. AS Monaco arguably overachieved by reaching the semis—a fine achievement to go alongside their title triumph—although Olympique Lyonnais were dumped out in the group stage after an underwhelming campaign.
And what of Paris Saint-Germain?
In the round of 16 they secured one of the greatest results by any French side when they beat Barcelona 4-0 at the Parc des Princes, only to be eliminated in astonishing circumstances when Barca rallied to win the second leg 6-1.
Unai Emery, perhaps due to the fact he was still in his maiden season in the French capital, kept his job, but he’ll be expected to improve significantly this term.
Indeed, PSG return to the continental high table next season after finishing second in Ligue 1—another gross failure that Emery cannot afford to repeat.
PSG have been linked to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jan Oblak, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Kylian Mbappe and Alexis Sanchez among others as they finally look to realise their immense potential, although it remains to be seen whether the wounds of that astonishing capitulation against Barcelona will continue to haunt them.
OGC Nice will also compete in the Champions League after their magnificent season cumulated in a third-placed finish.
Perhaps Lucien Favre’s side didn’t manage to maintain their title charge, but they deserve immense credit for combating a series of devastating injury concerns to keep the pressure on the top two until late in the campaign and reach Europe’s high table.
However, while PSG will be looking to bolster their options before the new season, Nice will be desperate to retain their key players, with Mario Balotelli, Jean Seri and Younes Belhanda all tipped for a move away from the Riviera.
Then there’s Monaco, where the odds appear stacked against a repeat of last term, either domestically or in Europe.
Leonardo Jardim’s side will be much stronger for the experience of last term, but how many of the team’s key players will still be in the Principality next term?
Tiemoue Bakayoko, Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy, Thomas Lemar and Djibril Sidibe are all being heavily linked to the exit door and, while the addition of Diego Benaglio is an improvement between the sticks, Radamel Falcao might be one of the few men standing by the time the next UCL campaign rolls around.
Nice and Monaco have both demonstrated that they can deliver when expectations are low, but the sensible money is on PSG emerging as France’s main contenders next term.
If Emery can oversee the progress he’s promising, then the capital club could even go the distance.