Ligue 1 Team of the Season, starring Mbappe, Memphis and Marquinhos
Ligue 1 proved to be the most thrilling of all Europe’s leagues in 2020/21, with three teams still in contention for the title until the final day, and nine of the last 10 matches having something riding on them.
Lille emerged as surprise champions, prevailing 2-1 over Angers on the final day of the season to beat Paris Saint-Germain to the title, with Monaco doing enough to finish third.
Even if Lille excelled primarily because of their team ethic, there were still numerous outstanding performances in their squad, and that is reflected in our Ligue 1 Team of the Season.
But who will join a handful of champions in this squad?
Goalkeeper: Mike Maignan – Lille
With more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s top five leagues, Mike Maignan is amply deserving of a spot in this squad. Indeed, had Lille not conceded in stoppage-time in their final match, he would have had as many cleansheets as he had goals conceded this season, but nevertheless he finished the campaign with 21 shut outs to his credit.
Maignan boasts the fourth-highest save percentage of any goalkeeper in Europe an has an xG per goal conceded on 1.48. In short, this means he was letting in one goal for every 1.48 the ‘average’ goalkeeper would concede.
Right-back: Jonathan Clauss – Lens
When promoted Lens arrived back in Ligue 1, they would not have expected to enjoy the season they did. Although there was disappointment as they missed out on Europe on the final day, there was much to admire about their performances.
Right wing-back Jonathan Clauss, meanwhile, was their outstanding player. Not only did he carry a meaningful attacking threat down his flank, he was also strong defensively.
Indeed, L’Equipe rated him as the best Ligue 1 player of the season away from the champions.
Indeed, he was so impressive, he has been closely watched by the City Football Group, who would likely allocate him to their new French outlet, Troyes.
Centre-back: Marquinhos – Paris Saint-Germain
In what was a season riddled with inconsistency on the part of Paris Saint-Germain, Marquinhos was a shining light for PSG in the heart of their defence. The rearguard seemed to change on an almost weekly basis, but the Brazilian only further established himself as one of the elite players in his role.
While it was his performances – and his goals – in the Champions League that helped catch the headlines, this was underpinned by a succession of strong domestic performances.
Centre-back: Jose Fonte – Lille
Another outstanding performer for Lille, Jose Fonte’s campaign was made all the more remarkable by the way he managed to guide youngster Sven Botman alongside him so immaculately.
The veteran Portuguese was outstanding in the heart of the defence and alongside a new partner never missed a beat over the course of the season. The influence that he commanded over the squad was formidable and he deserves much credit for Lille’s outstanding defensive figures, which ultimately won them the title.
Left-back: Reinildo – Lille
The left-back area might have been seen as the big Achilles heel of this Lille defence coming into the season, but Reinildo ultimately excelled himself in the position.
The lack of discipline in previous seasons was gone, leaving a dogged competitor who rarely gave opposing wingers a minute’s peace. Indeed, his aggression allowed him to dominate opponents both in terms of duels in the air – he won 77%, the third highest figure in the whole league – and on the ground, winning 67%, the best of any full-back.
Central midfielder: Aurelien Tchouameni – Monaco
Monaco’s push for the top three was underpinned by an outstanding performance from Aurelien Tchouameni in the heart of their midfield.
Alongside Youssouf Fofana, he was the player who was given most licence to play in a box-to-box fashion, and he proved the heartbeat of a team that challenged for the title until the final day.
Having been overlooked by previous boss Robert Moreno, Tchouameni was one of Niko Kovac’s great success stories this term.
Central midfielder: Benjamin Andre – Lille
Benjamin Andre will not win many points for style, but in many ways the Lille midfielder encapsulated everything that Christophe Galtier’s title-winning squad was about.
He was competitive, ferociously determined and an outstanding team player. The 10 yellow cards he picked up were surpassed only by three players in the division but serve to emphasise his tough-tackling nature and his ability to bring fight to his side.
Central midfielder: Lucas Paqueta – Lyon
Started slowly after moving from Milan in the summer but Lucas Paqueta would grow into Ligue 1’s outstanding attacking central midfielder, particularly in the second half of the campaign.
Though eclipsed by Memphis Depay in raw attacking numbers, he was equally important to Lyon as he finished with nine goals and five further assists over the course of the season, becoming one of the form players in the whole division from February onwards.
Although he was not able to drag his side into the Champions League, his effort was nonetheless enormous.
Playmaker: Memphis Depay – Lyon
Memphis Depay has announced he will leave Lyon in the summer on a free transfer, and he will leave behind him an enormous void to fill. Indeed, by chalking up 20 goals and 12 assists this season, only Kylian Mbappe was more productive than him overall, while Memphis was the only player to hit double figures in both categories.
Two decisive passes against Nice on the final day of the season should have been enough to guide OL into the Champions League, but defensive failings cost them – a familiar source of frustration for Memphis over his four years at Lyon.
Certainly, his contribution deserved a richer reward.
Striker: Burak Yilmaz – Lille
When Burak Yilmaz arrived in Lille last summer, there was little sense of anticipation to see the veteran Turkey international in action.
At 35, there was a sense he was past his prime. Instead, his experience would be vital in guiding Lille through difficult periods of the season, particularly in the closing weeks, when he scored a myriad of important goals.
He struck twice as Lille came from 2-0 down to beat Lyon, notched one in a tight victory over Nice, scoring a stunning brace to beat Lens in the derby and grabbed what proved the title-winning goal in Angers. Burak was absolutely decisive.
Striker: Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain
Kylian Mbappe started the season complaining of fatigue but finished in quite brilliant style, notching a personal best goals tally in all competitions as he scored 42 times in 41 starts for PSG plus added a further 11 assists to that tally.
With Neymar spending much of the season struggling for fitness, Mbappe was regularly the man who stepped up when it mattered, and given his outstanding statistics it is hard to argue against him being the player of the season.
Now PSG’s challenge is making sure that he does not depart.