Close To Home: Ligue 1’s Magnificent Seven

With the European transfer market ever-expanding, Frenchmen topping France’s Ligue 1 scoring charts is far less of an occurance than it used to be – the last seven to do so span over almost 20 years, in fact.

Yet, those who achieved this feat, find themselves forever immortalised in their national league’s history.

And some players they are, too.

1996/97 – Stéphane Guivarc’h

Reaching the pinnacle of his prowess during his time with Rennes, Guivarc’h produced an impressive 21 goals in 32 domestic appearances during his Golden Boot-winning season.

As a result of his incredible club form, Guivarc’h was given the opportunity to spearhead his national side at the 1998 World Cup. The striker started three of the tournament’s final four games and, despite failing to score in the competition, was part of their trophy-winning side.

Guivarc’h’s name will most likely ring a bell in the minds of those in the North East, due to his highly anticipated move to Kenny Dalglish’s Newcastle United in the summer of 1998. Despite a goal on his debut against Liverpool, recurring injuries meant he only made four appearances and scored that single goal for the Magpies.

1998/1999 – Sylvain Wiltord

Wiltord’s prolific season saw him take Guivarc’h’s crown after two successive years as Ligue 1’s top scorer.

With 22 goals, Wiltord forced his Bordeaux over the line and to their first Ligue 1 title in over 10 years. Strong, fast and lethal from the right wing, the attacker was quickly snapped up after his impressive season – becoming one of the first members of Arsene Wenger’s French contingent at Arsenal.

2001/02 – Djibril Cisse

Liverpool fans will remember this man from their Champions League-winning season. Before his move to Merseyside, Cisse spent two years in the youth system at Auxerre before finally being promoted to the first-team in 1999 at the age of just 17.

In his fourth year with the club, the striker managed 22 goals, enough to see him to the Golden Boot. Cisse would go on to win the award again two years later, this time beating his own record with 30 goals.

An extremely promising player again hindered by injury, Cisse’s two leg breaks (one left, one right) ate away at his pace – his most valuable asset.

A supremely clinical striker at his height, Liverpool would do well to recruit a player of Cisse’s ability – the closest current comparison being Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

2007/08 – Karim Benzema

Despite seemingly being at Real Madrid forever, Benzema did in fact serve in France – perfecting his potency in front of goal with Lyon. His 20 goals were enough to see him to the top of the scoring charts come the end of this season, though, he only ever achieved this accolade on a single occasion. Despite this, he went on to the win the Ligue 1 title with Lyon on four occasions in his five years at the club.

The striker has maintained his incredible scoring rate of just under a goal every two games both at Lyon and Madrid (with a combined 262 to his name) and continues to feature for the French national side despite the stiff, younger competition of Antoine Greizmann and Kylian Mbappe.

Since joining Madrid, Karim has accomplished much – having won two league titles and the Champions League on three occasions. And, though not quite as quick as he once was, Benzema was done well to adapt his game. By improving his attacking positioning and close ball control, the Frenchman is capable of creating or tucking away a plethora of opportunities.

2008/09 – André-Pierre Gignac

Acting as the lone targetman for Toulouse, Gignac racked up 25 goals in a season that saw them finish in fourth place; up from 17th the campaign prior.

The strong striker blossomed following Elmander’s move to Bolton, allowing him to move up from second-string striker to Toulouse’s primary goalscoring threat. His season was such a success, that Gignac was nominated for the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award and made it into the Ligue 1 Team of the Year. The next campaign, Gignac was purchased by Marseille where he went on to score 59 goals for the club.

The man sometimes referred to as ‘The Original Giroud’ now plies his trade for Tigres in the Mexican Liga MX.

2011/12 – Olivier Giroud

A 21-goal season with second-tier side Grenoble was enough to earn Giroud a move to Montpellier in 2010. Following a loan back to Grenoble for a year, the striker returned to the top-flight side and bagged another 21 goals to carry them to the Ligue 1 title.

Giroud’s promise saw him follow Wiltord’s path to Arsenal, where he continues to divide opinion amongst fans. However, he is one of only 19 players to score 100 goals for the club and has already proven to be a game-changer this season, as shown by his late winner against Leicester.

In the 2016 Euros, Giroud finished as the second-highest scorer of the competition, with his goals firing France to the final. Yet still, and somewhat unfairly, the beautiful man has found himself planted firmly on the bench but for substitute appearances this campaign. Surely, his quality will shine through once again should he be provided with a fair opportunity.

2014/15 – Alexandre Lacazette

The third player on the list to trade Ligue 1 for Arsenal, Lacazette’s 27 goals for Lyon saw them finish second in the league and himself 10th in the running for the European Golden Boot. He came close to winning the trophy for the second time two years later, trumped only by Edinson Cavani’s incredible 31 goals.

Lacazette’s pace and lethality sees him follow a trend of characteristics found in French Ligue 1 top-scorers. However, he has all the potential to grow into one of the greatest players to ever emerge from the league. Certainly the outcome Arsenal will be hoping for following his £50million move to the club.

It’s but a matter of time until Lacazette comes good in the Premier League, and lets just hope the Premier League is ready for him.

Though one or two entries into the list may not hold fast in memory, most have taken their abilities onto the world stage; making a name for themselves in the proccess.

Besides Paris Saint-Germain, with such incredible money at their disposal, it’s something of a shame that such incredible French talents always seek to move from the league which made them.

It’s one thing to produce such top strikers, and another to keep them it seems.

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