Just as there are football derbies everywhere, France is not an exemption with the presence of some of the biggest football clubs in Europe, leading to some of the finest derbies in Europe.
Football derbies in France are most often friendly derby which ranges from local, regional and national rivalries.
What is the biggest rivalry in French football? Le Classique, contested by Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille, is the biggest in France.
Over the years, some of the biggest football clubs in France, including Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco, Olympique Lyonnais and Marseille, have held the strongest rivalries in the country.
France football derby and rivalry, what is it all about?
It is the clash between two of the biggest and the most successful teams in the country, be it at the regional, local or national level of football.
The country has no strict rules as derby games in France are classified according to national derbies (Ligue 1 these days), local derbies and classic.
Ranking the most significant football derby and rivalry in France
1. Le Classique
Teams: Olympique Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain
Meaning in English: The Classic
The Le Classique is the most significant football derby at the national level in French football history, involving Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille. They are two of the most successful in the country.
The derby itself is sometimes regarded as a derby between two of the biggest cities in France (Paris and Marseille).
The two teams have a distinct history of performance and achievements historically and in modern times.
Another aspect is the financial strength of the two teams. Paris Saint-Germain currently has the highest financial firepower since its takeover by the Qatar Authority investment company.
Marseille, on the other hand, has also kept up with its high level of spending and wage bill, which is due to keeping some of the best legs in the country.
With the level of football in France today, the Le Classique is equivalent to the El Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.
The fixture is considered the most significant football rivalry in France and one of the greatest in the world. It is usually a heated affair with the two opposing fans chanting and calling on players to play out their best.
2. Choc des Olympiques
Teams: Olympique Lyonnais vs Olympique de Marseille
Translation in English
Derby: Clash of the Olympic(s)
Teams: Olympic Lyon vs Olympic Marseille
Choc des Olympiques could be seen as the second most popular french football rivalry in history.
Although not as glamorous compared with the Le Classique, the two teams have less or no direct rivalry and are usually the “Olympique” between them.
The historical peculiarities between the two sides could be attributed to their competitiveness in local and international competitions.
Other factors that necessitated the rivalry between the two sides are players, managers, supporters, and the high standard of operation.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the two teams have often met in competitive matches, including the Ligue 1, Coupe de France, etc.
Olympique Lyonnais and Marseille are two of the most successful teams in France, having won the Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophée des Champions.
The two sides have also played a critical part that has helped to raise the French coefficient in the UEFA club ranking.
The Choc des Olympiques is often characterised as the clash of two of the biggest teams with high standards.
The comparison is based on competitiveness, trophies, top players, level of manager, the name “Olympique”, and level of club football management.
3. Classico (Old)
Teams: Olympique Marseille vs AS Saint-Étienne
This is the rivalry between two of the most successful football club in French football history.
The Classico is most preferably credited to the two most successful teams beginning from the early years of football in the country.
Although today, the rivalry is not as it used to be and fans no longer consider it a big clash, thus favouring the game involving Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille as the biggest.
AS Saint-Étienne and Marseille dominated the french football scene in the 1960s and 1970s, winning major trophies including the Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, etc
4. Les Verts or Clash of Styles
Teams: FC Nantes vs AS Saint-Étienne
FC Nantes and AS Saint-Étienne were the first French teams to dominate the local football scene. They were amongst the most at the time, winning the French Championship.
The meetings of the two teams are often hyped for apparent reasons. Nantes, mainly known for their tactical abilities, is still a tradition at the club.
Although the two clubs have failed to live up to expectations lately, they’re still considered the greatest football clubs in the French football scene historically.
The two were the first to establish a modern youth development academy in France and carried on forward from there.
FC Nantes and AS Saint-Étienne are two technically gifted football clubs in France backed by a well-established football Academy.
Other rivalries worthy of mention
4. Paris Saint-Germain vs AS Monaco – New French Powerhouse
This was not until 2013 when the two met consistently in national competitions like the Coupe de France, Ligue 1 and Trophée des Champions.
PSG and AS Monaco are the new football powerhouse in France backed by support from their respective owners.
For Paris Saint-Germain, the money invested by the Qatar Authority investment has gone a long way to help recruit world-class players.
The two teams have also followed each other closely till they finish in the last couple of seasons in the league.
Lately, Paris Saint-Germain and other European clubs have waged war on the club to sign the best legs.
Monaco, however, had a depleted squad between 2018 and 2020. As a result sale of some of the best players who helped the club challenge for Parisians.
A notable AS Monaco player is Kylian Mbappé, who moved to the French Ligue 1 giants, PSG.
Despite the sale of its best players, AS Monaco still poses a significant threat and would continue to do so with the money it has amassed through players sales.
To date, the new rivalry still exists. As per ESPN, PSG and Monaco have formed a new feud on that it questions how long it would last.
Why do these teams make the French football derby and rivalry list?
Paris Saint-Germain is one of the best football clubs in European football.
Traditionally, PSG is behind in terms of top teams who ruled from in the early years of football in the country.
Despite this, PSG is the joint-second most successful team in the French Ligue 1 with nine titles behind AS Saint-Étienne, who lead with ten titles.
In terms of overall trophies, PSG is France most successful football club with over 40 official trophies, including the Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, Trophée des Champions, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
Paris Saint-Germain currently shares the most significant football rivalry in France with Olympique de Marseille.
Marseille, on the other hand, is another top successful team with nine league titles and losing twelve.
Marseille is one of the traditional sides that quickly established itself as a powerhouse before the emergence of Paris Saint-Germain.
Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille dominated the local scene to resist Olympique Lyonnais, who came into contention in the 2000s.
The competitiveness of the two sides makes them even more prevalent within and outside France, with the rivalry even extending outside the pitch.
Olympique de Marseille, based in the great city of Marseille, is one of the most successful teams in the country and have spent more seasons in the top flight.
Marseille have won nine French Ligue 1 titles as well as other major domestic trophies, including the Coupe de France Coupe de la Ligue Trophée des Champions.
As things stand currently, it is the only French club that has won the UEFA Champions League in 1992–93 after it finished runners up two years earlier.
OM is currently France most successful team internationally with major European trophies like the Champions League, followed closely by Paris Saint-Germain, who won the UEFA Cup Winners’Cup in 1995–96.
OM and PSG were the two most dominant forces in France before the emergence of Olympique Lyonnais in the early 2000s.
Although the club has faced issues in terms of achieving the successes of the old, its fiercely contested rivalry with PSG is still considered as one of the biggest in Europe.
Lyonnais was the “wonder” team of the early 21st century to rival Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille at the top of French football.
Established in 1950, OL came through the lower ranks of French football, earning its first promotion the same year it was inducted into the Ligue 2.
Although this success could not be maintained, the club returned to Ligue 2 two years after its promotion to the First Division.
From the early 2000s, the club established itself as a new powerhouse amid PSG and Marseille dominance.
Lifting its first Ligue 1 title in 2002, Lyon started a national record-setting streak of seven successive French Ligue 1 titles.
The club’s trophy haul stretches to other domestic cup competitions like the Coupe de France, Trophée des Champions and Coupe de la Ligue.
Lyonnais has a healthy rivalry with AS Saint-Étienne, known as the Derby Rhône-Alpes, which began in 1951.
AS Saint-Étienne’s rivalry was well established in the early years after the club could sit atop the First Division.
Choc des Olympiques (“Clash of the Olympics”) rivalry contested by Marseille and Lyon is another crucial fixture tagged in the battle of the legal teams in the country.
The club currently leads the Ligue 1 with ten titles, closely followed by PSG and Marseille with nine titles, respectively.
Aside from the Ligue 1, it has also won the Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, Trophée des Champions and Ligue 2.
Most of its honours were achieved in the 20th century in the 1960s and 1970s.
Lately, the club has faced ups and downs, which has affected its prominent status.
Monaco is one of the most successful teams in France and is currently one of the best teams in European football.
The Monaco based team holds an excellent record in French football history, although it is based outside France in the Principality of Monaco.
The club has won eight league titles and five Coupe de France trophies.
Finishing the 2013–14 season as runners up in the league, Monaco rival Paris Saint-Germain to win its first title in 17 years in 2016–17.
In the space of three seasons starting from the 2013–14 campaign, the club established a new rivalry with Paris Saint-Germain.
The football scene in the country used to be more competitive in the 20th century and early 21st century with top sides like Marseille, AS Saint-Étienne, Nantes competing for the total price.
Since the big-money takeover of some clubs by foreign investors, the local scene has shifted to be an almost one-sided affair.
Although there has been some level of competition lately, the tide still turns round big sides like Paris Saint-Germain, who have the financial firepower.
Football remains the most popular sport in the country. Top teams like Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Marseille, Lyon and AS Monaco boast international fans.
Today, PSG appears to be increasing in popularity within and outside France.
The most prominent French football derby is the Le Classique contested by PSG and Marseille. Other top rivalries are AS Saint-Étienne, Lyon, Nantes, and Monaco lately.
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