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Great french teams: ranking the biggest and most successful clubs in France

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French soccer teams in the early years were dominant in top competitions like the European Cup and Cup Winners’Cup. Teams like FC Nantes and AS Saint-Étienne were the biggest names in the domestic scene.

 

However, change in the tide movement witnessed the emergence of Olympique Marseille, which held a substantial portion of the soccer scene in France over decades.

 

With the start of the new century, Olympique Lyonnais, based in the finest Lyon city, rose to the ranks as the leading club of the early 21st century.

 

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The revival of Paris Saint-Germain, which also had a reputable name in the early years, changed the face of French soccer following heavy investment from investors.

 

PSG’s ability to attract some of the best players in Europe has been one of the significant factors that have consistently attracted the international audience to the French top division.

 

At some point, AS Monaco, with their talented sets of young players, ruled France amid solid competition from Paris Saint-Germain, although Monaco was another successful side in the 1960s and 1980s.

 

Today, French soccer teams are some of the biggest in the world.

 

The French Ligue 1 (previously Division 1) represents the best teams in French soccer.

Today, Ligue 1 is considered one of the best in football, so there’s no way you could rule out the country as a top destination. The league is contested by 20 teams across the country, with the two bottoms placed teams automatically relegated to the Ligue 2.

 

Ranking the biggest and most successful French soccer teams

 

1. Paris Saint-Germain

Parc des Princes / PSG-Ajaccio / 6 mai 2006“Parc des Princes / PSG-Ajaccio / 6 mai 2006” by psgmag.net is licensed under CC BY 2.0cc iconcc by icon

PSG is currently the most successful team in France, with over 40 official trophies across major competitions.

 

Although PSG’s dominance has been on the home front, the Parisians are among the only two French soccer teams to have won European silverware.

 

Since the takeover by Qatar Investment Authority, the club has enjoyed huge backing in terms of finance which has helped it to secure some of the biggest names in world football.

 

Paris Saint-Germain was founded in 1970 following the merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain but could not record real progress.

 

PSG won the French Cup and Division 1 in 1982 and 1986 to stay afloat in the top cadre.

 

In the 1990s, the Parisians won three French Cups, two French League Cups, two French Super Cups and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996, ranking the club as one of the most successful teams. Despite these achievements, the club suffered a decline and could not compete with other top clubs in the top division.

 

But after the early 2000s, a new phase in the club’s history emerged when it was revived in 2011 following the takeover by Qatar Investment Authority.

 

As things stand, Paris Saint-Germain is the first French men’s soccer team to win the domestic treble and the domestic quadruple on multiple occasions. The club’s fine run lately makes it the most popular football club in France and one of the most widely supported in the world.

 

The ‘Le Parisiens’ are currently the wealthiest football club in France and one of the richest in the world.

 

Trophies and Achievements

 

Division 1/ Ligue 1

PSG’s most successful period in division 1 was in the 1990s when it won the league title in 1993–94 and was runners up in 1992–93, 1995–96, and 1996–97.

 

Following the club’s revival in 2011, they went on to win four consecutive titles in 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15, and 2015–16.

 

The Red and Blue have ten league titles, equalling AS Saint-Étienne initial record.

 

Coupe de France

Even though there was a decline in the country’s top division, PSG recorded a massive victory in the French Cup.

 

From 1980 to 1990, PSG won five Cup titles.

 

Although there was little or no impact in the French top flight, the club managed to record victories in Coupe de France with over nine titles from 2004 to date.

With 14 Cup titles, PSG is the record winner of the French Cup.

 

Coupe de la Ligue

Currently defunct, PSG has won a record nine League Cups.

 

Trophée des Champions

The club also leads as record winners with ten Super Cup titles.

International

PSG won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995–96.

 

PSG rivalry

Le Classique – PSG vs Olympique de Marseille

PSG vs Olympique Lyonnais

PSG vs AS Monaco

ALSO READ: List of the biggest french soccer rivalries

 

2. Olympique Marseille

File:FC Salzburg gegen Olympique Marseille (28. September 2017) 23.jpg“File:FC Salzburg gegen Olympique Marseille (28. September 2017) 23.jpg” by Werner100359 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0cc iconcc by iconcc sa icon

Olympique de Marseille was a dominant force from the 1970s to the 1990s.

 

Marseille became the first and only French club to win the UEFA Champions League in 1992–93, previously the European Cup.

 

The club has spent most of its entire history in the top tier. Marseille has won ten league titles, ten Coupe de France and three Coupe de la Ligue.

 

Beating AC Milan in the 1992–93 UEFA Champions League final was the biggest in the club’s history in any international football competition.

 

In terms of popularity, revenue and infrastructure, Marseille and PSG are the two best teams in the country.

 

Trophies and Achievements

 

Ligue 1

Olympique Marseille has won ten Ligue 1 titles and was runners up in thirteen seasons.

Marseille’s most successful period was the 1970s and 1990s.

 

Coupe de France

Marseille is a ten-time winner of the French Cup.

 

Coupe de la Ligue and Trophée des Champions

The Marseille-based club has won three titles in each competition.

 

International

Olympique de Marseille became the first French team to win the UEFA Champions League following the defeat of Italian giants AC Milan in 1992–93.

 

Marseille has been runners up in the UEFA Europa League three times.

 

Olympique de Marseille rivals

 

Le Classique – Olympique Marseille vs Paris Saint-Germain

The Le Classique is the biggest football rivalry in French football. Enormous resources back PSG whilst Marseille is a corporate entity.

 

Choc des Olympiques – Marseille vs Lyon

Often referred to as the clash of the Olympics, the two clubs are among the biggest sides in the country.

 

3. AS Saint-Étienne

 

AS Saint-Étienne is one of the most successful French soccer teams. The club had its most successful period in the 1960s and 1970s when it won a record eight league titles in fifteen years.

 

Saint-Étienne had the best hands in the French soccer division led by Jean Snella, Albert Batteux, and Robert Herbin.

 

Trophies and Achievements

Division 1 / Ligue 1

All Saint-Étienne league titles in France were achieved in the Division 1 era.

Since the league was rebranded as Ligue 1, the club is yet to register a single title.

 

Saint-Étienne was the biggest football club in France from the 1960s to the 1970s.

 

Coupe de France

The club has won six French Cup titles.

Coupe de la Ligue and Trophée des Champions

Monaco has won the League Cup once and five in the Super Cup.

 

International

AS Saint-Étienne reached the 1975–76 European Cup final.

 

AS Saint-Étienne Rivals

 

Derby Rhône-Alpes: AS Saint-Étienne vs Olympique Lyonnais

 

4. AS Monaco

Association Sportive de Monaco represents the autonomous Monaco region in French football. Known for its fame and rich social culture, Monaco is one of the most prominent places to visit.

 

It might also interest you to know that AS Monaco sits right inside the famous autonomous region of France. The club is one of the biggest football clubs in France historically and with a strong pedigree in the modern era.

 

The Monégasques have won eight Ligue 1 titles and five Coupe de France trophies.

In European competitions, Monaco is also one of the most consistent sides. AS Monaco was runners-up in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992 and the UEFA Champions League in 2004.

 

Trophies and Achievements

Ligue 1

AS Monaco won eight league titles

 

Coupe de France

Monaco’s most successful period in the French Cup was in the 1960s, with concurrent wins in the 1970s, 80s and the 1990s.

In total, the Principality club has won five French Cup trophies.

 

Trophée des Champions and Coupe de la Ligue

Monaco has won four French Super Cups and one League Cup.

 

5. Olympique Lyonnais

PISCINE DE LYON“PISCINE DE LYON” by marsupilami92 is licensed under CC BY 2.0cc iconcc by icon

Olympique Lyonnais was the most successful team in the early 21st century.

In 2002, the club started a national record-setting streak of seven successive titles yet to be matched by any other club in the division.

 

ALSO READ: Biggest football clubs in Germany

Lyon is one of the most successful teams, having won seven league titles, five Coupes de France, eight Trophée des Champions, and three Ligue 2 titles.

 

Lyon is also one of the most popular football clubs in France, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Marseille and AS Monaco.

 

Nicknamed ‘Les Gones’, the club have a long-standing rivalry with AS Saint-Étienne and Marseille, with whom they contest the Choc des Olympiques.

 

Olympique Lyonnais actively participates in major European competitions like the UEFA Champions League.

 

Trophies and Achievements

Ligue 1

Lyon had won seven titles starting in 2002 when it achieved the national record of seven successive wins.

 

Coupe de France

Lyon is a five-time winner of the French Cup trophy. The Lyon based club won their first-ever Cup trophy in 1963–64.

 

Lyon Rivals

Lyonnais have established rivalries with Marseille, Bordeaux, Paris Saint-Germain and Lille.

 

6. Bordeaux

FC Girondins de Bordeaux was the most successful team in the early years of French football. The club had more success in the Division in the 1980s and the early 90s.

 

In total, Girondins de Bordeaux has won six French league titles, four Coupe de France, three Coupe de la Ligue and three Trophée des Champions.

 

Bordeaux’s most successful outing in the 21st century was in the French League Cup, where it won three titles in 2001–02, 2006–07 and 2008–09.

 

Bordeaux was a household name in French and on the international stage.

 

Rivals

Bordeaux has two main rivalries. They contest the Derby de la Garonne with Toulouse FC and the de l’Atlantique with FC Nantes.

 

7. FC Nantes

BHA v FC Nantes pre season 03 08 2018-526.jpg“BHA v FC Nantes pre-season 03 08 2018-526.jpg” by jamesboyes is licensed under CC BY 2.0cc iconcc by icon

Football Club de Nantes were a dominant force in the early years of French football.

During the early years, FC Nantes established a unique style of play in the domestic scene, which attracted interest all over the country.

 

Nantes become a dominant force in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Known as FC Nantes Atlantique, the club had already established itself as a significant force in the country following the development of the youth academy where the jeu à la nantaise (“Nantes-style play”) began.

 

Nantes was formed during the World W4R 2 following the merger of several clubs, and as a result, it was referred to as FC Nantes Atlantique from 1992 to 2007.

 

Trophies and Achievements

FC Nantes have won all major French soccer trophies. The 1960 and the 1970s were the most successful period in the club’s history.

 

Ligue 1

As FC Nantes Atlantique, the La Maison Jaune won back to back league one titles in 1964–65 and 1965–66.

 

Seven years later, Nantes picked up their third league title with just five points above second-place Nice.

 

In ten years, FC Nantes won four titles. However, the next ten seasons were full of ups and downs, without a league title until 1995.

The Yellow House has also won three French Cup titles.

 

Coupe de la Ligue and Trophée des Champions

Nantes have won the Coupe de la Ligue once and the Trophée des Champions three times.

 

Internationally in European competitions, FC Nantes also have some good memories. In 1995–96, the club reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

 

8. Lille

Lille Olympique Sporting Club won the 2020/2021 French Ligue 1 title despite tough competition from Paris Saint-Germain.

 

The Les Dogues are one of the most successful teams in the history of French soccer, having won all major domestic trophies.

 

Founded in 1944, the club rose to prominence in 1946 and continued with it until 1956.

Lille was the product of the merger of Olympique Lillois and SC Fives in 1944.

 

ALSO READ: The french youth empire – know the best football academies

Outside the French Division 1, Lille has over six trophies in the French Cup. In 2004, the club won the UEFA Intertoto Cup, becoming one of few French teams to win European silverware.

 

2019- present

Lille gradually became a hub for young players in France. The club had already sold some of its best legs between 2019 and 2020.

 

However, the club started on a bright note and continued to build on it by capitalising on mistakes from Paris Saint-Germain to finish the 2020/2021 season as Champions of the league.

 

This was a fairytale performance from Lille since the club last enjoyed success in the 2010–11 French Cup final.

 

Trophies and Achievements

Lille historically is one of the most outstanding teams in the country, having won all major domestic competitions.

 

Ligue 1

The club won two league titles in its most successful period in 1945–46 and 1953–54.

 

In the 2010–11 season, Lille claimed the double following their triumph in the League and Cup.

 

In the 2020/2021 season, the club surprised many with their outstanding performance to lift the Ligue 1 title at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain, who had the best legs in the division.

 

Coupe de France & Europe

Lille has won six French Cup titles, including the double in 2011 and 2004. The club won the UEFA Intertoto Cup.

As one of the most notable clubs in the country, Lille contest some of the biggest rivalries in French football.

 

Over the years, the club has established some long-standing rivalry in the country, which has also stood.

 

The Derby du Nord: Lille vs RC Lens

This is more of a geographical derby. Lille is situated in Nord, while RC Lens are in Pas-de-Calais.

 

9. Reims

Stade de Reims is one of the most successful clubs in French football historically. The club has amassed six Ligue 1 titles, two Coupe de France trophies, and five Trophée des champions titles.

 

Although Reims have struggled since the beginning of the 21st century, they’re still one of the most respected in the country.

 

Reims finished as runners-up in the 1956 and 1959 editions of the European Cup, becoming one of the most outstanding French teams in major European competitions, along with Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille.

 

At the time, the club was honoured as it became the backbone of the French Men’s National Team.

 

10. OGC Nice

Olympique Gymnaste Club Nice Côte d’Azur is one of the most famous clubs in France.

 

Nice, along with nineteen clubs across France, formed the professional Division.

 

Historically, Nice is one of the most successful teams in France, having won the Ligue 1 four times, Coupe de France three times and one Trophee des Champions.

 

Worthy mentions in french football historically

 

12. RC Paris

13. Red Star

14. Sochaux

15. AJ Auxerre

16. Rennes

17. Strasbourg

 

French soccer teams have been outstanding, from Olympique Marseille, which conquered Europe, to Paris Saint-Germain, currently a household name in world football.

I'm a sports enthusiast, love writing about football. I have been writing about top teams in Europe, the Premier League and La Liga.

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