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15 Best Ligue 1 Teams of All Time

The old French 1st division was first inaugurated in 1932, two years after France legalized professional soccer. It only changed its name to Ligue 1 in 2002. I look at the entire history of the league in choosing its 15 best teams.

I ranked these 15 clubs on their performance over the last 90 years to mix things up a little. These teams are ranked primarily on the percentage of games and titles they have won.

15. Toulouse FC

  • Win Percentage: 33%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 0

Since 1937, the club has been playing at the Municipal Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 33,000 spectators and is also a famous rugby union venue. In 2008, they qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time after winning the Coupe de France.

Known as the Tefece, Toulouse’s team regularly competes with Bordeaux’s team, the Girondins de Bordeaux, in the Derby de la Garonne. Among their most famous and celebrated players are Wissam Ben Yedder, Pantxi Sirieix, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Etienne Didot, Moussa Sissoko, and Daniel Congre. 

14. FC Metz

  • Win Percentage: 33%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 0

In 1932-33, FC Metz participated in the first French professional championship, founded out of Cercle Athlétique Messin. Their first appearance in the Coupe de France final came in 1938 when they lost to Olympiacos de Marseille 2-1 in extra time at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Up until relegation from the top tier in 1958, they were mostly a top-flight club, although they rarely reached the top echelons of the league.

The club rose to prominence as Carlo Molinari became its president in 1967, a post he would hold for more than 30 years, overseeing Metz’s rise from a provincial club to a serious player in the French game.

13. RC Strasbourg

  • Win Percentage: 34%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 1

They have been playing at the Stade de la Meinau since 1914, which can hold nearly 30,000 spectators. The team has won the Coupe de France three times and the league title once. Strasburg, also known as Le Racing, has a local rivalry with Metz, with whom they compete in the Derby de l’Est. 

Several notable players have been part of the team, including Corentin Martins, Dominique Dropsy, Guillaume Lacour, Pascal Johansen, Oskar Rohr,  Pascal Camadini, and Jean-Christophe Devaux. During their only league title season, Gilbert Gress served as the team’s head coach.

12. Stade Rennais FC

  • Win Percentage: 35%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 0 

Rennes was an essential club in Brittany early in their history, becoming French champions three times in their first decade. In the first Cup de France final, the club lost 2-0 to Red Star. For the first time in their history, they competed in a French professional league in 1932-33. 

For nearly six decades, they were a stalwart of the league without causing much of an impact. A young Paul Le Guen led the team to fifth place in 1998, the highest finish since 1965, when one of France’s richest men, François Pinault, became the majority shareholder. In the 2019-2020 season, they finished third. 

11. RC Lens

  • Win Percentage: 36%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 1

Founded in 1906 as Racing Club Lensois, the name pays homage to Racing Club de France, best known for rugby union side Racing 92 from the Paris region, but which for some time was among French soccer’s top sides.

RC Lens’ history as a heavy industry town is vital to understanding the city. When Lens became a coal-mining center in the mid-19th century, it attracted coal mining soccer players from all over Europe. It remained a French soccer powerhouse for over 100 years until the last mines closed down in the 1980s.

10. FC Sochaux

  • Win Percentage: 36%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 2

Some might wonder why this club is on the list, much less in the top 10, when they haven’t won a title in over 80 years.

Until they were relegated to Ligue 2 at the end of the 2013-14 season, FC Sochaux-Montbéliard was one of France’s iconic clubs, viewed by many as sleeping giants. In the 1934–35 season, Sochaux captured its first league title, finishing one point ahead of Strasbourg, way back in 1935.

Having floated between the first and second divisions in the 1990s, Sochaux returned to the top tier in the new millennium. In each of the club’s first three seasons back, they finished in the top ten. Following an influx of funds from Chinese business interests, fortunes are expected to turn around. 

9. OGC Nice

  • Win Percentage: 37%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 4

When the French soccer league was founded in 1932, OGC Nice was one of the original twenty members. GC Nice has won four national championships as well as three Coupe de France titles.

Champions of the French League for the first time in 1951. In 1952, the club won its first Coupe de France. In 2013, the club played its first game at Allianz Riviera. Despite not having won the title in 60 years, they remain one of the best clubs in France. 

8. Lille OSC

  • Win Percentage: 38%
  • Ligue 1 Title: 4

Olympic Lillois was also the first professional team in France to win a championship in 1933 and reached the final of the Coupe de France in 1939. Lille’s decade of lasting success has resulted in two league titles, five Coupes de France.

The new Stade Pierre-Mauro stadium is located in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, on the outskirts of Lille. It has a capacity of 50,083. The academy and youth development have been major contributors to their recent success. Eden Hazard is one of its most famous graduates.

7. FC Nantes

  • Win Percentage: 42%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 8

The style of play that Nantes adopted paved the way for Didier Deschamps, Claude Makelele, and Marcel Desailly to flourish. Founded in 1943 as a merger between five local clubs, Nantes has become one of French soccer’s most iconic teams. 

The club became a professional club and entered the second division in 1945. Jose Arribas, who began a dynasty that still influences the club today, led the club to its first of eight league titles in 1965 after being promoted to the top flight in 1962-63.

6. AS Saint-Étienne

  • Win Percentage: 43%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 10

Currently anchored to the bottom of the league, you would be forgiven for not knowing, Saint Etienne was once the king of French soccer. In 1931, Saint-Etienne’s home was named after Geoffroy Guichard, the founder of the Casino supermarket chain.

French soccer’s famed club, whose green shirt is one of the most iconic in Europe and whose glorious history ensures they remain one of the best-supported sides in the country. During the early 1960s and early 1980s, Snella helped the club dominate the French game for more than two decades.

5. Girondins Bordeaux

  • Win Percentage: 43%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 6

One of France’s most successful clubs, Girondins de Bordeaux, has been of the country’s most successful teams for decades. Despite the club’s origins being a gymnastics club founded in 1881, the soccer section did not begin until 1910, lasted for a season, and was revived in 1919.

The club’s first match in 1920 ended in a humiliating 12-0 defeat, an inauspicious start for a club that is among the best in France with six Ligue 1 titles to their name. The Girondins turned professional in 1937 and won the L1 title in their first season after promotion to the top flight.

They make this list of the best clubs in France as they have consistently delivered titles for different generations of their fans. 

4. Olympique Lyon

  • Win Percentage: 43%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 7

Olympic Lyonnais was founded in 1950, but the club’s roots date to the late 19th century. In the first decade of the new millennium, Olympique Lyon was a dominant force winning seven consecutive league titles – the longest winning streak in any of the most significant soccer leagues in Europe.

There was a time when the words “Lyon” and “Gerland” (their old stadium) were practically synonymous with “French soccer” in the first decade of this century.

3. Olympique Marseille

  • Win Percentage: 44%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 10

The Olympiade de Marseille ranks among the most successful clubs in the history of Ligue 1. OM(for short) is one of the most iconic clubs in Europe and the first French team to win a continental title.

Marseille is one of the only current top-flight clubs featured in the 1932-33 campaign, the first professional season in France, and the first of their nine league titles followed in 1937.

Without a title in over a decade, mainly due to the money that flowed into Paris, it’s only a matter of time before OM rise again. 

2. AS Monaco

  • Win Percentage: 45%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 8

Since their establishment in 1897, they have played their home matches at the legendary Stade Louis II. Though not part of France, Monaco’s principality did not hinder AS Monaco FC (Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club) from becoming one of the most respected names in French soccer. 

They have won several Ligue 1 championships and Coupe de France trophies and reached the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup and 2004 Champions League finals. 

1. Paris Saint-Germain

  • Win Percentage: 47%
  • Ligue 1 Titles: 9

PSG was formed in 1970 by combining Stade Saint-Germanois, first founded in 1904, 

During the last decade, the club’s unprecedented success was attributed to a relatively recent cash injection.

With six league titles, four Coupes de France, and five Coupes la Ligue won under the management of Laurent Blanc, Unai Emery, and Thomas Tuchel, they have significantly bolstered the Parc des Prince’s trophy cabinet.