Renowned as being more negative than a pessimistic Radiohead fan, dowdy Ligue 1 may be in danger of morphing into a comely wench of a football championship if the pre-season aperitif, the Champions Trophy, is anything to go by.
Marseille slugged out a comic-book 5-4 win over champions Lille after trailing 3-1 with five minutes left, a game inevitably described by OM coach Didier Deschamps as "a great advert for French football", while L'Equipe licked its lips at the prospect of a new season that "we're now looking forward to with a re-doubled appetite and impatience."
Whether all 20 clubs will serve up a treat as tantalising as that of the season curtain-raiser, when the meat-and-two-veg of the campaign gets underway on August 6, is unlikely. However, the main players in the title race at least look well-armed to entertain. Since taking over at Lille, the apparently humourless Rudi Garcia has done most to reinvent the image of the defensive-minded French coach. Top-flight top scorers for the second successive season, Garcia's men were justly rewarded with the title. Garcia himself, though, was rewarded with seeing some of his best players shipped out in exchange for a wedge of cash. Already resigned to losing out-of-contract Adil Rami, the ex-Le Mans coach saw Yohan Cabaye and Gervinho nip over the Channel to Newcastle United and Arsenal respectively, and they were two players he would have hoped to hold onto given the rigours of the Champions League to come.
The club have done their homework in plugging the gaps, with ex-Le Mans and Lokomotiv Moscow centre-back Marko Basa, and Benoit Pedretti, who emerged from the doldrums with credit at Auxerre. They should be snug fits for Rami and Cabaye.
More question marks remain over Dimitri Payet - the ersatz Gervinho - who started last season with a bang but ended it with a whimper at Saint-Etienne. Like Gervinho did, Garcia will need Payet to come good and, as happened last season, for his second-string, such as Poland international Ludovic Obraniak and Brazilian forward Tulio de Melo, to make best use of the limited playing time afforded them if they are to sustain a title challenge. "We want to have a new adventure with a new squad," Garcia said. "It's true that we're not able to keep all our players for economic reasons, but we've anticipated that, and we're ambitious."
Lille have managed to retain last season's Ligue 1 leading goalscorer Moussa Sow - can he repeat his 25 goals? Jury still out - and, more importantly, their jewel in the crown, Eden Hazard. Not that the Belgian star has been able to lather on the sun cream on a distant beach without persistent speculation linking him to a move down the road to Paris Saint-Germain.
Such a story would have been dismissed out of hand last summer - a year on, PSG promise to not only become a major Ligue 1 force, but also threaten to equal if not surpass the stature they enjoyed in 1996 when they won the Cup Winners' Cup with the likes of Youri Djorkaeff, Rai and, er, Bruno N'Gotty. "They're now living on another planet," Arsene Wenger said last week ahead of the Emirates Cup. "They're the French Manchester City."
The reason PSG will soon be playing their pre-season tournaments on Mars rather than in London? Qatar Sport Investment, which acquired a 70% stake in PSG in June. Sheik Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, son to the Emir of Qatar, has his sights set on making PSG a major force, and he and his man on the ground, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, have started well. Not only have large wads of cash been thrown at the problem, they have been launched with surgical precision.
Having been coaxed into being the club's sporting director with the juicy carrot of doubling his salary, ex-PSG star Leonardo - yes, he speaks French fluently, too, isn't it sickening? - has used his Serie A contacts to bring Jeremy Menez in from Rome while Palermo goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, tipped to be 'the new Buffon', will compete with Nicolas Douchez, picked up on a free from Rennes, for the No. 1 spot.
In addition, perennial Arsenal target Blaise Matuidi has left Saint-Etienne and Momo Sissoko has quit Juventus to replace Claude Makelele in central midfield, and the excellent Kevin Gameiro, who looks tailormade to form a prolific 'Big man, little man' partnership with Guillaume Hoarau, has been netted from Lorient for a respectable €11 million. Ever the gentleman, Leonardo has even thrown coach Antoine Kombouare a bone in signing centre-back Milan Bisevac from Kombouare's old club Valenciennes.
The wish of Laurent Blanc to see more of his France squad playing on home soil ahead of Euro 2012 has played into PSG's hands - "In Ligue 1, and moreover at PSG, I'll perhaps be more in view than at Roma," Menez said - though Leonardo has also spectacularly reinforced ties with the Argentine national side by offering some €43 million for Palermo's Javier Pastore. The new owners have stated their wish to uncover 'the new Messi', but Pastore's soon-to-be-completed move makes him appear more like 'the new Ronaldinho'. However, the Brazilian, who joined PSG from Gremio in 2001, moved for €5 million and always saw PSG as a stepping stone - Pastore, who spent a week training with Saint-Etienne in 2006, is far costlier, but more than that, with the way the club has set out under their new owners, there may not be too many other places he will want to play his football in two years' time.
A pre-season defeat to New York Red Bulls suggests work is still 'in progress', but with no other top-flight team in a supporter catchment area of more than 11 million, PSG - appropriately for a club whose main sponsor is a Persian Gulf-based airline - appear set to take off.
It is a shame there was no place for PSG's now ex-club president Robin Leproux on the Qatari/Leonardo fur-lined, leather-upholstered, diamond-studded luxury bandwagon with the man who had the courage to take on the Parc des Princes hooligan element jettisoned - even if his anti-rabble rouser policy wasn't - for insisting in a newspaper interview that he "was still in charge".
So, not to be outdone by their arch-rivals, Marseille got rid of their president too over the summer, but it is only on the level of boardroom wrangling that they can compete with PSG with renovation work on the Stade Velodrome ahead of Euro 2016 meaning it - temporarily - even falls behind the Parc des Princes as Ligue 1's biggest venue. In the transfer market, the now massive gulf (no pun intended) between the pair looks like being more permanent, because while Leonardo has been eyeing exclusive designer labels, Deschamps has had to make do with off-the-peg purchases.
The man who teed up almost half Gameiro's 22 league goals last season, Morgan Amalfitano, has jumped ship at Lorient and docked at the Stade Velodrome where he will quickly discover passes to Loic Remy will bear more fruit than those to Andre-Pierre Gignac. Full-back Jeremy Morel, who will have to hope he will be forgiven for turning up to sign his contract wearing a T-shirt that resembles PSG's home kit, has made the same move, while promising Cameroon international centre-back Nicolas Nkoulou will be thankful to have been plucked from the mess that is Monaco.
Nkoulou and Morel should strengthen a back four that has been shorn of Gabriel Heinze and Taye Taiwo, while Brazilian Hilton, victim of a home-jacking last month, is taking his five-star name to Montpellier. Alou Diarra, OM's one bona-fide top-class purchase so far at a bargain €5 million, will form a stoic central midfield tandem with Benoit Cheyrou, though that pair's relative lack of creativity means Deschamps' main task will be to reinvigorate Lucho Gonzalez, under-par last season after a brilliant maiden Ligue 1 campaign, if the Argentine does not leave over the summer. Ironically, the whisper is he could replace Pastore at Palermo.
If the performance of the Ayew brothers - the progeny of former OM great Abedi Pele - in the Champions Trophy proves the norm, Deschamps may not have to worry too much about Lucho's indifferent form. Andre, who was probably OM's best player last season, struck a hat-trick, including two penalties won, admittedly dubiously, by his younger brother, Jordan. If they can function effectively with Amalfitano, and Remy can stay fit - or even Gignac find some form - OM are solid top-three material.
Once shoo-ins for the title, Lyon are unlikely to do any better than the third-place finish they managed last time round. They may, however, play some better football than they did under Claude Puel after bringing in the new 'Garde' by promoting ex-youth academy director and Arsenal midfielder Remi Garde to first-team coach.
While Puel continues to fight in the courts for the €5 million of the last year of his contract to be paid up, Garde has to pick up the pieces. The fact the un-cuddly Puel has left has instantly revived morale, but it will take more than goodwill for Garde to succeed. While the potentially catastrophic departure of Hugo Lloris appears to have been averted, Garde has to work out how to replace the midfield void that Jeremy Toulalan once filled, while also helping Yoann Gourcuff to remember how to play football. Glaringly ineffective after last summer's costly switch from Bordeaux, the latest 'new Zidane' faces a make-or-break season, which has already started on the wrong foot with an ankle operation disrupting his preparations.
The accompanying fluff of Ligue 1 may yet throw up some intriguing stories, with Francis Gillot, who enjoyed remarkable success in taking Sochaux to fifth last season, the man charged with giving Bordeaux a new gloss after Jean Tigana's comic reign, while the youthful promise Rennes showed in a boom-and-bust last campaign means the Breton club can again hope to challenge for a European place.
Such heady heights are unthinkable for newcomers Dijon and Evian, though they do boast as shareholders, Florent Malouda for the former, and World Cup winners Bixente Lizarazu and Alain Boghossian for the latter. Lizarazu ran naked through the halls of a high-class Evian hotel as part of a bet on whether the club would be promoted, though it's his investment that risks being undressed in their maiden top-flight season.