Vintage season for Bordeaux
© AFP

Ending the season with an incredible run of 11 consecutive wins, Bordeaux stormed to their sixth French championship crown and their first in a decade. In doing so Laurent Blanc's high-achievers, who also lifted the French Champions Trophy and the League Cup earlier in the season, brought Lyon's seven-year domination of the domestic scene to an end. FIFA.com tells the story a breathless championship race that kept everyone guessing right up to the final whistle on the final day.

The newly crowned champions timed their title-winning run to perfection. Well placed throughout the season and making the most of the good fortune that every championship-winning side needs, Bordeaux were guided to success by playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, who was voted player of the season by his peers. With Gourcuff pulling the strings, Les Girondins produced some stirring attacking football without ever neglecting their defensive duties, an athletic and effective back-line helping them maintain their position in the leading pack.

Blanc's side showed their mettle on more than one occasion, battling against adversity to produce some memorable yet unlikely wins. Trailing 3-0 after 50 minutes against Monaco, they hit back to win 4-3 and claimed a remarkable 1-0 victory over Grenoble after being reduced to nine men.

They underlined their credentials with a 1-0 defeat of perennial champions Lyon, who, having seen the title slip from their grasp, turned kingmakers by defeating Marseille 3-1 with just three games remaining. That result opened the way for Bordeaux to complete their triumphant march to the title, and after taking over at the top with just two games to go they beat long-standing rivals Marseille to the tape.

Much like Barcelona's Josep Guardiola, who has just steered the Catalans to an amazing treble in his first season as coach, former FIFA World Cup™ winner Blanc has made a hugely impressive start to his new career on the touchline.

After guiding his side to the runners-up spot last season, the ex-central defender has collected three trophies in all this term, the result of the same cultured attacking style he himself advocated during his playing days. With Blanc overseeing operations from the bench and the prolific Gourcuff (12 goals and ten assists) in charge on the pitch, Bordeaux's next challenge is to translate their fine domestic form to the UEFA Champions League next season.

Finishing three points off the pace in second were Marseille, whose title bid was undone by their shaky home form. Despite the passionate support of their fans, Eric Gerets's men dropped some 22 points at the Stade Velodrome, including that damaging defeat to Lyon, while collecting 11 wins and suffering just one reverse on the road.

Despite their inconsistent form, the 1993 European champions achieved their objective of automatic qualification for the group phase of the Champions League, and with Blanc's FIFA World Cup-winning team-mate Didier Deschamps having now succeeded Gerets as coach, l'OM will hope to go one better next term.

Unaccustomed to finishing as low as third, Lyon can at least take solace from the fact they will be in the hat for the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Handicapped by a spate of injuries and their appetite for success perhaps dulled after achieving so much in recent years, the seven-time French champions now face a rebuilding programme. Topping their shopping list will be a new playmaker to replace Juninho Pernambucano and offer some support for front man Karim Benzema, who, like his team-mates, has enjoyed a mixed season.

The battle for the two UEFA Europa League places proved to be very tight, with three teams finishing on 64 points. Leading the trio with a goal difference of +18 were Toulouse, thanks in no small part to the revelation of the season, Andre-Pierre Gignac, who was the league's top scorer with 24 goals.

Rudi Garcia completed a fine first season in charge of Lille by leading them to fifth place. Brazilian midfielder Michel Bastos starred for the northerners, catching the eye with his free-kick skills and also topping the assists chart with 11 in all.

Missing out on Europe were Paris Saint-Germain, who trailed just one goal behind Lille in sixth and paid for their faltering form at the end of a season that had once looked so promising. Having failed to make the most of the metronomic consistency of the evergreen Claude Makelele, the Parisians will start yet another process of renewal next term, with Antoine Kombouare taking over as coach.

The struggle to avoid relegation proved just as intriguing as the title race. The first side to have their fate sealed were Le Havre, who were forced to sell off their talented youngsters to balance the books and ended the season with only 26 points to their name.

Nantes will be joining them in Ligue 2 despite having a far bigger budget at their disposal. The experienced Elie Baup struggled to generate the necessary team spirit as Les Canaris, unable to recreate the attractive style that once made them a force in the domestic game, ended a hugely disappointing season in disarray.

No side has won more French titles than Saint Etienne, but the ten-time champions endured an equally underwhelming campaign, only staving off relegation on the final day of a season that was supposed to bring a compelling push for European football.

Les Verts' last-day 4-0 defeat of Valenciennes proved fatal for Caen, whose 1-0 defeat to the new champions condemned them to second-division football. Ironically, the fateful goal was scored by their former youth product Yoan Gouffran. Taking the place of the three relegated teams are Lens, Montpellier and Boulogne-sur-Mer.

A total of 858 goals were scored throughout the season in Ligue 1, a healthy average of 2.26 per game. Statistics aside, Lyon's fall from grace generated renewed interest in a championship that had lost some of its appeal in recent years, particularly with the country's representatives failing to distinguish themselves in Europe.

Even as late as April there were still six sides in with a realistic chance of winning the title, and a further sign that the French top flight is in rude health was provided by the emergence of bright new talents such as Gourcuff, Gignac, Guillaume Hoarau and Moussa Sow and the continued good form of more established names, Mevlut Erding and Jimmy Briand among them.