2013 is set to be a breakout year for a number of Ligue 1 players and for others it could be a shot at redemption or recovery. France’s top-flight is brimming with young talent but a number of its' most promising stars have fallen by the wayside.
Coupled with an exciting crop of emerging players, those stars make Le Championnat an exciting prospect in this coming year.
With Paris Saint-Germain attracting some of the world’s top talent, domestic clubs producing plenty of home-grown players and sensible transfer policies sourcing some of the best business in Europe, let’s take a look at who to keep an eye out for in 2013.
2013 as a PSG fan was always going to start well. Having looked forward to the arrival of Brazilian starlet since the club announced his signing last summer, Lucas Moura's unveiling on January 1 could not have come soon enough.
Billed as one of the world’s most exciting young players and still only 20, Moura’s bold claims that he wants to become “number one” with the capital club will only increase the anticipation.
Not expected to be an immediate starter as he finds his feet in France, Lucas can rightly target next season as the campaign where he sets the league alight.
PSG have a history of sublime Brazilian talent and as Moura acknowledged in his unveiling, Samba stars percolate the club’s short but eventful history.
Listing Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rai as his football idols growing up, if he does become Brazil’s best player and eclipses them all, then the club's director of football, Leonardo, has snared a bargain despite his steep €45million price tag.
Nobody expected Romain Alessandrini to have the impact that he has had on Stade Rennes in his first six months when he arrived from Ligue 2’s Clermont last summer. Seven goals and four assists from 16 appearances later, and the 23-year old is one of the most talked about players going into 2013.
His form has been instrumental in Rennes' rise to fourth in the table despite a bleak preseason outlook, and his explosion onto the scene has not failed to capture the imagination of Ligue 1 fans around the country.
His brand of exciting, creative football that combines intricate technical ability with flamboyant style has put Alessandrini in place to become the new darling of French football. 2013 should serve as confirmation of his top billing as one of Ligue 1’s stars but more importantly, it will likely also bring international recognition.
Rennes have a history of being a selling club when their best players reach their peak. However, not all players get that move, Yann M’Vila being a prime example.
Alessandrini can expect to break into Les Bleus’ plans for Brazil 2014 and might be best advised waiting until after the competition to make a move. 2013 will be a pivotal year for him and no matter how good his performances are for the remainder of the season, he needs another year in Brittany at least to consolidate his reputation.
Lucas Digne, one of Ligue 1's most promising stars
Still only 19 years old, Lucas Digne’s early performances for Lille have earned him attention from a host of Europe’s top teams already.
The latest in a line of talented youngsters to come through the club's youth academy, Digne looks every inch a future French international.
His tireless work on the flanks and pinpoint crossing make him stand out from a number of other full-backs in the league and his emergence has been a rare highlight in an otherwise frustrating season for Les Dogues.
The 2011 champions face a fight to keep Digne on their books if they fail to secure some form of European football next season.
2013 promises to be a good year for Marco Verratti
2012 was a huge year for Marco Verratti but there is a feeling around PSG that the diminutive Italian may be trying to run before he can walk after dropping out of Carlo Ancelotti’s recent starting teams.
Verratti arrived on the same day that Zlatan Ibrahimovic landed in Paris, but he was greeted with a rather muted response. Although he hasn’t eclipsed by the Swede on the pitch, his early performances wowed the Parc des Princes faithful and suggested that his arrival should have been more celebrated.
It is obvious that PSG have a prodigious talent in their grasp, the problem is being able to nurture him to fully recognize his potential without burning the 20-year old out. Verratti has shown remarkable maturity for his young age but despite some superb early performances, he is still “naive” according to boss Carlo Ancelotti.
A loan move for the remainder of the season has been mooted. Like Lucas, expect Verratti to really come into his own next season.
Nicolas Isimat-Mirin's progress has not gone unnoticed
The start of the 2012-13 season for Valenciennes took everyone by surprise, including centre-back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, as the perennial strugglers charged up the table. The 21-year old who had quietly been cementing his place at the club in the previous two seasons was all of a sudden thrust into the spotlight with some fantastic early season performances.
The Paris native, a graduate of the renowned Clairefontaine youth academy and former Rennes youngster, has thrived in the less pressured surroundings of Valenciennes and is now part of a talented, but disciplined side.
His strong form has not gone unnoticed either, childhood favorite club PSG having been linked with a January swoop for the defender.
Perhaps a bit early to move to such a big club where competition will be fierce, Isimat-Mirin, who recently became a French under-21 international, would be well advised to stay put for the time being and continue to enhance his burgeoning reputation at the Stade du Hainaut. 2013 promises big things if he can maintain his form.
Like former teammate Isimat-Mirin, Foued Kadir has been one of the revelations of Valenciennes’ strong start to the season. With only a year left on his contract, Marseille pounced to force a cut-price deal so that VAFC don’t completely lose out.
The talented attacking midfielder has been instrumental in the club’s impressive form, bagging six goals and four assists in 18 appearances.
At 29 years old though, the chances of securing another move to a big club was not going to present itself again and Kadir has made the switch to Valenciennes’ Ligue 1 rivals.
Now playing for a side with similar creative outlets to himself, Kadir will be under pressure to replicate his VAFC form for OM to prove that his value for money was too good to miss out on.
2013 is set to be a big year for Wahbi Khazri whether he stays at Bastia or not.
The Corsicans' survival looks more likely with the signing of experienced veteran Mickael Landreau, but Khazri’s vital role in last season’s promotion and their good start to this campaign has brought him to the attention of a host of European clubs.
Bastia look unlikely to keep hold of the talented schemer if he continues his current form, having assisted five goals and scored three already this season.
A move to a bigger club within Ligue 1 would be a progressive one for the 21-year old as he continues to develop.
Saint-Etienne’s Kurt Zouma has enjoyed a whirlwind last 18 months, going from reserve team player to first team regular and still only being 18 years old.
Admired by a clutch of Europe’s top clubs who are already aware of his tremendous potential, Les Verts have been clever in using him sparingly to ensure that his development remains steady.
The strong centre-back is now a French under-19 international and future recognition for Les Bleus beckons.
However, to achieve this, Zouma will have to make one of Christophe Galtier’s starting defensive berths his own with Saint-Etienne before taking the next step in his career.
2013 promises more for Zouma than most, but he should be targeting a full year of first team football next season, having only started nine times this campaign.
One of this season’s undoubted revelations has been Toulouse’s prolific young striker Wissam Ben Yedder. Having only made a handful of substitute appearances the season before, nobody predicted that the 22-year old would have such an impact for Alain Casanova’s side.
However, the French under-21 international made light of suggestions that Toulouse would struggle going forward by bagging nine goals in 18 starts. His form has also put fellow striker Emmanuel Riviere in the shade.
Not in possession of depth up top, the side from the Pink City need to keep hold of Ben Yedder if they are to fulfill the promise of a team comprised of talents such as Etienne Capoue, Moussa Sissoko, Franck Tabanou and Aymen Abdennour.
The team need Ben Yedder to keep finding the net to move them back up the table, but a recent slip has seen them start to plummet towards the relegation zone after a bright start.
Involved in the incident that led to M’Vila’s international ban, there are now question marks over the player’s attitude. A strong finish to the season will likely see Ben Yedder earn international acclaim as well as banishing those unsavory memories.
Given that it is his first season in Toulouse’s starting eleven though, 2013 will be a success for Ben Yedder if he retains his place in the team’s lineup, helps lead them to respectable league position and continues his scoring form into next season. Despite his talent, it is still too early to think about a move given the potential within the team.
Gameiro is determined to enjoy success with PSG before leaving
Despite being on the periphery at Paris Saint-Germain a lot of the time, Kevin Gameiro never seems short of potential suitors. A mooted move to Liverpool in January has been quashed by his admission to RMC Radio that he would like to stay in Paris until at least the end of the season.
Despite his lack of regular playing time, the French international remains a lethal predator when given a chance. Five goals in 12 appearances is a good return for the 25-year old who has struggled once again with injuries this season.
Although he could never expect to oust Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Carlo Ancelotti’s starting eleven, his determination to contribute to domestic success is admirable.
However, Gameiro is not naive and accepts that if he is to fulfill his considerable talent then he will need to leave Parc des Princes. 2013 is a big year for the striker who needs a strong finish to the season before moving if he wants to get back into Les Bleus’ contention for Brazil.
Yann M'Vila needs to rebuild his reputation in 2013
One man who won’t be in contention for Brazil is Rennes’ Yann M’Vila. The 22-year old has endured 12 months to forget in 2012 after the start of the year promised so much with the European Championships and a big money move awaiting.
With his reputation now in tatters, banned from international football until after the 2014 World Cup and still at Rennes after interest in his signature dried up, M’Vila has a lot of doubters to win over.
Back in the fold for his club, 2013 offers M’Vila a shot at redemption and his form alongside that of Romain Alessandrini will be key to whether the Breton club can achieve European qualification.