Ibra is the obvious star attraction when it comes to Ligue 1, but it is domestic talent that provides the best value for European clubs
After the plundering of Ligue 1’s vast talent pool this month, you’d be forgiven for thinking that France has no domestic promise left. However, there are still plenty of players rapidly developing big reputations that have stayed.
For how long we can’t be sure, but despite the Newcastle-inspired exodus, there are still a host of big names and upcoming French prospects who remain. Ligue 1’s academies are still producing plenty of exciting players, and with Paris Saint-Germain attracting superstar signings, you get the feeling that France’s top-flight teams are preparing to welcome another generation of domestic talent.
Aside from the obvious likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Paris Saint-Germain’s stellar collection of stars, there are players who have been developing at a steady rate for some time and now deserve their chance to shine at the head of Ligue 1’s class of 2013.
Here are the pick of the bunch.
Traore has become one of Ligue 1's star players with Lorient
Following his superb recent showings for Burkina Faso at the Cup of Africa Nations in South Africa, people are clamouring to find out more about Lorient’s Alain Traore. The 25-year-old is one of Ligue 1’s leading talents and has been for some time. Now he is getting a deserved opportunity to showcase his talent in Africa.
An attacking midfielder capable of playing up front or out wide, Traore rose to prominence with Auxerre, where he enjoyed a brief foray into the Champions League. His fantastic ball skills, speed of thought and movement and terrific shooting ability make him an explosive talent who quickly outgrew AJA’s surroundings. He joined the Burgundy outfit after failing to secure a move to Manchester United, and Ligue 1 is now benefiting from his presence.
Auxerre’s top scorer last season, Traore hit nine goals, most in the first half of the season. However, it was not enough, and AJA were relegated. Looking for better consistency, he joined ambitious Breton side Lorient, and he has managed to maintain his impressive form so far under coach Christian Gourcuff.
Gabonese star Aubameyang is coveted by a host of European sides
Last season was a breakout year for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After arriving at Saint-Etienne initially on loan, the Gabonese international exploded onto the domestic scene following his switch from wide man to striker.
A 16-goal haul followed, and he is already halfway there this season with eight. One of Ligue 1’s star attractions now, Auba has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs, most notably Newcastle. However, club and player rejected the opportunity and would prefer to consider his future in the summer (h/t ESPN).
The 23-year-old formerly of AC Milan has found himself a home with Les Verts after a host of loan moves that produced little consistency. Aubameyang has thrived since being converted into a striker by coach Christophe Galtier and is now one of Europe’s most sought-after prospects.
Fast, skillful, strong, with unerring consistency and an eye for goals be they simple or spectacular, the Gabon international is destined to play for one of Europe’s top sides once he leaves. But for now, he stays.
Alessandrini has been a revelation since joining Rennes at the start of this season from Ligue 2 outfit Clermont. It has been a breakout year for the 23-year-old, who is the Breton club’s top scorer with nine goals so far this season and has already been touted as France’s next big international star.
A classy player with a lethal left foot and an eye for goal, Alessandrini is a creative presence at the heart of Rennes’ return to European contention. Nine goals and four assists in 19 appearances for Frederic Antonetti’s men have made a mockery of suggestions that he might struggle adapting to top-flight football.
It's too early to consider a move from Rennes just yet given that he only arrived in the summer. Expect plenty of clubs to queuing up for his signature in a year’s time. Until then, he will continue to develop consistently and needs guaranteed first-team football to maintain a push for an international call-up that is surely not far away.
You will be hearing more of Alessandrini, now one of Ligue 1’s biggest names, in the near future.
Cabella is one of French football's hottest properties currently
One of France’s most talented youngsters in Ligue 1 right now is Montpellier Remy Cabella. Despite struggling to mount a successful title defence this season, La Paillade have succeeded in developing one of last season’s breakout stars. Now, the key for the 22-year-old is to maintain his current trajectory as he pushes for international recognition.
An important part of Rene Girard’s title-winning side as he regularly contributed from the bench, Cabella has stepped up this season to prove that he is worthy of a starting berth now. With no Olivier Giroud, the 22-year-old has contributed five goals to the MHSC cause and bagged himself five assists in 22 appearances as the team offset his absence.
Technically brilliant with a penchant for superb goals, deft touches, superb control and improving consistency, Cabella is at a key stage in his career, having usurped a number of other talents to be Montpellier’s outstanding talent. The next 12 months will be key for him in breaking into Didier Deschamps’ plans for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Gonalons is the young face of the new generation of Lyon's talent
It is often forgotten that Maxime Gonalons is just 23. He is already Lyon’s captain, a French international and has the experience of four seasons of first-team football under his belt. The holding midfielder came to the fore to replace Jeremy Toulalan when he left for Malaga and has not looked back since.
Everything about Gonalons, who is calm and composed on the ball, belies his age. Now, with so many of his OL teammates being sold by chairman Jean-Michel Aulas as Remi Garde focuses his side on youth, Gonalons is a key figure for Ligue 1.
Currently challenging Paris Saint-Germain for the title, Gonalons could experience his first league victory with the team at the end of the season, completing a meteoric rise to prominence. But for now, the midfielder is in the perfect place to ensure that he has the best chance possible to secure his ticket to Brazil in 2014.
Despite not making this initial list, a number of other talented stars are still plying their trade in Ligue 1. The Ayew brothers continue to be important at Marseille, whilst Nice’s revelation of the season, Valentin Eysseric, has attracted a lot of attention but just recently completed a permanent move to the Cote d’Azur.
Toulouse’s talented under-21 French international goal scorer Wissam Ben Yedder, Bastia’s exciting wide man Florian Thauvin and Saint-Etienne’s strong, athletic young defender Kurt Zouma all also deserve a mention.