Here are the top 20 Ligue 1 summer transfer targets.
The French League is one of the most frequently scouted leagues for Europe’s elite clubs.
French Football Weekly's Andrew Gibney explained to Christopher Atkins how English Premier League clubs consistently poach Ligue 1’s best talents (via ESPN FC):
The money in the English game means that they can easily entice players from France who are playing in the Champions League or Europa League. They are just happy to be going to the Premier League, it doesn't really matter which team. It's an opportunity.
Season So Far: Broken would be a word to describe Yoann Gourcuff's 2012-13 season, who has only played 38.5 percent of Lyon's Ligue 1 games.
With his hands over his face and his back on the floor, Gourcuff probably thought "Not again..." as he awaited medical treatment during the second game of the season against Troyes.
He had done his medial collateral ligament after only 12 minutes of playing time. It would be two months and 18 days before he played another league game.
His replacement that day was Clément Grenier, who has since become OL's No. 10 and has shown enough promise for the club to say au revoir to Monsieur Gourcuff.
Grenier one explanatory factor behind Yoann Gourcuff's sad decline. Every time Gourcuff gets injured, Grenier steps up and shines.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) February 21, 2013
Current Transfer Situation: Olympique Lyonnais are planning on doing a fire sale. Twelve players aged 17-23 have made at least one league appearance for Rémi Garde in the current campaign.
What does this mean for the French club?
President Jean-Michel Aulas wants cheap, ambitious and young players.
This gives the club a renewed sense of youth, it cuts the payroll and it enables JMA to sell high as he did with Michael Essien, Karim Benzema, Mahamadou Diarra, Florent Malouda, Steve Marlet, etc.
The misfit in this policy is Gourcuff, whose transfer value has plummeted to an all-time low. He commands substantial wages, has no form and is injury-prone.
This version of Gourcuff shouldn't even be put in the same sentence as Koke, who has superstar potential.
Season So Far: Kurt Zouma has been steady when he's played for Saint-Étienne, but he hasn't shown the dominance Marquinhos has exhibited for Roma.
Though, it must be noted that they are two different types of centre-backs, with Marquinhos being the more proactive, hence why it's easier to notice him.
Kurt's troublesome ankle has given a mediocre defender in Moustapha Sall playing time.
The Senegalese international has noted concentration problems.
One example is when he mistimed a clearance, which led to Gaëtan Courtet scoring Stade Reims' equaliser in a 1-1 draw.
Moustapha has been bailed out on numerous occasions by the excellent Loïc Perrin, one of Ligue 1's best defenders right now, and a reliable goalkeeper in Stéphane Ruffier.
Zouma was an unused subbed at Reims and was left out of the matchday squad in the 3-0 win over Nancy.
He'll win back his starting position, presuming Sall continues to play this way.
Current Transfer Situation: Zouma has extended his contract to 2017 (per Asse.fr via Sky Sports), handing Les Verts control over his future.
This is a great idea because he'll be starting alongside a seasoned pro like Perrin, who isn't just a great CB, but also a leader of men.
In the next few years, Kurt needs to aim high, make multiple Ligue 1 Team of the Years, win the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award, receive the highest rating awarded by L'Équipe to a defender and be a mainstay in the French senior national team.
Once he has achieved that, he'll be ready for club of the highest quality like Manchester United.
Kurt Zouma; Are you Rio in disguise? cantheyscore.com/2013/01/25/kur…— Tom Coast (@sardinetrawler) January 25, 2013
Season So Far: Samuel Umtiti has finally solidified a role in the starting XI.
Cris moving to Galatasaray (he's now back in Brazil with Grêmio), Dejan Lovren having a few mind-snaps and Bakari Koné not impressing (though, he was excellent at the Africa Cup of Nations) were factors in Umtiti receiving a chance at centre-back from Rémi Garde.
Mouhamadou Dabo's iffy displays at left-back have also allowed Samuel a run at LB.
Despite scoring that golazo, Umtiti doesn't offer much going forward, and he certainly is no Benoît Trémoulinas.
Samuel has been good throughout this season, but he needs to show more.
Current Transfer Situation: OL will want Umtiti to stay. He's only 19, but defenders in the past have left for bigger clubs at a similar age.
Mikaël Silvestre traded Rennes for Inter Milan at just 20 years old.
Umtiti's compatriot Massadio Haïdara, 20, joined the French revolution at Newcastle United even though he wasn't guaranteed a starting position.
It would be beneficial to Samuel's development if he remained with Lyon.
Reports emerging from France that Milan are monitoring Lyon's 19-year old defender, Samuel Umtiti. Inter and Juve are also interested.— AC Milan News (@Milanello) February 22, 2013
Season So Far: Étienne Capoue is WhoScored's third highest rated player, which is slightly odd because he hasn't actually played that well.
He still attempts too many risky passes, hence why he gives away the ball 36.9 percent of the time he tries a long-ball.
Étienne should be racking up the tackles like he did against Valenciennes—seven in one game—but he averages a modest 2.1 tackles per game (70 players in the league have a higher average than EC).
At times, he leaves gaping holes behind him trying to score goals when he needs to exercise more positional discipline.
Whilst he isn't struggling as much as Moussa Sissoko did for Les Violets, scouts will inevitably start to think: "I just don't see it from Étienne. But, I love that right-back."
His name is Serge Aurier, and he is crunching opposing players with vicious (but fair) tackles—the type of enforcing Capoue should be doing.
Current Transfer Situation: Capoue wanted to leave the club last summer but wasn't sold.
Unlike Yann M'Vila, who just imploded after Rennes didn't sell him in the summer, Étienne has still played at a respectable level.
Capoue then tried to force Toulouse's hand by again announcing his intentions to leave in January, but the French international is still a TFC player.
Etienne Capoue still on Arsenal's radar this summer - as is a striker - but Wenger committed to core of squad telegraph.co.uk/sport/football…— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) February 7, 2013
Season So Far: Younes Belhanda is the reigning Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year, who played an integral part in Montpellier's league success last season.
People were expecting an Eden Hazard-esque season from Younes, but MHSC didn't replace Olivier Giroud, the club have been in free fall and Belhanda has been spending most of his time mulling over his next destination.
Younes was blunt, as usual, when explaining why Montpellier have been such a disappointment (via Ian Holyman at ESPN FC):
There were some departures and arrivals, but that upheaval doesn't explain everything, notably our attitude, which wasn't the same as last year when, even if we weren't playing well, we were able to shut up shop and win 1-0.
Just as in our recent games against Saint-Etienne and Rennes, you'd say that we've let ourselves go. We've gone soft after becoming champions.
As Olivier left, and no strikers were coming in, I said to myself I had to do something for the team.
Looking back, I can see that wasn't the solution. I have to rely on the team, and work with my team-mates.
At times, I want to make the difference. I complicate my life, but I haven't lost my game
Belhanda hasn't shown anything that would entail a big club signing him over the likes of Max Kruse, Ivan Rakitić and Hiroshi Kiyotake.
G = goal/s; SPG = shots per game; A = assist/s; SCPG = shots created per game; CDPG = completed dribbles per game
Current Transfer Situation: Belhanda was set to join Fenerbahçe in January, but the deal collapsed (per Fenerbahce.org via Goal.com): "Due to the constant change in demands from both the club and player, we have decided to withdraw from negotiations."
Montpellier's colourful president Louis Nicollin was called out in a publicity stunt gone wrong when Inter Milan claimed Nicollin had fabricated a transfer bid for Belhanda (from Sky Sports): "We don't like to contradict Montpellier's president, but Inter have never presented him with an offer for Younes Belhanda."
If manager René Girard decides to leave, it could give Younes the perfect excuse to force a transfer away in the summer.
Season So Far: Lisandro López is frustrated with being played out of position and club advisor Bernard Lacombe is frustrated that López is frustrated.
Lacombe described Lisandro's behaviour as "bloody annoying" (per Ian Holyman at ESPN FC).
The Argentine wants to be Lyon's No. 9, but Bafétimbi Gomis has spent the large majority of the season playing that role.
When López was given a chance to play as a centre forward against Lorient, he scored, and throughout the season, he's been serviceable from a wide position, considering his negative state of mind.
Current Transfer Situation: Lisandro has voiced his displeasure throughout the campaign, he gave up captaincy and was set to join Juventus on loan, only for Lyon to say no, to which his agent contacted Tottenham Hotspur as a rebound...
L'Equipe reporting #THFC want Lisandro Lopez on loan, but Lyon - who've already turned down Juventus - will only accept permanent deal— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) January 31, 2013
The writing is on the wall: López will move on from OL during the summer transfer window.
Season So Far: Would there be so much focus on André Ayew if he wasn't the son of Abedi Pele? No.
André is supposed to be a provider, but he has taken 40 more shots himself than shots created for his teammates in league play.
His 9.1 shots per league goal and his 49 percent shot accuracy are not efficient enough to justify his high-volume shooting.
He has shown his selflessness in tracking opposing players, which is why it's puzzling that he's so selfish in the final third.
With the footballing and fashion world eagerly awaiting David Beckham's Ligue 1 debut against Marseille, it was the perfect "look at me" opportunity for André, but he didn't rise to the occasion.
Current Transfer Situation: Ayew is not starting material for one of Europe's major clubs whilst also being too good for a mid-tier club.
Why leave Marseille?
Season So Far: Nicolas N'Koulou has the attributes to be an elite centre-back: excellent passer, great at intercepting passes and has a cool head.
Though there is a red flag: If he's so good, why is he presiding over a Marseille back line that routinely make errors?
Sure, the likes of Souleymane Diawara, Lucas Mendes and Jérémy Morel are stragglers, but why hasn't Nicolas galvanised the aforementioned teammates?
Also, what's happened to Steve Mandanda? He's made a few gaffs, some of them due to a lack of communication with N'Koulou.
Nicolas had a game to forget against Paris Saint-Germain: He was unfortunate with the own-goal, didn't look comfortable dealing with Zlatan Ibrahimović, imitated Leonardo Bonucci's dive versus Palermo and the Cameroonian was caught out when Jérémy Ménez assisted for Zlatan.
If forced to choose between N'Koulou and Angelo Ogbonna at this very moment, go with the Torino man.
Current Transfer Situation: Nicolas made it clear he didn't want to move in January but left the door open for a transfer away in the summer (via Sky Sports):
I need to finish the season in a strong position, I am not thinking about any transfer at the moment. I want to help Marseille to finish with a trophy this season, my future will be discussed at the end of the season.
So City wants N'Koulou, not suprised at all. Amazing defender. As good as Thiago Silva for me. And he is only 22. Will be one of the best— Nico Faure (@Nicomentarista) December 30, 2012
Season So Far: Maxime Gonalons is playing in an assertive manner people expected from Étienne Capoue.
The Toulouse midfielder hasn't been as domineering as he can be, whereas Maxime bosses his defensive zone.
Gonalons isn't just a brute ball-winner because some of his cross-field long balls are majestic.
He's confident in possession since he completes 87.9 percent of his passes; 6.8 percent higher than Capoue.
TPG = tackles per game; ICP = interceptions per game; T% = tackling percentage; YC/RC = yellow card/red card
Current Transfer Situation: On form, Gonalons is a smarter buy than Étienne, and Lyon's recent history with defensive midfielders has been excellent.
We're talking about the likes of Michael Essien, Mahamadou Diarra and Jérémy Toulalan—all three are Ligue 1 Team of the Year alumni.
The trepidation major clubs have when approaching Jean-Michel Aulas is his tendency to jack up transfer fees.
He wouldn't budge from his overvaluation of Michael when Chelsea were courting the midfield dynamo, and the Blues lost the war of attrition by reluctantly handing over €38 million.
A modest Essien said (from France Football via ESPN FC):
I know what I'm worth as a footballer and it's clear that I'm not worth €38 million but that's football business and I'm not responsible for it. I can perfectly understand president Aulas. He defended his club's interests but I defended mine.
Mahamadou cost Real Madrid €26 million when Ramón Calderón's regime wouldn't have even needed Diarra if Florentino Pérez didn't make one of the biggest transfer mishaps in football history by selling Claude Makélélé three years earlier.
Toulalan was the only fair transfer of the three when Málaga bought him for €10 million.
Season So Far: Alain Traoré is such a fun player to watch, and those two goals against Rennes were of the highest quality.
He's not just a shooting threat, since he has the presence of mind to slip the ball into advantageous situations for his teammates, as represented by a brace of assists versus Ajaccio.
Alain went into the Africa Cup of Nations with an injury, and he still scored three times. If he was fully fit, he would have taken out the MVP instead of compatriot Jonathan Pitroipa.
Current Transfer Situation: Traoré tore a thigh muscle at the AFCON (from PA Sport via SBS The World Game), so will that have negative consequences on his powerful long shot?
If it does, presumably he's not going to finish the season strong, meaning his transfer stock won't be as high as it would be if he didn't get injured.
Arsenal are set to sign FC Lorient striker, Alain Traoré in the summer after an injury halted the transfer in January. (Source: Metro)— DDL Transfers (@DeadlineDayLive) February 3, 2013
He's a deep-lying forward, who's at his best when he is allowed to roam all over the field.
Why would Arsène Wenger sign another player that doesn't offer natural width?
Season So Far: Bafétimbi Gomis is a decent forward—nothing more, nothing less.
Gomis is 27, so the chances of a profitable re-sell value are low.
He netted a hat trick against a shambolic Marseille back line, but omit those goals and he would have only scored nine league goals, which is a moderate return.
When you think of Bafétimbi's best individual moments—netting four times against Dinamo Zagreb; his hat trick took seven minutes—you still can't give him props.
(Per ESPN FC; February 4, 2013):
Organized crime gangs have fixed or tried to fix hundreds of football matches around the world in recent years, including World Cup qualifiers, European Championship qualifiers and and two UEFA Champions League games, Europol announced Monday.
The European Union's police agency said an 18-month review found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.
Sure, UEFA said they wouldn't be investigating the match (via The Telegraph), but to borrow a phrase from Stephen A. Smith: "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it ain’t a damn mongoose."
Current Transfer Situation: Bafétimbi would be a great addition to a medium-sized club, who are willing to make the forward the centerpiece of their attack.
Why would Lyon sell a dependable striker like Gomis? Jean-Michel Aulas was still not content with his cost-cutting methods last September (via Fabien Perrin at ESPN FC):
We are not poor.
This was not a question of life or death, but an obligation of good management. It is time for fiscal restraint and better economic management.
We lowered the net fixed assets in terms of players from €90 million to between €55 million and €60 million by June 30.
This means we will have less depreciation in the coming years. Therefore, wages plus depreciation means a saving of around €30 million year on year.
We are not yet at the desired level, but it has worked well. All clubs must work within UEFA Financial Fair Play in the future to compete in Europe.
Bafétimbi Gomis, Lisandro López and Yoann Gourcuff are the three most likely players to be sold in the summer.
Season So Far: Yohan Mollo was Nancy's MVP, but he had issues with former Ligue 1 and 2 Manager of the Year Jean Fernandez.
That led to Mollo's loan stint with Saint-Étienne, where he's been allowed to flourish.
Ostlin17 created a nice video of Yohan (shown above), which gives you a snippet of him as a footballer, but it doesn't fully show how great a crosser he is.
He completes 33.3 percent of his crosses, which is marginally better than Leighton Baines (31.2), and the Englishman is one of the best crossers in the world.
Current Transfer Situation: Nancy didn't insert a mandatory buyout clause in Mollo's loan deal with ASSE (per Ligue1.com), so there's the possibility of another club outbidding Saint-Étienne for Yohan in the summer.
Season So Far: Aurélien Chedjou is quickly establishing himself as one of the best defenders in Europe.
He has intercepted 87 passes in 24 Ligue 1 games and leads by example.
With the exception of Bayern Munich going Blitzkrieg on Lille (Franck Beria played one of the worst games imaginable), Aurélien has played wonderfully throughout the season.
Current Transfer Situation: With a plethora of emerging young centre-backs, whose upside trump that of Chedjou, some of Europe's leading clubs won't consider him as a starter (which shouldn't be the case)—though as a squad player, that could be a different matter.
Turkey and Russia would be possible destinations should Aurélien want to move.
Season So Far: Éric Bautheac is a nippy wide attacking midfielder, who has shot to fame with a Nice side that may qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League.
He stunned on-lookers when he was involved in both of Nice's goals in the win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Current Transfer Situation: If Nice make it into next season's UCL, they won't be letting the likes of Bautheac, Darío Cvitanich and Didier Digard go.
Talent evaluators appreciate the aforementioned players, but they're more interested in prospects like Neal Maupay, Valentin Eysseric and Timothée Kolodziejczak.
Maupay has the highest upside because he's scoring goals as a 16-year-old.
Eysseric is still very raw and shouldn't even be contemplating about moving away.
Kolodziejczak had several frustrating seasons with Lyon, so he'll be more willing to stay with Les Aiglons.
Assuming neither three do a "Mathieu Flamini," Nice will be able to sell all three for substantial transfer fees.
But, back to Bautheac: He would be the ideal player for a club like West Bromwich Albion.
Unless Nice implode down the stretch, Éric isn't going to leave such a good situation at Nice for WBA this summer.
When Nice come back to earth next season, that's when medium-sized clubs in Europe's best leagues should target Bautheac in the next January transfer window.
Season So Far: Rémy Cabella didn't score or create a goal in the 2-1 loss to Arsenal, though he left a vibrant impression.
He won the ball from Abou Diaby, who was doing a David Luiz in dribbling out of his own penalty box, and almost scored.
Rémy's daring chip clipped the cross-bar, and he worked hard without the ball.
Cabella is one of the preeminent players in Ligue 1 at this juncture.
L'Équipe hold him in such high regard that they've given him a superior player rating than Zlatan Ibrahimović—no idea how that works out, but it shows you how good Rémy is.
Current Transfer Situation: Cabella is a natural replacement for Younes Belhanda, assuming the Moroccan international leaves in the summer transfer window.
Rémy can play out wide and is equally as good from a central position.
Like Alain Traoré, Rémy will be out for the foreseeable future with a thigh injury, so expect his performances to dip when he returns.
If he can play at the same level pre-injury, then it's a testament to his quality.
Cabella should stay an additional season with MHSC since they're going to make him their go-to guy next season, giving him the opportunity to replicate Eden Hazard's 2011-12 season with Lille.
Season So Far: Jonathan Pitroipa, Julien Féret and Romain Alessandrini have been the three attacking midfielders in the "3" of Rennes' 4-2-3-1 for most of this season.
Talk about audaciousness, flair and a knack for the spectacular.
The knock on all three is that they constantly ignore the runs of striker Mevlut Erding, who at times is relegated to watching someone like Alessandrini drill shots from 30-40 yards out.
Romain is easily the best player of the three this season. The goals he scores could feature on KSI's top goals of the week.
In this aspect, Alessandrini's tendency to shoot, shoot and shoot can be ignored, since he has 10 league goals—three more than Fernando Torres, who's a centre forward.
The peculiar thing about Romain is that you can't accuse him of being greedy when he has six assists, but you know he's going to shoot before he even receives the ball.
Current Transfer Situation: Alessandrini did his knee ligaments (from Staderennais.com via FIFA.com).
The reason why Romain is on the list is clubs in the past have bought injured players like Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina) and Andy Carroll (Liverpool).
You just pray that this serious injury doesn't debilitate Romain's shooting prowess, which separates him from the pack.
Season So Far: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was so close to netting a hat trick against Nancy.
He's been reborn in this wide forward role, which alleviates him of leading the line, winning headers and getting physical (second nature to the great Emile Heskey).
Those tasks have been given to the more robust Brandão.
Numbers don't lie: Six goals and two assists in his last five league games in this new position for PEA.
Prior to this change, he was going through a slump as the No. 9, though he has displayed elite potential as a centre forward.
Current Transfer Situation: Aubameyang went from one of the most hyped up young talents to a fading star bouncing around several clubs.
Saint-Étienne took a chance on him and, understandably, want him to stay longer, but he feels he has done his time.
Season So Far: René Adler can sympathise with Kossi Agassa because the German has to work with flawed defenders at Hamburg, whilst Kossi's teammates are just a humble bunch of players who are happy to be in Ligue 1.
Adler crashed and burned (law of averages dictated it was going to happen) against Hannover.
Agassa has made a few mistakes, but for the most part, he's been world class, hence why France Football.fr's highest rated goalkeeper is Stade Reims' No. 1.
Current Transfer Situation: Why continue to graft at Reims when he can double his salary by moving to a club of a similar stature in the Premier League?
Season So Far: It's not inconceivable to suggest that Dimitri Payet could better Eden Hazard's Ligue 1 productivity for Lille last season (20 goals and 16 assists).
Dimitri has 10 goals and assists with 12 games left to play.
In his last 10 league games, he has scored six goals and accumulated five assists, so momentum could carry him into a historic purple patch as the season wraps up.
Thought this was a prophetic quote from Damien Comolli, which at the time seemed absurd, but I agree with him (per France Football via Patrick Haond at Sky Sports):
On a natural class level, Dimitri is stronger than a player like Modric. It is a very high level. We never stopped repeating to him: 'It is only up to you to join a French team.'
70% - Dimitri Payet is involved in 16 of Lille's last 23 goals in Ligue 1 (8 goals, 8 assists). Pretender.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 23, 2013
Current Transfer Situation: Payet was the first player Europe's upper echelon to reach 10 goals and assists in league play this season.
Lille are going to expect a minimum of €20 million for Dimitri, who was right when he said (per UEFA.com): "I think this move can take me to the next level."
Season So Far: Is Jérémy Menez even playing to his full capability? Probably not.
He has still been noticeable in the UEFA Champions League, and he's created six league goals for Paris Saint-Germain.
You generally associate Jérémy as a wide forward, but he's played as a centre forward in most of the PSG games I've seen.
Menez is the supporting act to the lead man in Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Current Transfer Situation: Perhaps the reason why Jérémy hasn't been as effective as he can be is because he's mulling over whether or not to leave PSG (from TF1 via ESPN FC's Ian Holyman):
I need to feel I'm trusted and, the day that I no longer feel that, a solution will have to be found. We'll see what they want to do at the end of the season. Everyone has to make an effort, and perhaps I have to do more.
Ancelotti responded (per ESPN FC's Ian Holyman):
The transfer window is closed. Menez has to stay.
If he's not happy in June, he can ask to leave, like other players have done. He's important for our team, but competition for places is normal at a big club.
Menez has world-class talent hindered by a questionable attitude.
Years after Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign the prodigious teenager, Jérémy hasn't lived up to expectations, let alone exceeding them.
Here's Menez reliving his encounter with Ferguson (from L'Equipe via Mark Doyle at Goal.com):
I had watched Manchester United on television. This is a club with a great coach and great players, and I was flattered that they were interested in me.
In Mr. Ferguson's office, there was much talk. But I didn't talk much, I just listened to Ferguson. He told me what he expected of me and spoke about money. He doesn't beat about the bush.
You tell yourself that it may be now or never. But in such circumstances, one must remain calm. It was too early for me to go abroad. I had only been at Sochaux for three years and I was not in a hurry to leave.
With the right guidance and a team built around Jérémy, he could be world class, but until then, he'll continue to disappoint.
Former coach Antoine Kombouare has described Jeremy Menez's attitude as that of an "asshole" when he was in charge. #PSG— 1970 PSG (@1970_PSG) February 19, 2013
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