The 5 Worst French Ligue 1 Transfers
In this article, Bleacher Report takes a look at Ligue 1’s worst transfers during the summer window.
This piece was much harder to compile than its sister feature, which profiled the finest bits of business in L’Hexagone this summer.
In truth, there haven’t been many transfers which appear to be appallingly poor pieces of business and, believe it or not, top flight clubs tend to veer away from signing players who are dreadful.
Instead, I have focused predominantly on players whose departures have severely weakened a Ligue 1 team or, for those who have departed the country, whose transfers have weakened the division’s product as a whole.
There is, however, a brief comment on Sebastien Squillaci's move to Bastia; he is a player about whom I have joked with strangers everywhere from Angel to Assam, from Arsenal to Ajaccio.
Could his move to Corsica put an end to the laughter?
Belhanda Settles for Kyiv
For several windows, the question has been where Younes Belhanda will end up, rather than if he will actually leave French side Montpellier.
That has long seemed inevitable.
Despite courting the affections of Arsenal and Tottenham and confirming that he had his heart set on playing Champions League football—having tasted the competition with Montpellier—Belhanda eventually opted to move to Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv.
The move prompted surprise from the French media, with L’Equipe later going on to report that Belhanda had had a Thauvin-esque change of heart and now wanted to move to a team in Europe’s top echelon!
Having initially broken into Rene Girard’s Montpellier team as a central midfielder, Belhanda moved into a more offensive, wide position. Having made a place for himself in the starting XI, he began to exert the influence and inspiration that guided MHSC to the French title in 2012.
I have included his departure in this list as it further weakens a Montpellier side that listed badly last term following their unforgettable triumph.
Joining Oliver Giroud, Geoffrey Dernis, John Utaka, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Cyril Jeunechamp, Marco Estrada and Lyon’s new acquisition Henri Bedimo in the club’s departure lounge means that that great team has been all but dismantled.
Who knows how long it will be before Montpellier ever come close to reaching such heights again.
Chedjou Completes Lille Decline
Cameroonian defender Aurelien Chedjou’s reason for being on this list is almost identical to that of Belhanda.
The imposing stopper was a key figure in Lille’s Ligue 1 title success of 2011; a powerful tackler, a good team player and competent enough to carry the ball out of defence, he was a major asset to Les Dogues.
Considering how much that great Lille side has been torn apart makes Montpellier’s demise seem almost pithy in comparison.
Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy, Eden Hazard and Gervinho all switched to the Premier League, Adil Rami now plies his trade at Valencia and Moussa Sow has thrived since moving to Fenerbahce.
Chedjou’s departure, which has long seemed inevitable, leaves only Rio Mavuba, of the team’s true superstars, still remaining at the club.
Lille may have recruited well, but I struggle to see them matching their sixth place finish of last season.
Chedjoi’s move to Galatasaray will further weaken the once great side and surely see Lille sink down the classement.
The departures of Etienne Capoue, from Toulouse and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Saint Etienne will, similarly, weaken the depth and breadth of the division—reducing the league’s spectacle as a whole.
Monaco May Miss Baby Makelele
The fact that Ligue 1 journalist Jon Johnson identified Nampalys Mendy as his best Ligue 1 transfer of the season may make his name seem like a strange addition to this list.
However, while I totally agree with Johnson that Nice have pulled off a masterstoke in acquiring the young French midfielder, I believe that Monaco have dropped the ball in letting him go.
I understand that Monaco’s increased profile, advanced trajectory and immense expenditure may leave little place for the 21-year-old this season, but Mendy is one of France’s most promising young talents, and should certainly have been kept on for a future role.
A France youth international from all levels between U17 and U21, the Senegalese midfielder has been likened to Claude Maklele. Both men played similar roles for their teams and their small physique and simple, yet effective, style of play benefited those around them in exactly the same fashion.
Thankfully, Mendy is not another young talent departing the French league and Nice will surely benefit from his presence. However, I can’t help but fear that a year under the tutelage of Jeremy Toulalan at Monaco, or perhaps a loan deal with a few to a long future in the Principality, might have benefited everyone a lot more.
Bastia Seek Sieve
It’s going to be a hard old season for Bastia. The side are one of the favourites for the Ligue 1 drop with few fancying them to continue on their impressive form of last term.
While the side managed a respectable 12th place finish in 2012-13, that couldn’t disguise their defensive frailties. No side in the division conceded more than Bastia’s 66 goals, not even the trio of relegated clubs. Their backline inadequacies saw Bastia concede four more goals than bottom place Brest.
So, how do you solve the problem of such a porous back five?
The answer, at least in the eyes of I Turchini boss Freddie Hantz, is to turn to a player who has lived and breathed the word “hapless” for several years.
In truth, Squillaci is not a dreadful addition to the side, he is, after all, a two-time Ligue 1 champion.
However, it is hard to imagine him exuding confidence and authority any longer, following his barren seasons at Arsenal. He will doubtless be rusty and will surely (now at 33) be more sluggish than they ever remembered him to be in France.
The fact that he once excelled at Bastia’s fierce rivals Ajaccio surely can’t help either.
I fear for Bordeaux.
Currently sitting in 15th place in Ligue 1, the Girondins have lost two of their opening four clashes. Their squad may be riddled with talented players, but the departure of captain Jaroslav Plasil is a hard one to rationalise.
The Czech dynamo was a late sale, heading to Catania on loan. It’s not as if a major European giant have come in with an offer too good to ignore and I fear that Bordeaux may have let their skipper depart a little too easily.
Plasil is a dynamic midfielder who consistently delivers combative performances in the heart of midfield, regularly driving his side forward and motivating those around him. For four years he has been the heartbeat of Bordeaux and offers versatility and creativity.
I fear that only now he has departed, will Bordeaux realise the worth of their Czech skipper.
Sicily’s gain may be the Aquitaine’s loss.