5 Ligue 1 Players Set for Big Years in 2014-15

Nicholas McGeeContributor IMay 1, 2014

5 Ligue 1 Players Set for Big Years in 2014-15

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    Lionel Cironneau

    The 2013-14 Ligue 1 season is approaching its conclusion following another campaign that has seen a number of young players establish themselves as first-team regulars.

    Indeed, the likes of Lyon's Jordan Ferri, Montpellier's Morgan Sanson and Lille's Divock Origi have all impressed in the French top flight this term.

    The performances those players have produced this season have acted as a fine example of the young talent present in a French top flight that is perhaps one of the more underrated leagues in European football.

    But which promising players will break through the ranks in the 2014-15 campaign?

    Here I look at five Ligue 1 players that have the ability and the potential to enjoy breakthrough years when domestic action resumes in August.

Nabil Fekir

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    Lyon's youth system has once again shown its worth in the 2013-14 Ligue 1 season, with midfielder Jordan Ferri the latest product to break through and produce at the highest level.

    Ferri looks set to become a mainstay in Remi Garde's starting XI, and there are plenty of promising talents with the ability to follow his lead and earn a regular place in the first team.

    Injuries have allowed a number of Lyon youngsters the chance to showcase their abilities in the senior side this campaign.

    And attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir is perhaps the one that is closest to making the permanent jump to the first team following some extremely impressive performances.

    Confident on the ball with composure and the eye for the right pass, Fekir has all the ability to develop into a natural playmaker for Lyon and displayed this capability in superb fashion in Lyon's 4-1 win over Bastia last weekend.

    Fekir set up two of Lyon's goals and had the presence of mind to react quickest to a loose ball in the area and slot home his first professional goal for the club.

    It was undoubtedly Fekir's best display in a Lyon shirt, and if he can maintain that kind of form next season, then the 20-year-old will soon be the next success story from their magnificent academy.

Anthony Martial

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    While Fekir looks set to make the next step with Lyon, Anthony Martial is a player who opted to progress his career away from the Stade de Gerland.

    Martial made the move to Monaco in August, but the 18-year-old has yet to really establish himself in the Monaco first team, despite the season-ending injury to star striker Radamel Falcao.

    The teenager has made just 14 appearances in his maiden season at the Stade Louis II but has impressed during his limited playing time for Claudio Ranieri's side.

    Martial has found the net twice for Monaco since his move to the principality, scoring in wins over Rennes and Guingamp, and showing glimpses of the talent that persuaded them to part with €5million in order to secure the forward's services.

    The France Under-21 international is not blessed with electric pace but has quick feet and possesses an eye for goal and calibre of finishing that many players of his tender years do not.

    Falcao will be first choice next season, while Dimitar Berbatov could also compete for a spot in the starting XI should he remain with Monaco after catching the eye with his form since joining on a short-term deal from Fulham.

    But Martial represents an exciting alternative and is a player that French football fans are likely to see more of next term.

Cedric Hountondji

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    A graduate of a Rennes youth academy that is renowned for producing quality prospects, defender Cedric Hountondji is a player who looks ready to make the step up.

    The 20-year-old centre-back has blossomed under the guidance of Rennes coach Philippe Montanier, making 17 appearances for the Britanny club and seizing every opportunity he has been given to impress.

    Hountondji has all the physical attributes you want from a central defender, with his height making him a significant attacking threat at set pieces, and he backs up those tools with a mentality and composure that belie his tender years.

    Serving as backup to Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik and Sylvain Armand, Hountondji has performed excellently when called in to deputise, scoring in a 2-0 win over Lyon in February and an extra-time winner in October's 2-1 Coupe de la Ligue last 32 success over Nancy.

    And if Hountondji can continue his rapid development, then he could soon cement a place as one of Rennes' first-choice centre-backs.

     

Neal Maupay

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    A player whose early career has been severely affected by injury, Nice striker Neal Maupay will be out to grab the chance to deliver on his undoubted promise in 2014-15.

    Maupay burst on to the scene in the 2012-13 campaign, netting three goals, one of which was the winner in a dramatic 3-2 success over Evian. However, a knee ligament injury picked up last April has somewhat derailed his progress.

    The 17-year-old has been limited to just seven starts this season as a result of that injury but has still been able to demonstrate his prowess in front of goal. 

    Indeed, Maupay has scored twice in the league this campaign for a Nice side that looks set to finish in the bottom half of the table following a disappointing season.

    Maupay also netted in the thrilling 5-4 Coupe de France triumph at Marseille back in January, and if he is afforded the opportunities at the Allianz Riviera in 2014-15, then there is no reason why the Versailles-born forward cannot become a prolific goalscorer for Claude Puel's team. 

Corentin Tolisso

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    Another talented member of the newest generation of Lyon's youth system graduates, Corentin Tolisso is a midfielder who looks to have an incredibly bright future ahead of him.

    Like Jordan Ferri and Nabil Fekir, Tolisso has been able to capitalise on a dire injury situation at Lyon and break into the first team at the Stade de Gerland.

    And the 19-year-old has taken full advantage of his chance with Garde's side, holding his own against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco and Juventus.

    That experience should prove vital to the development of this versatile midfielder, who can also be deployed on the wing or at right-back as he looks to take the next step in his fledgling career.

    It remains to be seen whether midfield stars Maxime Gonalons, Clement Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff will stay with Lyon next season, and Tolisso could well be a superb replacement should any of that trio opt to move to pastures new.