Ezequiel Lavezzi and the Top 15 Players in France's Ligue 1

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2012

Ezequiel Lavezzi and the Top 15 Players in France's Ligue 1

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    Ligue 1 in France has become one of the most talked-about top flights in Europe after the lavish spending of Paris St. Germain has turned them into a potential Champions League superpower.

    It's not only the capital city side who have the star names though, with Lyon a dominant force in Ligue 1 for almost a decade before the competition saw four different winners in the past four seasons.

    The France national squad at Euro 2012 featured 10 players who currently ply their trade in the top division of their homeland, emphasising the strength it has.

    Here are the top 15 players in Ligue 1, including one of PSG's latest signings, Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, PSG

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    Fresh from signing a four-year deal with PSG, Ezequiel Lavezzi became the first big-money buy of the summer for the Parisian outfit.

    Needless to say, he was not the last.

    The former Napoli attacker is a speedy and direct forward who thrives in space, attacking the penalty area from deep with the ball at his feet or looking to link up with a central striker.

    A sometimes-erratic finisher, Lavezzi could become a genuine world-beater if he were able to add more goals to his game. He may get the chance to do that this season surrounded by so many top talents.

Yann M'Vila, Rennes

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    Despite Arsenal seemingly having pulled out of a transfer move for Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila, the French international is still one of the top talents in the league.

    Strong in the challenge with a good range of passing and an exceptional level of stamina, M'Vila has the potential to be the midfield base of club and country for a decade.

    Issues with attitude problems have, like with several of his compatriots, caused his professionalism to be called into question; as a young player he would do well to rid himself of these moments of foolishness to achieve the maximum out of his career.

Salvatore Sirigu, PSG

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    Arguably the best goalkeeper in the entire league, Salvatore Sirigu would likely be first-choice Italian goalkeeper by now if not for the continued brilliance of Gianluigi Buffon.

    In fact, the Italian No. 1 rates Sirigu so highly himself that he claims he could become the best in the world.

    Sirigu is a great shot-stopper, organises his defence well and for a 25-year-old 'keeper has a reasonable amount of experience behind him already—almost 150 league appearances in his career thus far.

    In amongst all the expensive signings of last summer and this, Sirigu represents something of a bargain after PSG signed him for just €3.5 million.

Lisandro Lopez, Lyon

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    Lisandro Lopez is one of the most consistent and impressive strikers in Europe, never mind just in Ligue 1.

    Having signed for Lyon from FC Porto in 2009, the Argentinian forward has since scored better than once every two games for the French side. He checked out last season with a three-season tally of 65 goals in 120 games.

    Mainly a striker but also capable of playing from the flanks, Lopez is a reliable, strong and dangerous forward who will play a big part in any challenge for the title that Lyon attempt to make after four seasons without a win.

Javier Pastore, PSG

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    One of Serie A's leading lights two seasons ago, former Palermo playmaker Javier Pastore was in huge demand when it emerged he had become available and there was widespread surprise when he elected to join PSG.

    His arrival was a wake-up call to the rest of the league and to the rest of Europe; PSG meant business.

    They paid an estimated €40 million for the talented attacking midfielder, who scored 13 league goals in his first season with the club.

    However Pastore has yet to really fulfil his potential, not breaking into the national side first team despite his immense talent. At just 23 years of age, he still has time to become one of the biggest names in the game.

Marvin Martin, Lille

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    Marvin Martin was another player who made the France Euro 2012 squad, coming on as substitute twice in the group stages.

    An impressive season at Sochaux, where Martin claimed five assists and two goals, saw him seal a move to Lille this summer for an undisclosed fee.

    Despite his slender frame, Martin is confident and competent on the ball, rarely wasting it and being a creative outlet from both a central area and around the flanks.

    He currently has 14 caps for France.

Andre Ayew, Marseille

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    Andre Ayew is Marseille's fine wide attacker, playing from the wing and creating plenty of chances for his teammates as well as himself.

    Over the past two seasons Ayew—also known as Dede—has scored 19 Ligue 1 goals for Marseille and has played well over 100 league games despite being only 22 years old.

    Pace, stamina and strength, aligned to his quick feet, vision and eye for a shot make him a real danger for his side and a constant outlet.

    Ayew has already been capped 40 times by Ghana.

Yoann Gourcuff, Lyon

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    Injuries and debatable form cost Yoann Gourcuff most of the 2011-12 season with his club Lyon, while it also contributed—along with lingering questions over his team-first mentality—to him missing out on a spot in Euro 2012 with France.

    Nonetheless, Gourcuff is a talented operator who can pick a pass to open up a defence, shoot from range or take the ball past a defender with equal skill.

    Having left Milan to return to France, Gourcuff was expected to take the league by storm and be the best player. It hasn't quite happened that way yet but he still has time to show his genuine form.

    Perhaps the challenge of new arrivals at PSG and the like will tempt him to up his own game.

Mamadou Sakho, PSG

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    Perhaps Ligue 1's finest defender during 2010-11, Mamadou Sakho might suddenly find himself fighting for a first-team spot after PSG wrapped up another big-money move...but more on that later on.

    Sakho is a great captain and leader for PSG, and his physical prowess make him a terribly difficult defender to get past. Tactically and technically he has also been an impressive player.

    Last season though, injury, overly long recovery periods and possible weight problems led to him losing first his place in the team and then the captaincy under Carlo Ancelotti, missing most of the final two months of the season.

    If he is allowed to leave the club, Europe's finest will be queuing up to sign him despite these issues as he remains, at 22, one of the best young defenders in the league.

Loic Remy, Marseille

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    Back to the attackers and Loic Remy of Marseille.

    The winger/striker has yet to establish himself as a France regular though has won 17 caps, mainly as a substitute.

    Remy is a big player for his club though, having signed for a big fee two seasons ago and having made an average of 30 league appearances a season since then.

    Almost a one-in-two strike rate in Ligue 1 since signing for Marseille makes him a great signing, though the best is arguably still yet to come from the 25-year-old who has bags of pace and a fierce shot.

Hugo Lloris, Lyon

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    France's undisputed No.1 goalkeeper with 37 caps to his name, 25-year-old Hugo Lloris is a commanding presence for his team Lyon.

    He has missed just eight matches in his four seasons at the French club since signing from Nice, winning the Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the season award three times out of those four years.

    Great reflexes, organisational skills and ability with his feet make Lloris a fine shot-stopper, one of the top 10 or so in world football.

    He does however receive criticism for his play outside the six-yard box, not always being as dominant as he should be from collecting crosses or closing down attackers running through on goal.

Younes Belhanda, Montpellier

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    Not one of the most fashionable sides—but the current reigning Ligue 1 champions.

    Montpellier won the 2011-12 league title and Younes Belhanda was one of the main reasons why, with his creative midfield approach a constant source of chances for his team.

    Playing just off the forward instead of in a wider position, Belhanda was able to get more involved in the build-up play than in previous years and it paid dividends.

    Though he missed part of the season due to the 2012 African Cup of Nations, Belhanda was still an important part of the team as soon as he arrived back.

    He currently has 14 caps for Morocco and has been linked with a move away (via dailymail.co.uk) this summer.

Etienne Capoue, Toulouse

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    One of several fine young defensive midfielders that France possess at the moment, Etienne Capoue is a full-blooded tackler, an energetic runner and a regular collector of yellow cards.

    Capoue plays for Toulouse and holds together the midfield whilst the more well-known Moussa Sissoko goes about his business further up the pitch.

    If he could control his at-times reckless challenges and improve his distribution somewhat, Capoue would surely be a target for bigger clubs.

    Even so he is a fine midfielder who will eventually get his shot on the international stage and probably in another league.

Thiago Silva, PSG

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    Not content with the lavish amounts of money already spent and undeterred by the signing of a new contract by Thiago Silva last week, PSG have gone out and bought him anyway.

    Silva arrives from AC Milan, heralded as one of the finest centre-backs in the game and with a price tag to match.

    The move is expected to cost in excess of £30 million.

    Silva is a fine tackler and dominant aerially when needed, but his best traits lie in reading the game and positioning himself well.

    He will prove a rock at the back for PSG.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Soon to Be PSG

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    If self-confidence could be bottled and sold, this man would be very, very rich.

    Since it's not, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to sign for PSG instead where he will earn reported wages (h/t insidefutbol.com) of over €14 million per year.

    The talented and enigmatic Swedish forward will bring goals, creativity, strength and aloofness to the PSG front line, and with the likes of Pastore, Lavezzi and Menez in support of him there will be few defences who might withstand a match-long assault on their goal from that particular quartet.

    Ibrahimovic hasn't moved yet but when he eventually does, as expected, he could feasibly be the very finest player in the division.