The January-long scramble for players has begun all over Europe’s top leagues, with clubs seeking to strengthen their squads ahead of the climax of the season.
It is a notoriously difficult time to find value yet there is no doubt that there are some top players available during this period, whether it be due to unsettled personal situations or the financial position of their club.
Ligue 1, of course, is no different and here are seven of the highest-profile stars who could be on their way before the window closes on January 31.
Mario Balotelli (here)
For good or for bad, the Italian cannot seem to stay out of the headlines. Unfortunately for him, all of the talking points surrounding him this term have been for negative reasons. After returning to pre-season training late and out of shape after failing to force a summer move, he has failed to produce anything like an acceptable level of form and remains goalless this season.
Head coach Patrick Vieira appears at a loss as to how to extract the best from the mercurial attacker, but though a move seemed inevitable in December, the former Arsenal midfielder has refused to confirm that the forward could be on his way.
Reports continue to link him with a move back to Inter or to Marseille, where he nearly signed up in August, but with Super Mario it’s wise to expect the unexpected.
Thiago Mendes (here)
Lille will visit French football’s financial police on Monday, January 7 in order to have their budget ratified for the second half of the season and, they hope, to avoid a sanction of a transfer ban, which they suffered last year.
If they are to clear this hurdle, they are probably going to need to sell before that date and talented Brazilian midfielder Thiago Mendes appears one of the likeliest candidates to be offloaded, with star man Nicolas Pepe likely to stay until the summer.
The South American was one of their steadiest performers throughout a successful 2018 and has caught the eye of clubs in England, Germany and China. A move to the Chinese Super League could appeal to both the player and the club, who hope to fetch over €24 million for the 26-year-old.
Paris Saint-Germain should not be ruled out of the equation for the former Sao Paulo midfielder, though.
Adrien Rabiot (here)
If Thiago Mendes does move to PSG, it is likely that the player he will replace is Adrien Rabiot, whose contract dispute continues to rumble on.
So strained has the relationship between the France international midfielder and his side been that he was frozen out of their squad before Christmas and a thawing is unlikely to take place as Rabiot and his entourage have played such games before.
Barcelona seem destined to be the club to take a gamble on the attitude of the 23-year-old, who has all the attributes to become one of the best players in the game but carries himself with a sense of entitlement that has ultimately destroyed what should have been a positive relationship with the club at which he came through the academy.
It seems to be a question of when rather than if he leaves the Parc des Princes.
Valentin Rosier (here)
It is quite remarkable that the 22-year-old full-back remains at a team as modest as Dijon, particularly as his defensive talents have been masked at a club that typically favours an attacking approach to the game.
Newcastle have been hovering over the youngster, who is capable of playing on either side of the defence but is most comfortable on the right, although they are also monitoring Strasbourg’s Kenny Lala, according to reports in France.
Like Lala, Rosier is a capable force going forward, which is reflected in the three assists that he has chalked up in 17 Ligue 1 appearances this season.
He may not be the finished article, but with a good margin for progress, he would prove a shrewd pickup.
Emiliano Sala (here)
During the summer, the Argentine striker was within a whisker of signing for Galatasaray and was left bitterly disappointed when his move to Turkey fell through. He has, however, recovered in spectacular fashion, scoring 12 goals in Ligue 1 – a tally surpassed only by PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.
The 28-year-old is enjoying the season of his life and has timed his run perfectly as his contract is up in 18 months. As such, he is eligible on the transfer market, with Nantes expected to demand in the region of €20 million for a player who is known in France for being ungainly and somewhat erratic.
President Waldemir Kita is actively encouraging a deal, keen to cash in on the striker’s fine form. Cardiff and West Ham have been linked but have both baulked at the price, which could well come down as January goes on.
Jean-Clair Todibo (here)
Something of a forgotten man this season after making such an excellent start, Todibo finds himself on the fringes of Toulouse due to his refusal to sign a fresh professional deal with the club. As such, the 19-year-old defender has spent much of the winter kicking his heels and waiting for his current deal to expire in the summer.
TFC have taken a hard-line approach with the centre-back, who has played 10 times in Ligue 1 this season and has scored a single goal, claiming that they made an unprecedented offer to him of around €25,000 per month.
However, this has proven insufficient to persuade the youngster to sign as some of Europe’s top clubs circle. Barcelona are especially interested in the defender and are said to be optimistic of completing a deal, while Real Madrid and Juventus hover, too.
Toulouse could, however, be willing to sacrifice a transfer fee this winter in order to make an example of the youngster, who they have grown exasperated with.
Tim Weah (here)
Impressive in pre-season, the teenage hitman has barely had any opportunities to shine in Ligue 1, despite posting an impressive minutes-per-goal ratio when playing for the first team. Indeed, the USA international has found the net once every 72 minutes he’s been on the field, and though his sample size is low, he has still managed to register more than Eric Choupo-Moting, the man who has effectively pushed him to the sidelines.
Of course, Weah will not be allowed to leave PSG on a permanent deal, with the capital side set to loan him out until the end of the season. They hold a preference for him to move to another French side – Amiens and Strasbourg are notably interested – but a temporary switch to Germany or even Celtic, where he could gain Europa League experience, are also possibilities.