There is perhaps no more important league in Europe for production of elite players than Ligue 1. Whether it has been by developing youngsters in the respective youth academies of the clubs or buying and enhancing existing talent from elsewhere, France’s top flight has been prolific in terms of its ability to manufacture stars.
Three of the last four Players’ Players of the Year in the Premier League have plied their trade in France, albeit Riyad Mahrez never quite made it to the top flight, while the transfer balance sheet for the league reads an estimated £258 million for the summer, emphasising the enormous value teams are able to add to players.
Lyon may have earned a reputation for their excellent youth academy over the years, but they have also been experts at buying low and selling high. Over the summer, their outstanding addition was Martin Terrier. He was technically signed from Lille in January but given that he was loaned immediately to Strasbourg, where he had played the first half of last term, he is to all intents and purposes a new addition.
The France Under-21 attacker was their brightest player in pre-season and has looked sharp when integrated into the first team, although his opportunities this season may be limited with Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore capable of operating in his favoured wide role.
Perhaps the best value signing of the summer, though, comes in Lille. Although the highly rated Rafael Leao has arrived from Sporting CP, it is the signing of Jonathan Bamba from Saint-Etienne that is liable to yield the most immediate first-team results.
He would have been used extensively by the Loire side last season had he not been in a contract dispute, which led to his Bosman move north in the summer. He possesses similar attributes to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and could explode in a similar manner under head coach Christophe Galtier, who was the man who first got the best out of the Arsenal forward and who handed Bamba his senior debut while with Les Verts. Already he has scored three goals this season – half his side’s tally.
All eyes, meanwhile, were on Monaco’s transfer window. The principality side had a huge turnover of players, once again selling a raft of stars, and while the arrival of Lyon teenager Willem Geubbels caught the eye due to his €20m fee, the truth is that he is still an unproven talent at senior standard, despite the obvious desire to compare him to Kylian Mbappe. Russia World Cup hero Aleksandr Golovin, on the other hand, has made an inauspicious start as he is yet to feature due to an ankle injury.
Instead, a better value addition at Stade Louis II could well prove to be Jean-Eudes Aholou, a defensive midfielder who excelled with Strasbourg last season. At just 24, the Ivory Coast international is a player who deserves greater recognition, which will surely come if he maintains the form he displayed in Alsace.
Similarly, the arrival of Kevin Strootman at Marseille should provide Rudi Garcia’s side with greater stability in the centre of the park. Luiz Gustavo was outstanding in that area for OM last season, but their fragility in defence – as seen by Adil Rami’s calamitous performance against Monaco last weekend – remains.
The Dutchman’s arrival gives the coach the opportunity the deploy the Brazilian in the back four, where he was such a calming influence last term without sacrificing combativity and quality in the midfield. Injuries have plagued the 28-year-old in recent times, but Garcia, his former coach at Roma, knows what he is capable of.
In a defensive capacity, meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain have strengthened their ranks with the
signing of Schalke’s versatile Germany international Thilo Kehrer. It’s fair to say his first few weeks in
the French capital have been tough – he was replaced at half-time in his debut after conceding a
penalty – but the 21-year-old remains a player of terrific potential.
Thomas Tuchel should be able to coax the best out of his versatile countryman, whose ability to play
across the defensive line should mean that he is guaranteed plenty of game time once he has
adapted. His fee of €37 million looks big, but PSG hope that in time he proves worth it.
The lavish spending of the defensive champions was toned down mute this summer due to Financial
Fair Play restrictions and there have been few genuinely big names to arrive
With Paris Saint-Germain largely mute this summer due to Financial Fair Play restrictions, there have been few genuinely big names to arrive in France, but there has, nevertheless, been some smart business done over the transfer period.