The Year of the French

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Nitra, Slovakia

Intense transfer speculation is revolving around the Bundesliga with names such as Gotze, Tasci, Reus and Vidal dominating scout reports. After a strong 2010 World Cup campaign revitalised with the presence of several young talents, it’s no surprise that the attention has transferred to Europe’s most populated country. After the tournament Ozil and Khedira completed bumper deals to Real Madrid, it’s not often to see big names leave the country, but who could say no to Mourinho? Or to the money. The same can be said about Portugal which constantly sees its top players join Europe’s elite’s for millions; a huge interest has been placed on FC Porto’s Falcao and Hulk. In addition, Fabio Coentrao completed a €30m “dream move” to Real Madrid this week.

However, this season it’s all about the French and I’m not referring to their fine Bordeaux wines or passionate classical romantic literature, but to the sheer talent of footballers scattered across the country. France is a football nation which lacks poaching and expensive transfers, but this summer could be different a one. Vendre, vendre, vendre!


Last summer the highest transfers were domestic, international midfielder Yoann Gourcuff moved from Bordeaux to Lyon for a record €22m plus clauses, Gignac and Remy both headed down south to represent Marseille for a reported total of €30m. From one perspective, clubs are protecting their greatest products, which will improve the standard of football in the long run. But why aren’t the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea taking a serious interest?

Sometimes they do, as the two highest exports in recent seasons were the sales of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery. Their departures were not a surprise; they were superstars who outgrew Ligue 1, clearly desired a fresh and greater challenge and the elevated wage offered must have been convincing too. It’s fair to state that the French league is not at the same level as the La Liga or Premier League, this means the average price and wage for a player will be established at a lower value. No wonder Wenger and Newcastle are investing in their products. 

This summer Ligue 1 clubs are set to cash in from internal and external sales, in previous years Lyon set the standard as they were masters at selling their key players for premium fees. Nowadays every club has learnt from them and posses the ability to sell at the right price and time.

So far Real Madrid signed one of the nation’s most talented defender’s, Raphael Varane from RC Lens in a deal worth €10m. Lyon’s instrumental Toulalan joined Malaga for €10m, the club has become the Manchester City of Spain due to their new Arab ownership. Newcastle snapped up a trio which included Lille’s Cabaye, winger Marveaux and youngster Mehdi Abeid. Nigerian striker Ideye Brown swapped Sochaux for Kiev in a €8m transfer and finally, Arsenal is on the verge of announcing the capture Lille’s flamboyant winger Gervinho.

 The most notable deals within the country were the highly-rated goalscorer Kevin Gameiro joining PSG for €11m and winger Dimitri Payet moving to Lille for €9m. Certain European clubs appear to be reluctant to sell or are holding onto high offers such as Bolton or Udinese, but the French are aiming to maximise revenues. Defending champions Lille could lose another key player.

Eden Hazard is the country’s most exciting player and it’s no surprise to see him linked with a move to the Bernabeu. He’s an unpredictable and explosive player, Hazard is the Messi of Ligue 1. Despite the Belgian nationality, he’s a graduate and prodigy from Lille’s succesful youth academy. He erupted this season playing an influential role in their league and cup capture, their first “double” since 1946. He’s not the only star linked with a transfer, PSG’s Sakho and Rennes’ M’Vila could follow his footsteps.

There’s definitely talent present throughout the country and as there is great attention on placed German products their prices will rise as demand increases, therefore the “cheaper” option could be found in France. Putting those three established names aside, here is a selection of players club’s should be closely monitoring.

Toulouse FC is boasting with the combination quality and youth, especially their midfield where Etienne Capoue and Moussa Sissoko feature. A pair of French commanding and technically players who are household names in the team which underperformed last season as they finished 8th. Sounds a bit like Arsenal, eh? Franck Tabanou is also an interesting offensive left-back who can also play as a left-winger, a player with a similar mould to Fabio Coentrao and could become his replacement at Benfica. Targeting a left-back is probably the second hardest player to find after a goalkeeper.

Sebastien Corchia is a youngster linked to several clubs, the 20 year old defender opted to remain in France and signed for Sochaux. However, Bayern Munich is still heavily interested in the highly promising player who joined a club where Marvin Martin is the star (pictured above. He recently completed his national debut last month against Ukraine in a friendly encounter. Martin is a creative midfielder with tremendous potential and skill, if Hazard leaves this summer, Martin would be an excellent replacement, but the club would need him for their Europa League campaign. He has a lot more to display next season, watch out for him!

A simple technique which any scout should use to sign a striker is to analyse the top scorers in any league and in this is the case Moussa Sow be found. He’s still fairly unknown on the main stage, but made a name for himself as he played an instrumental role in Lille’s league title capture with his goals. Despite striking the back of the net 25 times, he’s not the most efficient striker at times but that’s a factor which improves with experience. He’s expected to stay at the club but will be a huge loss if he features in the 2012 African Cup of Nations for Senegal.

The last player to highlight is Blaise Matuidi, another defensive midfielder, France is producing a quality range of them and they’ve all been compared to Patrick Vieira. Therefore, they’re all powerful, fierce and imposing; a vital component in any formation which is why club’s detest selling a player of this substance, unless there is a substitute prepared to step up or the fee is too good to turn down. Football development is a continunous cycle and even if all the established players join a bigger club internally or externally, it enables the next generation to step up. This will never be an issue in France.

It’s July, time to sit back and enjoy the sun. These will constantly appear in the inifinte transfer speculation which is vandalizing the internet, perhaps some of the proposed moves will materialize. But if not, no problem. Au revoir!

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