Ligue 1 transfer targets: Nabil Fekir, Jean Michael Seri and Thomas Lemar
By James Piercy, Football Whispers
Last Updated: 24/05/18 8:24am
Premier League clubs have already started their summer business and sides may look to France for potential reinforcements.
Our friends at Football Whispers have identified and profiled five of Ligue 1's finest who could soon be plying their trade in England.
The Paris Saint-Germain left-back was one of several high-profile names left out of Didier Deschamps' World Cup squad but, given Les Bleus' staggering strength in depth, is by no means a reflection of his talent. However, Kurzawa's omission was no great surprise after treading water for too long in the capital.
Once considered potentially the country's next great left-back in the mould of Bixente Lizarazu or Patrice Evra, the 25-year-old's move to Paris in 2015 has resulted in an impressive medal haul but a lack of consistent first-team football and a career in serious stagnation. On the one hand that could raise concern for suitors Manchester United and Tottenham but, on the other, it also raises the possibility of a potential bargain given new PSG coach Thomas Tuchel is likely to view him as an expendable member of his squad.
At his best, Kurzawa is a wonderful offensive player who, despite his lack of consistent game time, was still ranked first in Ligue 1 among full-backs for touches in the opposition penalty area per 90 minutes with 3.53, third for xG per 90 at 0.08 and fifth for scoring attempts at 1.1. Much of that can be attributed to the sheer volume of attacking possession PSG enjoy but it still shows, in an awkward season individually, what he is capable of contributing in the final third.
Creatively he could have been more involved; 27th in France for xA per 90 (0.09), 30th for big chances created per 90 (0.1) and 32nd for open play key passes (0.57). Where Kurzawa will need improvement, especially if he is heading to a Jose Mourinho-led United, is defensively. But so few teams attack PSG with any regularity like much of his three years there, it's not representative of how good a player he could be.
Liverpool's three amigos could soon have company with the France international emerging as one of Jurgen Klopp's transfer priorities this summer.
Fekir represents something of a break from the norm for the Liverpool manager as he's an attacker not cast in the same mould as Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane in the sense he does not necessarily thrive in fast break attacking transitions or darting behind defences. His 23 goals in 39 games in all competitions is a career high for a player now firmly back on track following a serious knee ligament injury during the 2015/16 campaign and Fekir's ceiling is yet to be reached with Liverpool mindful the World Cup could further highlight his growing prowess.
The 24-year-old's 137.8 minutes per goal in Ligue 1 is impressive but even more so when you consider he's by no means an orthodox striker. Instead, Lyon coach Bruno Genesio tends to deploy him as a playmaker or behind striker Mariano. Fekir ranked just 37th among Ligue 1 for touches in the opposition box per 90 (4.35), indicative of the fact he does a lot of his best work around the penalty area, rather than inside it, and five of his 17 goals in Ligue 1 were from in excess of 18 yards.
At 5ft 6ins, Fekir possess that low centre-of-gravity dribbling ability and explosive acceleration which allows him to dart past opponents and open the pitch up, which will delight Klopp, and he was eighth in Ligue 1 for successful take-ons (3.26). Fekir is in the high-end bracket of Ligue 1 and, at around £50m would be expensive but he would bring a different dimension to a Liverpool attack which, for all its potency this season, will still need to evolve to prevent opposition teams figuring them out.
Jean Michael Seri
True to his playing style, Seri has spent the last 12 months in a state of perpetual motion - towards an inevitable departure from Nice. A bungled breakdown in a transfer to Barcelona, where the Catalans pulled out of a deal at the last minute and turned to Paulinho instead, left the Ivorian midfielder playing out 2017/18 red-faced having spent so much of the summer implying he was leaving.
Central to those negotiations was Raul Sanllehi who was Barca director of football but is now at Arsenal. According to L'Equipe, he has maintained contact with Seri's agent Frank Mala, who, judging by the sheer quantity of links across the English and French press, has been a busy boy. Seri is the sort of all-action midfielder who screams, "future Premier League signing" and his ability at both of ends of the field would be an asset to Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham, Everton or any other English club considering an approach.
In a creative sense he was a top-five midfielder across the board in France: third for accurate passes per 90 (83.03), third for open play key passes per 90 (1.37), third for long balls per 90 (7.82), fifth for assists per 90 (0.2) and fifth for expected goal contribution (6.54). Defensively he could be a little more impactful as he was 70th for tackles per 90 (0.96) and 66th for interceptions (0.89) but, with the right coaching, Seri has the technique and energy to become a more defensively dominating midfielder.
His exit from the Cote d'Azur seems a matter of when, rather than if, with the only mystery being exactly where he will land as Nice, with so much interest, will be aiming to drive his price towards the £50m Barca refused to pay.
The Monaco midfielder found himself in a strange position last September. Along with Fabinho he was the last of the club's real assets from the title-winning season to stay in the principality.
As Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko were enjoying life at new clubs with an increased profile and salary to match, Lemar was left holding the Stade Louis II fort to an extent. How much of a direct form that had on his form is unclear but Thomas Lemar in 2017/18 was a vastly different proposition from the winger who finished the 2016/17 with an impressive 14 goals and 14 assists.
In almost every conceivable metric - 0.86 open play key passes per 90 in 2016/17 against 1.2 in 17/18; 1.77 scoring attempts per 90 against 1.99; 7.53 expected goals contribution versus 10.74, as three examples - Lemar failed to hit the heights of the previous season. That should significantly drive down the nine-figure price-tag Monaco placed on his head last summer as they tried to stem the flow of talent but he appears a player in need of a move to reinvigorate a potentially flailing career.
France coach Didier Deschamps still placed plenty of value in his talent and Lemar was included in his 23 for Russia at the expense of some individuals whose performances this season perhaps indicated they were more worthy of a place. That's because Deschamps knows what Lemar, a pure winger capable of sparking something with a quick turn or defence-splitting pass, can bring to the party. Even if those moments have been increasingly absent from his game.
At 22, it's far too early to pass any judgement on what level he's at as a player, but stylistically he would fit Liverpool or Tottenham who play with a more open and flexible attacking gameplan. What seemed a sure thing 12 months ago, however, is now more of a gamble.
Arguably the breakout player of the Ligue 1 season, in a global sense, the Brazilian began the season with a bang, finished it with a flourished and in between was a bizarre controversy which threatened to derail his campaign.
With Bordeaux having rejected Borussia Dortmund's advances last summer as they sought to replace Barcelona-bound Ousmane Dembele with the former Corinthians winger, Malcom was among the best individuals in the first months of 2017/18.
Scoring five goals in his opening nine games and dazzling on the right-hand side for Bordeaux with an Arjen Robben-esque knack for cutting inside onto his favoured left foot, Malcom's haul included a strike at the Parc des Princes against PSG. That was followed by a picture with Neymar on Instagram after the match which saw him heavily criticised across France for an apparent lack of competitive edge. He was embarrassingly even forced to apologise by Bordeaux.
The controversy affected him and his season dipped around Christmas and the New Year. But three strikes in his final three games sealed an impressive 12 goals in 36 appearances and he is very much a star in rising.
A star that looks to have outgrown Bordeaux - who were unable to trouble the Champions League places - and with Tottenham reportedly already in talks, the 21-year-old appears poised for the next step in his career. Malcom was fifth for open play key passes per 90 among attackers in Ligue 1 (1.78), eighth for expected assists (6.67) and 13th for successful take-ons (2.92), highlighting his role as a creative winger, independent of his goalscoring.
Given Bordeaux's front three of Alexandre Mendy, Gaetan Laborde and Francois Kamano managed just 16 goals between them, placing Malcom in a side with more potent strikers could have a profound effect. That's ignoring his goalscoring, which has been the most eye-catching aspect of his play. Malcom finished as his club's top scorer despite an inconsistent shooting accuracy of 44 per cent, just 2.35 scoring attempts per 90 (51st in Ligue 1) and with 3.1 touches in the opposition penalty area (78th).
At the right club, with better team-mates, it could be Malcom who could soon be fielding picture requests from his rivals.
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