French correspondent Jonathan Johnson sees Kevin Gameiro's move to PSG as being key to opening up the transfer market. In his latest column he discusses an eventful couple of days in the capital and reflects on which Ligue 1 players are attracting interest from England.
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip.
Last Updated: 21/06/11 3:43pm
No sooner had the ink on Kevin Gameiro's contract with Paris Saint-Germain dried, and the French transfer window burst into life earlier than anticipated. With this the first of many expected big-money moves, the majority of this week's Ligue 1 transfer rumours centre around the capital club although there have been a number of other important transfer titbits concerning English sides that have emerged in the last few days.
Adding to their capture of Yohan Cabaye last week, Newcastle United announced the signing of enigmatic midfielder Sylvain Marveaux on a free transfer following a breakdown in negotiations with Liverpool. The Magpies also signed Demba Ba from West Ham, fighting off interest from France to secure his signature in a move to make up for the failure to sign Kevin Gameiro.
But Newcastle's French spending spree does not look like it will end there as Alan Pardew has now turned his attention to PSG's talented, but inconsistent striker Mevlut Erding and Saint-Etienne midfielder Blaise Matuidi. The 24 year-old has attracted PSG, Arsenal and Liverpool in the past, but ASSE have blasted the manner of les Parisiens' approach for the tenacious midfielder, opening the possibility for a transfer abroad.
The club have also been linked with Mohamed Sissoko of Juventus who is courting Marseille, and Cheikh M'Bengue, a pacy left-back for Toulouse who could replace Jose Enrique at St James' Park, with Lyon a possible destination.
It was revealed last week that Gervinho is in advanced talks with Arsenal about a move and that it is expected to be completed in the next few days after PSG were rebuffed in their attempt to hijack the deal.
"We prefer to sell Gervinho to a club not in France" Lille's general manager Frederic Paquet told mercato365.com before adding of the proposal: "It should happen next week."
Meanwhile, English and French interest in Saint-Etienne's livewire winger Dimitri Payet is waning as he edges closer to a switch to Les Dogues as a direct replacement for the Ivorian.
A host of other rumours have seen EPL sides linked to players in Ligue 1 with Liverpool's Damien Comolli reportedly indentifying Lyon's defensive duo of strong Croatian centre-back Dejan Lovren and pacy full-back Aly Cissokho as potential arrivals as well as PSG target Samuel Eto'o and Monaco's Park Chu-Young. Liverpool and Aston Villa have been mooted with a bid for Fernando Gago of Real Madrid, the subject of previous interest from Manchester City in 2010, but face opposition from a host of French sides including Lyon.
Mouhamadou Dabo, a pacy French full-back at Sevilla is apparently courting interest from Villa as is versatile midfielder Kim Kallstrom of Lyon. Fulham's Moussa Dembele is interesting Spurs and a host of French clubs whilst Serge Aurier is a top transfer target for Blackburn Rovers and Saint-Etienne's Yohan Riveiere has welcomed links between himself, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Panathinaikos' Sidney Govou has declared that he wants to play in the Premier League and the tricky French winger is available for nothing but already has an offer from Evian to return to Ligue 1. Monaco's Lukman Haruna has also expressed his desire to play in the Premier League and has been in talks with Wolves according to media reports in France.
There are a number of players in Ligue 1 who might be available this summer that would represent good value for EPL sides but have not been linked with moves across the channel yet. Marseille's Lucho Gonzalez will leave the club this summer, despite being their player of the year in 2009-2010, but the Argentine is not attracting any interest from England. Instead he looks set to join Jeremy Toulalan at Malaga possibly explaining the lack of Premier League suitors. Another possible new face could be Miralem Pjanic of Lyon, a tremendously gifted Bosnian creative midfielder who could find himself sacrificed as Lyon look to rebuild after a disappointing season.
Antoine Griezmann is another promising young Frenchman looking to make the step up to the next level and start rapping on Laurent Blanc's door of the national side. The pacy, creative winger currently plays for Real Sociedad but could look to France or England as a possible springboard to the national side. Finally, Michel Bastos is available for transfer at Lyon having expressed his desire to leave however; he is expected to join Antonio Conte's Juventus revolution.However, it is the situation at Parc des Princes that has most dominated the back pages in France. Following the completion of the double signing of Rennes' solid and experienced goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez, and Lorient's pacy, serial goalscorer Gameiro at a bargain 11 million Euros, stories started emerging suggesting that Inter Milan boss Leonardo was considering a return to the club where he enjoyed a fruitful single season in 1996/1997, this time as a director.
The rumours gathered pace early last week before Inter chairman Massimo Moratti admitted to the club's official website on Wednesday that Leonardo was leaving.
"Coaching is not [Leonardo's] ambition for the future," he claimed before adding: "It is the best thing that he follows his aim and we find a new coach."
This followed his denials a day earlier that Leonardo was in discussions with PSG claiming that he was 'on holiday'.
The former Inter and AC Milan manager is believed to currently be in discussions with new club owners Qatari Investment Agency regarding a director's role similar to that of Adriano Galliani at AC Milan; essentially being in charge of the club's transfer dealings. However, many fans fear that the Brazilian's arrival will see club President Robin Leproux marginalised and it has also cast doubt over the future of manager Antoine Kombouare and chief scout Alain Roche.
The trio, responsible for bringing a degree of stability to what has traditionally been an unstable club, could find themselves being pushed out before long.
Although these are exciting times for fans of les Rouges-et-Bleu, many have voiced concerns over the possibility that the club's now fertile youth academy will be overlooked in favour of expensive, big-name stars and current Uefa President Michel Platini has suggested that, as a result of the Qatari takeover, the club will lose its character.
Platini said this week: "I'm not a fan. I'm for a club having an identity, rather than buying players left, right and centre."
The French media has been quick to tout possible signings for the club with a number of big-name stars linked with moves to Paris. Diego Forlan has been mentioned and his agent, Daniel Bolotnicoff, has done little to dampen these whispers. Speaking to Foot Transferts he said:
"France? Why not? He could see that [happening] but I repeat: there has been no contact."
More purported targets include Inter's Samuel Eto'o, who is the subject of Premier League interest from Liverpool, Santos' Brazilian sensation Ganso as well as Fulham's Clint Dempsey and Tottenham's Niko Kranjcar. The French press also linked PSG with Sochaux's French international Marvin Martin who had an exceptional season racking up 17 assists and four goals. He apparently courts interest from Lyon, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, despite Sochaux's claims that the maestro, along with exciting attacking midfielder Ryad Boudebouz, are not for sale.
Precociously talented defender Raphael Varane, recently linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich is also believed to be on PSG's shopping list. Regarding the Lens youngster, it is believed that he would favour a move to a French side on loan should he sign for one of the European giants, in order to continue his development with first team football.
In a recent interview he said: "I can move abroad or I could join another Ligue 1 club. What interests me is playing regularly, so I have to think carefully and go to a club that will allow me to progress."
Other moves in a busy week of French football transfers and gossip saw Lyon start overhauling their team by selling out-of-sorts defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan to ambitious La Liga outfit Malaga for 10million Euros. Michel Bastos is expected to join Juventus shortly and Miralem Pjanic has been interesting Wolfsburg in Germany. The club have also been linked with defenders Ezequiel Garay and Sokratis Papasthatopoulos of Real Madrid and AC Milan, however, any moves will hinge on the club's decision over Claude Puel's future at the club. The 49 year-old Frenchman failed to obtain a vote of confidence as talks over his future broke down last week and he looks set to depart.
Toulouse's strong Argentinean centre-back Mauro Cetto has joined Palermo in Italy on a free transfer whilst Steven Joseph-Monrose, a revelation at this summer's 2011 Toulon tournament finishing as top scorer, has left recently relegated Lens to join KV Kortrijk in Belgium in a surprise move. Another Parisien youngster who will not be plying his trade in Ligue 1 next year is Garra Dembele.
The Paris-born Mali international has spurned overtures from France to join SC Freiburg in Germany following a stunning season for Levski Sofia where he netted 26 goals in 24 games. Also Fernando, Bordeaux's Brazilian midfielder, has also raised a few eyebrows by announcing his transfer to Saudi Arabia's Al-Shabab Riyadh under new manager Michel Preud'homme.
In terms of players signed by Ligue 1 clubs, Rennes have bagged promising young goalkeeper Benoit Costil from Ligue 2's Sedan to replace Douchez and Lille have made their first signing of the summer; snapping up Ronny Rodelin from Nantes. The tall, athletic and technically gifted striker is a highly-rated youngster. Rudy Haddad, leader of Ligue 2's assists charts last season with 10 assists has joined Auxerre from Chateauroux and will reunite with former PSG coach Laurent Fournier. Left-back Jeremy Morel has also joined Marseille from Lorient for a fee of around 2.5 million Euros as a replacement for Taye Taiwo.
Other moves have seen Dijon make their first signings in Ligue 1 welcoming six players with Evian Thonon Gaillard, Lorient, Montpellier, Nancy, Brest, Caen and Valenciennes also making moves to strengthen their sides. Evian's signing of versatile left-sided player Fabrice Ehret from Cologne was the pick of the arrivals.
Elsewhere, Lille have told Europe's biggest clubs that Eden Hazard will command a top price, following reputed interest from Barcelona and Italian giants AC and Inter Milan and Yann M'Vila of Rennes, who signed a new contract with the club, has stated his desire to stay at the Breton outfit despite Real Madrid's interest. Moussa Sissoko of Toulouse has been linked to Bordeaux as a possible replacement for Alou Diarra who is subject of intense interest from Marseille and Andre Ayew of OM is attracting interest around Europe, particularly in Spain and Italy, but looks set to stay at the Velodrome for at least another season.
Lille's Pierre-Alain Frau has been linked with Bordeaux as he looks for first team football and a reunion with Francis Gillot, former manager at Sochaux and now coach of Les Girondins, is on the cards. Finally, Youssef El-Arabi looks set to spurn the opportunity to play in the Premier League and is set to join Italian side Genoa in a 6.5 million Euro deal.