Paris-based correspondent Jonathan Johnson scours the French newspapers and taps up his sources to provide an overview of what's going on across the channel.
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip
Last Updated: 11/07/11 3:30pm
Strolling through place de la Contrescarpe with a fougasse in my hand, Parisian newspapers are screaming headlines about Leonardo's no-show in the capital last week and proffering intense rumours about their next transfer targets. Meanwhile beneath the surface, activity is still bubbling between Ligue 1 and the Premier League and a number of key moves might be about to happen.
The biggest story of last week was Arsenal's completion of the Gervinho transfer saga as confirmed by Arsene Wenger upon the club's arrival in Malaysia for their pre-season tour. It had emerged last week that the Ivorian was in London undergoing a series of medical exams and upon the successful completion of the tests, the player's transfer was finalised. Reports in France now suggest that Lille will turn their attention towards a new attacking player following the departure of Pierre-Alain Frau to Caen and Moussa Sow's apparent reluctance to sign a new deal at the club.
Although that was the only transfer actually completed this week, amidst the croissant crumbs on my newspaper from my seat at a cafe in place Vendome, I see rumours in the French media linking a number of players with switches to the Premier League.
Lyon's Aly Cissokho is a priority signing for Liverpool according to France Football and it is claimed that the Reds will lodge a bid for the attacking left-back soon. However, despite President Jean-Michel Aulas' admission that the club must offload a number of players before they can buy any in this transfer window, new manager Remi Garde is determined to keep the youngster.
Garde told L'Equipe: "Aly is an important player to us. But if an offer can match the chairman's plans, he could be likely to leave."
Another player making waves along the Pont Neuf this transfer window is Paris Saint-Germain's Mevlut Erding. Speculation remains that Newcastle United want to sign the Turkish hit-man despite his insistence that he is happy to remain in Paris. Reports in the French press suggest that manager Alan Pardew will return with an improved offer later this week. One-time Magpies target Blaise Matuidi also appears to heading towards the Premier League despite his claims that he would be interested in a move to PSG. Foot Transferts claims that Arsenal lead the chase for the solid defensive midfielder despite strong interest from Lyon, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and PSG.
In other news that was not well-received on the French Riviera, another player subject to intense speculation regarding Arsenal is Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena. Le Foot claims that the Gunners are close to agreeing a deal with OM for the playmaker's signature and rumours suggest that Lucho Gonzalez, who was previously looking for a transfer, will now stay.
Whispers coming out of the Principality on the south coast are suggesting that a pair of Monaco's players could be set for moves to England. Solid centre-back Cedric Mongongu has been linked with Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion as well as Marseille, whilst Dieumerci Mbokani has also been linked with the Baggies and is apparently close to agreeing a deal. Mongongu is highly-rated within France, whilst Mbokani's move to Stade Louis II last summer did not work out and he spent the second half of last season on loan at Wolfsburg in Germany.
Mongongu recently said of the rumours: "I hear so many reports and claims about me through the papers, but I am still a Monaco player. I am only 22-years-old and Blackburn would be a good opportunity, but staying with a good club in France can also be fantastic."
Another player whose future in France at the moment remains unclear is Marvin Martin of Sochaux. The talented playmaker and leading assist maker last season was believed to be announcing his decision over his future when he returned to pre-season training at the end of last week, with rumours flying around that PSG, Lyon, Marseille and Lille have all bid for his services and Borussia Dortmund have also been credited with a long-standing interest. A statement was not made regarding his decision and the player returned for training as normal so expect some news very soon.
Sitting on a bench in the Luxembourg Gardens with the sun shining high in the Parisian sky, the news that Brest have slapped an €8million price tag on the head of Liverpool target Nolan Roux is enough to make the nearby runners trip over as I choke on my espresso. The high price according to reports in France has put off Schalke chief Ralf Rangnick who is not prepared to raise his current bid of €7million any higher. However, Marseille have entered the bidding war and the player is understood to be keen on a move to Provence in the near future.
Despite a relative absence of solid transfer news between France and England currently, the French transfer market has blown wide open as a number of sides have made good acquisitions and newspapers from Brittany to Montpellier have been overflowing with rumours and transfer speculation regarding their local teams' next dealings.
One of the most surprising stories of the week came on Thursday when it was revealed that former Arsenal striker Jeremie Aliadiere had joined Lorient as a replacement for Kevin Gameiro, who moved to PSG last month. A number of French football fans will have choked on their pain au chocolat when finding out about the story but the Frenchman is confident he can stay clear of injury and prove himself in the top flight following disappointing spells at Celtic and Middlesbrough.
Coach Christian Gourcuff told L'Equipe: "Jeremie has been forgotten a bit. He hasn't played for a year so there are questions to be answered. But I like players who want to settle quickly and who are not obsessed with money and instead make choices for sporting reasons."
Another former Premier League player now plying his trade in Ligue 1 is Ben Sahar. The former Chelsea striker and Israeli international has joined Auxerre on loan whilst Issam Jemaa, a skilful and pacy forward, has also joined the club from recently-relegated Lens.Other transfers to have been completed this week have included Guillermo Ochoa finalizing his move to Ajaccio having received his clearance documents from the Mexican Football Federation, clearing him of all wrongdoing in recent doping allegations. Marseille made two big moves, firstly securing the signing of France national team captain Alou Diarra from Bordeaux followed by experienced goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano from Nancy. Jonathan Pitroipa joined Rennes from German outfit Hamburg but it was recently-promoted Evian that made the biggest impression on last week's transfer dealings. The team from Gaillard announced the signings of ex-France international Sidney Govou and capable veteran Jerome Leroy on free transfers and promising young Ghanaian defender Jonathan Mensah arrived from Udinese.
Speaking about the new signings, Evian's sporting director Pascal Dupraz told the club's official website: "We are pleased with our current transfer dealings. The players we have signed have lots of quality and we are still looking for more recruits."
Dijon also announced a new signing with experienced Japan international Daisuke Matsui joining from Grenoble Foot 38, who recently filed for bankruptcy. With all players allowed to leave for free following the club's collapse, Dijon acted fast to secure the player's signature. Grenoble were a Ligue 1 side as recently as 2009-2010 but have sadly been anticipating their demise for a while and they were one of a number of high-profile sides currently struggling to survive financially.
In other news, Queen's Park Rangers playmaker Adel Taarabt is still negotiating with PSG according to French press reports although it is believed that he has demanded equal the wages of the club's highest-earners, prompting much spluttering of red wine in the capital. Leicester City's Soulemayne Bamba has also been linked with a move to Ligue 1 and it is believed that Marseille are leading a host of teams in the chase for his signature.
Despite this abundance of transfer news and rumours, the biggest story in France this past week has been the ongoing soap opera of Leonardo's move to Paris Saint-Germain to become Director of Football. Having been expected to arrive in Paris before Wednesday last week, it shocked many people when the Brazilian announced he was holding a press conference in Milan on Thursday. With the press anticipating a declaration of his intent to take his position at PSG, what happened was a huge surprise to football fans all over France.
Not only did Leonardo fail to announce his acceptance of the position in question at PSG, he announced that there had only been tentative talks with new owners Qatari Sports Investments whist appearing indifferent to the potential offer from the club. Although speculation is rife in the French press that this was a calculated approach from the Brazilian to ensure that he takes the job on his own terms, the fallout from last Thursday's announcement has been incredibly embarrassing for the capital club who were made to look amateurish and unprofessional by their potential future employee.
Despite this unexpected twist, the saga is expected to finally be put to bed this week as Mercato 365 have reported over the weekend that the deal should be completed later on this week following QSI's swift reaction to Thursday's debacle to ensure they get their man. Don't hold your breath just yet though; there will surely be more twists to follow...