French correspondent Jonathan Johnson reflects on the market moves in Ligue 1 as the transfer window hots up. In his latest column he differentiates between the done deals and those transfers being played out in the full glare of the press.
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip.
Last Updated: 18/07/11 3:44pm
Last week saw the conclusion (finally!) of Leonardo's protracted appointment as Paris Saint-Germain's new sporting director. It appears that PSG hold the key to many clubs' transfer plans this summer, both sides of the Channel. Now they can push ahead with their business we should see the transfer window spring back to life. Despite an absence of definite transfer activity between France and England, there are still plenty of enticing rumours and a number of surprise moves involving players of interest to English sides have been completed.
The most surprising move of the week and perhaps the whole French transfer window so far was that of Monaco captain and goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier to Saint-Etienne. The France international chose to move to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard from the recently-relegated Monegasque outfit despite intense interest from Manchester City, joining a club with high competition between the sticks for a bargain price of only €3million.
Speaking to the club's official website he said: "I am very satisfied to have joined ASSE, it has great history, great fans and the manager seduced me with his plans." He then added: "I respect Jeremie [Janot] for what he has achieved here but my desire is to achieve things with this team and it was essential that I stay in Ligue 1 and play.""
Of Manchester City's late interest, he told L'Equipe: "My agent received a call [last] Monday but the priority for me was Saint-Etienne. Manchester City doesn't matter to me, I am here for sporting reasons and I am attracted to playing."
Another move that will have surprised a few English fans was a second Saint-Etienne deal, this time seeing promising striker Emmanuel Riviere, a recent target for both Liverpool and Arsenal join, Toulouse for a fee of €6million. Although a great deal for TFC, ASSE were powerless to resist once the player had stated his desire to join Alain Casanova's side and have lost an immensely talented and versatile attacker, often compared to Thierry Henry, for a snip of what could be his true value.
In an interview with the club's official website, Riviere revealed: "I feel joy and great satisfaction at having joined TFC. I really wanted to sign and be a part of this team."
On the interest from other clubs, he said: "I spoke to the manager, he made me feel welcome and explained what he expected of me. He made a great first impression and I only wanted to join TFC from then."
Although he was not attracting the same calibre of interest from the Premier League, Caen hot-shot Youssef El-Arabi had been a target of Stoke and West Bromwich Albion, as well as Marseille and Genoa, and was expected to complete a move to Italy during the last few weeks. However, the Moroccan international instead opted to join Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia following advice on the move from current Morocco boss Eric Gerets. The move certainly raised a few eyebrows in France and Caen look to have benefitted from the deal by receiving a top price and not strengthening one of their Ligue 1 rivals.
Didier Digard has finally joined Nice on a permanent deal from Middlesbrough whilst another transfer deal that was eventually completed this week was Gervinho's painfully drawn-out move to Arsenal which was finalised over the weekend when the clubs agreed a fee.Upon being unveiled Gervinho said: "It's a great feeling to be an Arsenal player. I've always dreamed to play for this club and now I've achieved this. It's one of the most beautiful days of my life."
Despite that being the extent of the transfer deals of interest to English football fans, a number of rumours in the French press refuse to disappear and many sources believe that a number of deals could be struck this week.
Monaco's Cedric Mongongu has been linked heavily with Blackburn Rovers this week and it is now believed that in addition to Lyon, Marseille also want to challenge for his signature. The player is desperate to make a decision on his future and an announcement is expected to be made later this week although reports in France expect Lyon to win the race for his signature, paving the way for Aly Cissokho or Michel Bastos to leave.
The pair have been linked with moves all over Europe and Cissokho has been attracting attention from Liverpool in particular recently, whilst rumours suggest that Bastos could be on his way to Chelsea, Liverpool or Spurs having seen a move to Juventus fall through. Lyon need to sell to buy so keep an eye on this story to see if it has any effect on Rovers' chances of snaring Mongongu.
Long-time Newcastle United target Mevlut Erding is still being linked with the North East club in France despite his desire to stay in Paris. The Turkish hit-man has reiterated his desire to stay with the capital club on a recent trip to Portugal for the Guardiana Cup but the French press are adamant that he could still end up at St James' Park before the transfer window shuts.
Speaking to the club's official website, Erding insisted: "I am happy in Paris. I want to stay and I am not afraid of competition."
Other recent rumours have linked Rennes' Senegal international defender Kader Mangane with a move to Sunderland. However, despite his signing of a new deal it is still believed that he could be moved on if the price on offer is right amidst heavy interest from Lyon and Marseille. Also, Lorient are expected to try to sign Arsenal youth product Francis Coquelin on a permanent deal after he impressed on loan at Stade du Moustoir last season, whilst Brest have confirmed that a suitable offer for hot property Nolan Roux has yet to be made. The striker has been of interest to Liverpool recently.
Another player expected to make an announcement on his future this week with regards to a move to France is Queens Park Rangers' Adel Taarabt. An offer from QPR has been on the table for the last few weeks but French press reports have suggested that his wage demands are too high and would unsettle members of the first team.
Speaking to skysports.com, Neil Warnock admitted that Taarabt would not be taking part in the club's pre-season tour and feels that a decision will be made within days: "I think he will be talking to his people and the ongoing saga should come to head shortly."
Expected business in the coming days:
French sides are now well underway in their pre-season training and with Leonardo now in place, the transfer market is really expected to ignite as les Parisiens look to strengthen a side weak in depth. A move for Arsenal and Newcastle target Blaise Matuidi of Saint-Etienne looks close to being completed. Les Verts rejected PSG's opening offer but a deal is expected to be struck later this week with the Gunners and the Magpies both missing out.
Valenciennes' Serbian centre-back Milan Bisevac is also believed to be close to a switch to Paris and Leonardo has similarly identified Benfica's Luisao as a possible addition to the side's backline. Not content with the club's current Brazilian contingent of two, the new sporting director has singled out Chelsea target and Santos attacking midfielder Ganso as his number one priority this summer. Jeremy Menez, also believed to be a target of the club following his fall from favour in Rome, is attracting interest from PSG's fierce rivals Marseille and le Rouge-et-Bleu will need to move fast to secure his signing. Expect significant transfer activity to emanate from the capital over the next week.
Another interesting transfer titbit which will have passed most people by was a printing error in the match programmes for PSG's friendly with Benfica during last week's Guardiana Cup. The document had listed Spurs' Wilson Palacios in the squad list for the tournament and this follows rumours that surfaced a few weeks ago suggesting that a bid would be made for the player once Leonardo arrived. An oversight perhaps, but a very interesting one nonetheless, but Spurs fans might be able to console themselves with the fact they could complete the signing of Caen wonderkid M'Baye Niang by the end of the week. French sources indicate that Spurs lead the chase for his signature and a deal could be done in the next few days.