French correspondent Jonathan Johnson reflects on the market moves in Ligue 1, with English interest in talent across the Channel hotting up.
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip
Last Updated: 16/08/11 9:37am
Despite being a week of limited transfer action between French and English clubs, a number of Ligue 1 sides have continued to strengthen their squads with dealings within France. Plenty of speculation has been linking French players with Premier League clubs over the past seven days and it seems that some deals could be imminent. With the new season two weeks in and the end of the window fast-approaching, some heavy transfer activity is expected in France during the next week.
There was more speculation than actual concrete dealings between the two leagues last week and the majority of the rumours involve Newcastle United, who have already raided France a number of times over the summer. The Magpies are linked with Lyon's Aly Cissokho as a possible replacement for Jose Enrique and Sochaux striker Modibo Maiga, who is currently refusing to play for the club whilst trying to force through a move to England.
Cissokho seems likely to depart Lyon following the decision from Michel Bastos to stay at the club as club president Jean-Michel Aulas has stated his intent to slash expenditure at the club by selling a few high earners, of which the left-back is one. It is also thought that Toulouse's highly-rated full-back Cheikh M'Bnengue is being tracked by the club but sources suggest Cissokho is manager Alan Pardew's first choice.
With Maiga it appears that a deal is almost in place to take him to Tyneside following his refusal to play in the home defeat to Caen on Saturday night, forcing les Lionceaux to only name six substitutes. The player has admitted his desire to leave the club and claims that a transfer is imminent having already struck a deal with the club.
Speaking to L'Equipe following his surprise absence from the team on Saturday he said: "They have made me an offer and I would like the chairman to consider my interest. I want to leave. I met everyone at Newcastle, they want me and it is not just any club. The Premier League is my dream." He then added: "I told the coach I would play and respect my contract, but the chairman has to talk about my transfer first. Offers have now come for me and the chairman refused to negotiate. It is selfish and I can't understand it."
It has been a difficult summer for Sochaux following last season's surprise fifth-placed finish and the subseqent interest in their star players and another of Maiga's team-mates could be following the Malian through the exit door. Marvin Martin, last season's revelation, has been linked heavily with Arsenal following the departure of Cesc Fabregas and the expected exit of fellow French international Samir Nasri. Arsene Wenger is believed to have identified the playmaker as an ideal replacement in the midfield.
Speaking to RMC Radio recently, Martin admitted that he'd be open to leaving Sochaux if the right offer came along: "I had a long talk with the coach Mecha Bazdarevic. I told him that in the case of a good proposition arriving, I was keen to leave. I have been at Sochaux for 10 years and I have given a lot." He then added: "For my career and my ongoing improvement, maybe it is the right time to leave."
Another player who has been linked with Arsenal this summer is flying midfielder Mathieu Valbuena of Marseille. The player has claimed that he is staying at the club for the moment, despite speculation suggesting he may be set to leave the Velodrome before the end of the transfer window and the situation at Arsenal has re-ignited rumours of Wenger's interest. These flames were further fanned by the presence of Gilles Grimandi at Marseille's 2-2 draw with Auxerre on Sunday. The Gunners have also been linked with 21-year-old attacker Andre Ayew, the scorer of Marseille's second goal of the match, and were reported to have made an initial €13million offer for the player but it remains to be seen whether l'OM will let either player go.
Arsenal's London rivals Chelsea have also been busy scouring the French transfer market and a number of sources have reported that the Blues are preparing to bid for Rennes' tough-tackling midfielder Yann M'Vila. The France international has already signed a contract extension this summer after deciding to stay with Rennes for another year as he looks to secure his place in the international squad for next summer's European Championship. French sources believe that only a bid in the region of €30million would be enough to tempt Rennes to part with one of their star youth products.
One player who could be heading the other way is Chelsea's Gael Kakuta, who has been linked with a loan move to defending champions Lille. It is believed that les Dogues coach Rudi Garcia has identified the France U20 captain as a possible signing to add competition to a midfield that has struggled to impose itself over the first two matches of a difficult start to the season.French media outlets have also been speculating that Andre Villas-Boas' side will be facing off with Paris Saint-Germain again in this transfer window to try to sign Alvaro Pereira from Porto. PSG won the race to sign Javier Pastore and trumped the Blues' offer but reports in France suggest that Chelsea would have the edge in this pursuit given the player's history with Villas-Boas. The estimated figure for the deal is around €20million for the versatile left-sided player.
It was a case of more deals that definitely won't happen than deals that actually went through last week but one transfer that was completed was the signing of Nouha Dicko by Wigan from cash-strapped Strasbourg. The 19-year old winger is a promising talent and was highly-rated in Alsace, coming from the same youth academy that produced Kevin Gameiro and Magaye Gueye in recent years. Although unproven at any level of international youth football, the youngster initially landed a trial with the Latics which was then turned into a full contract.
Manager Roberto Martinez was delighted at his side's capture of the Frenchman and said: "At 19, he is a really exciting prospect and we're looking forward to working with him. He has real pace, and raw talent - players like that are difficult to find these days."
That was it for the completed transfers last week but one player who definitely will not be coming to the Premier League anytime soon is Lyon's Michel Bastos. Having been expected to move this summer given the club's desire to sell some of their high earners and the strong interest from Juventus and Tottenham, it was quite a surprise for the Brazilian to then announce that he would be staying at Stade Gerland.
Speaking on his personal Twitter account he said: "Friends, let me tell you that I will remain at OL. This is where I want to win titles."
Another player who also looks set to stay in France this summer despite intense speculation linking him with a switch to England is PSG's Mevlut Erding. Newcastle have long been admirers of the Turkish star's talents but his desire to stay and fight for his place in Paris following the huge influx of competition is impressive. Also linked with Bordeaux, Lille and Rennes in Ligue 1, the striker is believed to be a player that the club's new owners are willing to sell but manager Antoine Kombouare has expressed his faith in him and the player wants to honour his contract at the club and win back his starting role.
Elsewhere in France, Lyon made their first move of the transfer window by snapping up young defender Bakary Kone from Ligue 2's Guingamp. The 23-year old Burkinabe centre-back made his debut against Ajaccio last weekend in the 1-1 draw and looked largely comfortable making the step up to Ligue 1. Saint-Etienne have also strengthened their ranks with the capture of midfielder Fabien Lemoine from Rennes. The move is another impressive signing from les Verts following a summer of rebuilding in the wake of departures of some key players. ASSE find themselves with two wins from two so far this season and have looked impressive in their opening fixtures.
Another player who has recently moved clubs in France is one-time Liverpool target Benjamin Moukandjo who has joined Nancy from Ligue 2's Monaco. The Cameroonian international has signed a three-year deal and will be partnered by Youssouf Hadji in attack if new manager Jean Fernandez can persuade the talismanic Moroccan to stay at the club despite his recent admission that he would like to leave.
Expected Business In The Coming Days:
Although Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo claimed PSG were no longer actively looking to strengthen their squad further during this transfer window, the injury to captain Mamadou Sako in Saturday's 1-1 draw in Rennes that forced him to be substituted after 30 minutes may prompt the Brazilian to look into reinforcement options at the back this week.
Right-back Christophe Jallet also picked up a knock and with Sylvain Armand out injured, defensive options at the club look a little light. Les Parisiens could be looking for an extra player to come in and fill the void left by Sakho and provide competition when he is fit once again.
Tottenham's Sebastien Bassong has been linked with a move to Parc des Princes recently and Montpellier's Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has also been touted as a possible signing given his ability to play at both right-back and centre-back.