Paris-based journalist Jonathan Johnson delivers his verdict as the January transfer window finally kicked into life last week with the increased activity of Paris Saint-Germain bringing Ligue 1 a lot of media attention.
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip
Last Updated: 17/01/12 10:22am
The French January transfer window finally kicked into life last week, with the increased activity of Paris Saint-Germain bringing Ligue 1 a lot of media attention. Carlo Ancelotti's recent appointment as manager has seen the club linked with a host of star names but last week they finally started to make some concrete moves that could now spark the European transfer window into life. Although we are yet to see a Premier League side profit from the wealth of French talent on offer in Ligue 1 this month, a number of moves could materialise shortly.
The biggest transfer rumour so far that is making headlines on both sides of the Channel is Harry Redknapp's very public admission of interest in Marseille striker Loic Remy. The former Lyon youngster has been admired by the Spurs manager for some time and it seems that he could finally be set to make a move for his man after admitting that he was travelling to France to watch Remy and Marseille take on Lille in a heavyweight Ligue 1 clash on Sunday, a match in which the French international netted twice.
The talented 25-year old who is likened to French legend Thierry Henry in terms of style has enjoyed a fantastic season so far scoring nine goals and laying on three others in 19 matches. However, he has already ruled out making a switch this winter and Spurs may have to wait until the summer to get their man.
Speaking of Tottenham's interest to France Football after his match-winning performance on Sunday, Remy said: "It is nice, it means some clubs have shown interest. However, it has already been sorted out with the chairman and the coach - it is out of the question to leave right now."
Remy is not the only striker looking at a potential move to England, recently-promoted Evian's Yannick Sagbo has set his heart on a move to Sam Allardyce's West Ham following a spell of good form. Although not prepared to force the move through, the player recently admitted to French media that it would be 'a dream' to move to London.
Blackburn Rovers' Chris Samba is a name at the top of many clubs' shopping lists this winter and it seems as if he has finally had enough of the current upheaval at Ewood Park. Speaking recently to French newspaper L'Equipe he explained why he felt it was the right time for him to leave the club and appeared to talk himself into a potential move to PSG in the process.
After expressing his desire to leave Blackburn in the interview he went on to talk about the rumours linking him with PSG: "It's flattering. The club has reached another level - it's not the PSG of a few years ago.
"We shall see if the interest is confirmed or not, but the most important thing is to find an ambitious club. I would love to experience something different."
Although it is unlikely the capital club will take up the player's interest, the admission could ignite a transfer battle for the defender's signature in the EPL.
PSG will instead turn their interest to obtaining some 'star quality' following sporting director Leonardo's admission that the club are chasing some big names.
Speaking to Canal on Sunday, Leonardo claimed: "We do not yet have a club that attracts the biggest players because we do not play in the Champions League. We have to grow to be able to attract players like that."
One star name that PSG have been linked with for a number of weeks is Manchester City's Carlos Tevez. Alexandre Pato's rejection of a move to the French capital had a knock-on effect that destroyed Tevez's hopes of moving to the Italian giants. However, it did though open the door for his former suitors to bid for the Argentine following AC's withdrawal from talks because a transfer fee was dependent on Pato agreeing to join Leonardo's French revolution in Paris.
Other big names that have been linked with the club that could yet arrive this month are Porto's deadly Brazilian striker Hulk and his fellow countryman Maicon of Inter Milan. Porto remain adamant that despite interest from the French giants a deal is not close to being done but more interestingly, Maicon's Brazilian teammate Michel Bastos suggested in a Coupe de la Ligue post-match interview following Lyon's 2-1 triumph over Lille that his international team-mate could be joining him in France soon.
Bastos' club teammate Aly Cissokho could also be on the move soon after it was revealed the Newcastle firmed up their interest in the full-back last week and Lyon supremo Jean-Michel Aulas admitted that he would not be against the idea of selling the youngster. Newcastle have since moved to distance themselves from rumours that the Frenchman is set to undergo a medical at the club but rumours in France persist suggesting that his departure is just a matter of time.
Speaking about the possibility of selling Cissokho to L'Equipe, Aulas said: "Possible winter departures and the transfer of Aly Cissokho? I am in favour of it. We could buy a new centre back or defensive midfielder."Another young French defender who could be arriving on British shores in the near future is Le Havre's Benjamin Mendy. The Ligue 2 outfit are famed for their youth academy and have produced a number of famous graduates over the years and many clubs in Europe believe Mendy is the next of the brightest stars off their conveyor belt. Arsenal have been linked with a strong interest in the player and could be tempted to snap him up ahead of the competition but keep him stationed at Le Havre whilst he finishes his education and gains first team experience.
Despite there still being an absence of Ligue 1 arrivals in the Premier League so far this window, one former starlet who previously made the move has returned to grace France's top division. Chelsea's Gael Kakuta was signed by Chelsea from Lens in 2007 amidst a storm of controversy due to the nature of his transfer. The youngster has so far failed to justify that hype in a frustrating spell in England that culminated in his recent loan to Bolton which ultimately ended in disappointment. Kakuta will now be hoping to get more game time for Patrice Carteron's struggling side and help them in their bid to avoid the drop.
Although that is the extent of EPL sides' involvement in the French transfer window so far, a number of Ligue 1 sides have announced new signings in the past seven days. PSG are never out of the spotlight for a second as they unveiled the impressive capture of well-travelled Brazilian full-back Maxwell from Barcelona for a fee believed to be between €3-5million. The former Ajax and Inter Milan player is Leonardo's first recruit this month and made his debut in Saturday's impressive 3-1 victory over Toulouse.
He is also joined by veteran goalkeeper Ronan Le Crom who arrived last week on a six-month deal after Carlo Ancelotti decided he needed more competition amongst the goalkeepers.
Lille winger Ludovic Obraniak was also on the move, he completed his highly-anticipated move to Bordeaux last week and becomes Francis Gillot's second signing this transfer window following the arrival of Brazilian full-back Mariano. Valenciennes made a splash too, persuading Zurich midfielder Dusan Djuric to join them over title-chasing Montpellier in an impressive coup.
Perhaps the most surprising move so far this month has come at the Stade Velodrome where Marseille Boss Didier Deschamps has seen his resurgent OM side depleted by the African Cup of Nations and was forced to recall Brazilian striker Brandao from his loan spell with Gremio in Brazil. With his hands tied in the transfer window with regards to funds, Deschamps was left with the bare bones ahead of the important clash with Lille at the weekend. However his side triumphed, making a title bid more realistic and he is now looking to reinforce the threadbare squad with a fleet of loan signings this month.
Following Remy's heroic performance against Lille on Sunday night in front of the watching Redknapp, Spurs could be tempted to firm up their interest in the prolific OM striker before any other European rivals bid for him. However Marseille would be loath to lose their star man at this point in the season, but with no suitors arriving for the likes of Lucho Gonzalez and injury preventing the sale of Andre-Pierre Gignac, the club could consider selling the striker for an inflated fee to fund some additions.
Boubacar Sanogo, out of favour at Saint-Etienne and recently unsuccessful in his trial with Ligue 1 rivals Auxerre, could be set to join Celtic shortly. The former Werder Bremen hitman has endured a torrid time in France for the past few seasons but could be offered a lifeline by Neil Lennon who tried to sign the striker in the summer before injury disrupted the move.
Just across Glasgow, Rangers were set to lose one of their stars to Ligue 1 this week as Sochaux stepped up their interest in Maurice Edu and looked set to seal a deal. The player intimated that he would like to make the move but the club rejected les Lionceaux's second offer and the French side have instead secured the services of Theirry Doubai from Udinese.
Speaking to the club's official television channel, Sochaux's assistant coach Stephane Gilli said: "We had two or three options but today we signed Thierry Doubai. We are very happy to have him.
"Our first option was for Edu to come here. But we made two offers to Rangers and they said it wasn't enough."
All is not well at Sochaux currently and star performer Marvin Martin has recently admitted that his time at the club is drawing to an end despite his initial pledge to see out the season with the strugglers. In a recent interview in France, Martin admitted his frustration at being unable to play in Europe and worried for his international future if he stays with the club.
Speaking in a recent interview with Le Pays he said: "I want to play in big Champions League games like any other player. When I'm with Les Bleus, I'm the only one who does not."
"I have dream clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal but for now, I have no favorite club. PSG is the club where I always wanted to play one day."
With more movement and plenty more rumours expected all the way up until the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month, this January is shaping up to be an important one for Ligue 1. With plenty of big names potentially arriving, the French clubs are fighting hard to keep their most valuable assets. However, should reasonable bids arrive for some of the league's top talents, many clubs will be forced to sell so expect some movement in the coming weeks as France looks set to play a big part in this month's European transfer window.