Now that the transfer window has finally slammed shut and we can concentrate on matters on the pitch, Matthew Richards looks at the business done within Ligue 1 in the last month, and it’s not all doom and gloom.
The January transfer window was its usual manic self; rumours, agents, ‘Arry in a Land Rover, all the ingredients were there to make Sky Sports News loyalists salivate. This year there seemed to be a particular focus on all things French as Alan Pardew rounded up a flock of Ligue 1 stalwarts before guiding them across the channel to the North East. Even outside northern England the frantic franco-buying continued with the likes of Loïc Rémy popping off to QPR for a generous payday and Aston Villa signing a £2 million unknown in the form of Yacouba Sylla. As the circus got into full flow (let’s not forget about Prince Beckham’s royal visit to the French capital), sides within the top flight of French football more than took advantage of the distraction of such whimsical antics by buying and selling internally with a great amount of sense.
Although the transfers are by no means headline-grabbing, the intelligence of the business is certainly commendable. So let’s have a look at some of the transfers that may well turn out to be the best value for money amid the transfer window carnage.
First stop has to be Olympique Marseille. Élie Baup’s men consider themselves title chasers but the reality, and not just for OM mind you, is that they simply can’t spend the sort of money the Parisians can. Solution: boost and support what has got you this far already. With Rémy their only notable loss the side had good foundations to work on and certainly didn’t need to spend big money. The signings of Foued Kadir, Alaixys Romao and Modou Sougou further suggest that a renovation has been undertaken rather than a complete rebuild. Kadir appears to be the transfer of most interest out of the three. The former Valenciennes man has garnered some praise during the Africa Cup of Nations despite his country Algeria’s poor performance.
Such praise is far from being news if you’ve witnessed any of his 6 goals or 4 assists for his club side prior to his move to OM. The forward is lively and looks full of ideas, something that will be a welcome boost in an effort to keep things fresh for the remainder of the season. The added competition of Kadir and Sougou is a positive in terms of keeping the Ayew brothers and Gignac on their toes as well. Despite their good form this year there were earlier fears of complacency but now with extra shoulders to carry the team’s burden, hopefully Baup’s front line can stay sharp right up until Week 38.
North of Aix-en-Provence another group of top six hopefuls not only have the positivity of fresh faces but the added bonus of minimum casualties. With rumours rife that star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was England-bound, Christophe Galtier and Saint-Étienne can breathe a sigh of relief now the window has been slammed shut. But Les Verts certainly didn’t bury their heads in the sand and hope for this to blow over, bringing in three new recruits throughout the month. Michael Laudrup’s baby boy Andreas made the move from Nordsjælland, former Lyon midfielder Mathieu Bodmer has made the trip from the capital and parent club PSG, with Yohan Mollo’s loan move from AS Nancy-Lorraine completing the hat-trick.
Out of the three it’s safe to say that the capture of Mollo from strugglers Nancy is a brilliant bit of business. The noise coming out of the club was that Mollo had fallen out of favour with the then coach Jean Fernandez. The former Monaco man accused the manager of ‘singling him out’ for lack of effort during the side’s poor performances this season. Although it’s understandable in regards to the player’s unhappiness, what is baffling is Fernandez himself was relieved of duty only a matter of days after Mollo’s move to ASSE. To part company with one of the men would obviously be a wise choice but to lose a big player for the side, seemingly backing the coach, only to then remove said coach days later is a completely illogical move by Nancy.
Despite the reasons behind the move Nancy’s loss will surely be Saint-Étienne’s gain. Mollo has already looked bright for his new club grabbing a goal and 2 assists in only 2 appearances. With the return of Max Gradel to come following his trip to South Africa, Galtier will certainly have the depth needed to push for that Europa League spot and maybe higher.
Though these are two of the larger sides that used their time and money well there are plenty of notable mentions elsewhere. Emmanuel Rivière’s move to AS Monaco for instance is a smart move for both the player and the club. Rivière has struggled for first team action this season, competing with the favoured Wissam Ben Yedder, so a move to the Stade Louis II should give the frontman an opportunity for more regular football. Ranieri will certainly welcome the presence of another forward as his side have relied heavily on top scorer Ibrahima Touré to blast the team to the top of Ligue 2.
Other temporary moves such as that of Spurs’ Ryan Mason to FC Lorient and PSG’s Adrien Rabiot to Toulouse could also be worth keeping an eye on as the youngsters look to gain valuable experience during the remainder of the season. Lille’s acquisition of both Florian Thauvin and Souahilo Meïté seem to be smart moves for the future with both players staying with their former clubs in the meantime.
Despite the mass exodus, despite the low transfer fees, there is still reason to be positive about this January’s activity. The annual cattle market shows no signs of slowing down with Ligue 1 playing its part as a selling league. It is a fact that the league, barring PSG, doesn’t have the money to compete with foreign clubs and unfortunately that will continue to be a recurring issue. With that said, take solace in knowing that despite the lunacy surrounding it, Ligue 1 remains a very sensible selling league indeed. Allez Ligue 1!