The Busiest in Europe: Ligue 1’s Departure Lounge XI

Departure Lounge

There’s still a way to go yet, but a wealth of talent has already departed Ligue 1. As if to underline the fact that France is a selling league, trying to select an XI of Ligue 1 immigrants turned out to be rather difficult, so we’ve run the rule over the list and picked out our favourites, with some honourable mentions as well. Tell us if there’s anyone we’ve missed in the comments.

Goalkeeper

Not a great deal of movement here (well, there aren’t as many of them). Monaco’s cup keeper Martin Stekelenburg has gone back to Fulham after his loan spell, and Bordeaux back-up Azbe Jug to Sporting Club de Portugal on a free. The main move, albeit hopefully temporary, is Alphonse Areola to Villareal on loan. You can see PSG’s thinking here – his first loan spell was with Lens in Ligue 2 (36 games) and then on to Bastia last season (40), in both cases as main man, and with a dozen clean sheets each season. With PSG recruiting Kevin Trapp this summer, the chances of Areola making his way into his parent team seem limited for even longer – will this be the loan spell that turns into a permanent move away from Paris? Only time will tell. Now he’s going to be tested in a different league, and with Sergio Asenjo out for the first couple of months, has a chance to establish himself in the first team.

Defence

Lille and Montpellier have both been weakened by the departures of key players in central defence; Simon Kjaer is already picking up plaudits after his debut for Fenerbahce (but was sent off in a 3-0 defeat in the second-leg), and Abdelhamid El-Kaoutari is taking his brand of measured resilience to Palermo in Serie A.

Full-back-wise, Nantes are losing a key part of the defence that only conceded 40 in the league as Issa Cissokho goes to Genoa, Saint-Etienne’s Franck Tabanou is off to Swansea, and promotees Troyes have sent Lionel Carole to Galatasaray for €1.5m for them and the prospect of Champions League football for the player. Most missed, however, will be Bordeaux’s Mariano, going to Europa League winners Sevilla, leaving them with only newly-acquired Serbian U20 World Cup Winner Milan Gajic at right-back, and Nice’s rightly highly-rated Jordan Amavi, joining the Aston Villa project at left-back.

Midfield

Starting to get a bit more crowded here. Yohan Cabaye is rejoining Alan Pardew, now at Crystal Palace, after a personally unsuccessful stint with champions PSG. Lille will also be bemoaning the loss of Idrissa Gana Gueye (Villa), Caen counting large quantities of money as midfield metronome N’Golo Kante joins Leicester, and honourable mention for Nice’s enforcer Didier Digard, off to Real Betis on a free.

But three players on the manifest really stand out – Jordan Veretout was probably Nantes’ best player last season, and they will miss him a lot after his move to Aston Villa; Gianelli Imbula was a slightly surprising departure for OM given their new youth focus, but the alleged €20m Porto have ponied up for him explains that; and similarly the big-money move of Geoffrey Kondogbia from Monaco to Inter Milan (€30m), where in pre-season he has already taken to bossing things in the middle. So, three 22-year-olds, two of whom have U20 World Cup Winners medals, and bright, bright futures, sold for a total of about €60m. For once, that value seems reasonable.

Attack

Another Villa signing, another guy named Jordan. J. Ayew’s departure could leave Lorient in some trouble on the scoring side of things – they have now signed Majeed Waris and Benjamin Moukandjo – while older brother Andre joins Swansea on a free, and OM have also waved off key assister Dimitri Payet to West Ham (not free). Nantes’ Serge Gakpe is joining team-mate Cissokho at Genoa, who should have a decent right side this season, and Angers have lost the top-scorer from their promotion campaign (15 in the league) as Jonathan Kodija goes to Bristol City for a very useful €3m – if they can invest that in replacing him.

Saint-Etienne have also lost their top-scorers, plural – Mevlut Erding (8 in the league) to Hannover and Max Gradel (17) to Bournemouth, in what is either a touching sign of his love for the place (he spent 2007/08 there on loan) or a damning indictment of the financial disparity between Ligue 1 and the Premiership, if he’s willing to forego the chance of European football to play for a newly promoted side, depending on your point of view. Yannick Ferreira Carrasco will be sadly missed by Ligue 1 watchers of Jardim’s exciting new Monaco as he streaks off up the wing in the direction of Atletico Madrid. And there’s only one man who can lead this line – Ligue 1’s second-highest scorer last season with 21, French international as recently as November, Andre-Pierre Gignac leaving OM on a free to go to Tigres in Mexico.

DEPARTURE XI: (4-3-3) Areola – Mariano, Kjaer, El-Kaoutari, Amavi – Veretout, Imbula, Kondogbia – Gradel, Ferreira Carrasco, Gignac

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