We took a look at Serie A’s hot commodities yesterday. Today, we stopped by Germany before heading to France. And if you’re wondering how the summer’s hottest transfers shaped up once they moved away from Ligue 1, well, we’ve got you covered.
Croissants, coffee and the phrase, “You don’t speak French fluently so you couldn’t possibly understand why Charlie Hebdo’s racist caricatures are not actually racist,” are the three biggest exports to come from France. That is, apart from affordable young players who will dominate English and Spanish football for years.
With Real Madrid and Atlético facing a trolley dash in response to a predicted transfer ban for dealing in teenage boys against regulations, expect a greater presence from Spanish clubs in Ligue 1. But it’s still English clubs who should dominate the transfer dealings as usual. Particularly now that Arsène Wenger has money.
The slight twist on this season is also the same as last year’s, that the presence of Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain has meant that there are more established players on offer, and Lyon’s resurgence over the last couple of years has given them the chance to make a profit on youngsters again. The euro is also in freefall, making players that much more affordable for those using a real currency.
Don’t worry, this round up will feature no racist caricatures.
Best position (alternate positions): Striker (Winger)
Teams in pursuit: Liverpool, Manchester United (England), Juventus (Italy)
Likely cost: $62 million
“Actual value:” $46 million
Go back to 2014 and you’ll find Edward Woodward and David Moyes discussing Cavani. Woodward was keen to get a superstar – any superstar – because that’s the kind of man he is. He wants to be known as a dealmaker, someone who will bring in famous players to a famous club. Of course, he also wanted to keep his own job so removed Moyes from his when it became clear United would not be entering the Champions League. It also became clear that Louis van Gaal was interested in other targets, and Robin van Persie would be retained despite a wretched season.
Cavani stayed, enduring another poor season at Paris Saint-Germain. Often reduced to the role of worker on the wings, he’s never looked close to matching his goal tallies from his Napoli era, despite PSG dominating Ligue 1. But he’s still scored 24 this year, and many of them important intervention. Manchester United continue to be interested, and rumors of a move to Juventus – who are planning for the loss of Carlos Tevez – continue to be printed. Nasser Al Khelaifi, PSG’s owner, recently said Cavani is staying, but that seems more like brinkmanship than honesty. At 28, Cavani no longer has time to waste trying to win back his place in attack.
Best position: Central midfielder
Teams in pursuit: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United (England), Real Madrid (Spain)
Likely cost: $54 million
“Actual value:” $54 million
The closest Europe has to a new Xavi, Verratti has often been compared favorably, but probably incorrectly, to fellow Italian Andrea Pirlo. Verratti, unlike Pirlo, has almost always been considered a deep-lying midfielder (Pirlo started higher up the pitch in his twenties and gradually dropped back to take advantage of his passing and positioning). But it’s not just here he is different from Pirlo.
Verratti is a walking yellow card in an already phyiscal league. Supposedly he has curtailed his aggression, but that’s generous going by the statistics. In 43 games he was booked 12 times and sent off once, and this season he’s running at 15, with more games and inevitably more cautions to follow. The chances of him leaving, given his age, potential and obvious happiness in Paris means a move is less likely for him than Cavani, but that hasn’t stopped the rumors spreading. He is an utterly brilliant and intelligent midfielder, and there simply aren’t many of them of any age, price or location these days.
Best position: Striker
Teams in pursuit: Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham, West Ham (England)
Likely cost: Nothing
“Actual value:” $15 million
An abominable player who somehow is consistently linked with competent sides abroad, Gignac continues to be linked with competent sides abroad. A kind of Olivier Giroud-lite in terms of talent, and Olivier Giroud-heavy in terms of physique, he is a man who will occasionally play well and never convince anyone aiming to do something truly special with their team.
He started this season as Marcelo Bielsa’s Marseille did in general: with a new-found lease of life and transcending what you can reasonably expect from such an average amount of talent. For the first time he has at least 20 goals in consecutive seasons, but things have slowed since the wheels fell off at Marseille. They fell off because Bielsa utterly refuses to learn any lessons from his previous seasons dealing with wheels and football, and for Gignac, because he’s never going to be better than he is now. At 29, on a free transfer, expect him to join a team happy to tread water with a punt on an established striker rather than developing someone with potential.
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Best position: Striker
Teams in pursuit: Arsenal, Liverpool Manchester City, Manchester United (England)
Likely cost: $62 million
“Actual value:” $61.5 million
As he plays for Lyon and is French, Lacazette has obviously been linked with a move to Arsenal, as is obligatory under European Union legislation. Lacazette has been part of a resurgent Lyon, now the only team capable of challenging PSG for the Ligue 1 title. He’s scored a ridiculous 26 goals in 30 appearances, which is far harder than it is in other lesser foreign leagues like Eredivisie.
Lacazette is not itching for a move, which makes sense. He’s a pleasant enough man, not openly disruptive, and is planning for the European Championships in 2016. Any move to a more prestigious club might reduce his game time and jeopardize his chances in the national side, for whom he has only played six times in the last two years. That’s not stopped Manchester City, United, Arsenal and Liverpool from all checking him out, and all four clubs need to improve their attack and buy young. His contract runs to 2018, but Jean-Michel Aulas sensibly runs Lyon to sell its prospects and senior players for serious money – if it’s on offer this summer, he will almost certainly take it.
Best position (alternate positions): Attacking midfielder (winger)
Teams in pursuit: Arsenal (England), Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Likely cost: $31 million
“Actual value:” $23 million
Fekir pissed a lot of people off by trailing his decision as to which national team – Algeria or France – he would deign to play for. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, for two reasons. One, it’s not necessarily easy to decide in a country like France, which often has an antagonistic relationship with its citizens who have roots in other countries, particularly predominantly Muslim countries which were once part of the French empire. Second, being 21 and having relentless attention placed upon you due to your talent must be hard to deal with, flattering and discombobulating.
Fekir was called up to the French national side in March this year, showing what hopes there are for him. A talented attacking midfielder (yes, linked with Arsenal amongst others), he has recently said he hopes and expects to be playing for Lyon next season in the Champions League. But remember, a serious offer is often enough to make Aulas turf out a player from a club. Anyone interested must take into account his occasional quiet, some say invisible, spells, but at 21 that will almost certainly be rectified.
Best position: Central midfielder
Teams in pursuit: Arsenal, Liverpool (England), Napoli (Italy)
Likely cost: $30 million
“Actual value:” $40 million
Geoffrey Kondogbia is a hugely popular man, and rightfully so. A nasty tackle on Diego Costa was followed by a Twitter message from Kondogbia to Diego Costa, suggesting he keep his racist taunts to himself in future, which Costa does not appear to have denied. So it seems there’s an excellent reason to hate Costa, rather than simply suck up having to endure a season of his tiresome dickheadery in the Premier League.
As well as that, Kondogbia has been superb for a Monaco side taken apart by a money crisis and relying on youth to see them through. With Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Anthony Martial and Bernardo Silva ahead of him in attack, supporting Dimitar Berbatov, Kondogbia has contributed not just to the defensive solidity of the organized back four of Monaco, but also adds his assistance in attack. So an incredibly useful and talented midfielder, happy to boot Costa about. What more do you want?
The key is here whether Monaco qualify for the Champions League again, and even if they do, if they’re forced to cash in once more, now that their sugar daddy is less flush.