Ligue 1 has proved a fertile hunting ground for Premier League sides in recent years – not least for Newcastle United – and as the January transfer window opens, several names from the French top flight find themselves linked with clubs from the English elite. Football Further runs the rule over the players making the headlines and identifies which of them are likely to be on the move.
1. Eden Hazard (Lille)
Unless unforeseen misfortune befalls him, Hazard will leave Lille this year and, when he does so, he will join one of Europe’s most famous clubs, but he is unlikely to depart this month. Rudi Garcia’s side may have gone into the winter break four points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, but their performance in the 0-0 draw at Parc des Princes on December 18 proved that they are PSG’s equal and they remain the most cohesive outfit in the division. With their title defence on track and no European distractions to contend with in the second half of the campaign, Lille will not yield Hazard in January unless they receive an astronomical bid. The player himself is in no hurry.
2. Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon)
Mention of Gourcuff’s name in the United Kingdom tends to conjure up memories of the match-winning performances and magisterial goals that characterised his performances in Bordeaux’s 2008-09 title-winning campaign, but Ligue 1 observers will attest that that player has not been seen for the best part of two years. An exhausted bystander as Bordeaux’s title defence crumbled in the second half of the 2009-10 season, Gourcuff endured a wretched World Cup and has failed to settle since joining Lyon in a €22 million deal in August 2010. Lyon are looking to recoup as much of his original transfer fee as possible but, despite rumours of a €12 million offer from Zenit Saint-Petersburg, a loan switch looks more probable. Arsène Wenger is a known admirer but, as he admitted recently, even with Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby injured, Arsenal are well stocked in the centre of the pitch.
3. Modibo Maiga (Sochaux)
Unlike his fellow want-away team-mate, Kévin Anin, Maiga’s desire to leave Sochaux did not prevent him from reporting for training after the winter break, but with Sochaux languishing in 19th place, the Malian international would leap at the opportunity to leave. However, after his long-awaited transfer to Newcastle was scuppered by a failed medical, potential buying clubs are likely to proceed with circumspection.
4. Lucho González (Marseille)
Like Gourcuff, Lucho is another playmaker who has lost his way during the last 18 months. After a disappointing 2010-11 campaign, he announced his intention to leave Stade Vélodrome but mooted moves to Málaga and Roma failed to come to fruition and Arsenal’s request to take him on loan in August was rejected. The Argentine has played in a holding role at times this season but lost his place in the starting line-up in October and started just three of the last 10 league matches before Christmas. With budgetary constraints hindering Didier Deschamps’ attempt to sign a world-class striker, Lucho’s departure would be welcomed by the club (and the player himself has reportedly told friends he wants to play in “a better league than Ligue 1”), but Olympiakos’ interest appears to have cooled after a club source told L’Équipe that his style was “too nonchalant”.
5. Mevlüt Erding (Paris Saint-Germain)
With Kévin Gameiro barring his route into the PSG first XI, Guillaume Hoarau fit again after a shoulder injury and Alexandre Pato reportedly poised to arrive from Milan, the time appears to have come for Erding to leave the capital. Newcastle and Bordeaux both declared an interest last summer, but Rennes lead the queue of clubs vying for his signature.
6. Aly Cissokho (Lyon)
Cissokho has performed much more consistently since the personal tribulations of a wretched 2010-11 campaign, but he has been identified by L’Équipe as one of the players that Lyon would be happy to sell in January (despite his own insistence that he wishes to stay). Newcastle is believed to be his preferred destination, and he has reportedly made contact with the Magpies’ French contingent to find out about life in the north-east, but his €12 million price tag may prove prohibitive. Borussia Dortmund have also reportedly expressed an interest.
7. Olivier Giroud (Montpellier)
With 12 goals last season and 13 in 18 matches during the first half of 2011-12, Giroud has become one of the hottest properties in European football. Montpellier president Louis Nicollin may have had his tongue in his ample cheek when he said recently that the strapping striker would not be sold for less than €50 million, but with Montpellier unexpectedly in contention for a Champions League place, Giroud is unlikely to leave Stade de la Mosson now. Having recently broken into Laurent Blanc’s France squad, the 25-year-old would also be loath to risk missing out on a place at Euro 2012 by moving to a bigger club.
8. André-Pierre Gignac (Marseille)
It’s fair to say that 2011 is not a year that Gignac will look back on with great fondness. Having ended his debut campaign at Marseille with only eight league goals, he saw a loan move to Fulham collapse on transfer deadline day and then had to wait until the beginning of November to start his first league game of the current season after undergoing surgery on a groin injury. He subsequently found himself dropped following a training-ground row with Deschamps, whose faith in the former Toulouse striker appears to have evaporated completely. A loan move still seems most likely, but with André and Jordan Ayew destined for the Africa Cup of Nations later this month, Gignac may be granted a stay of execution.
9. Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
The new darling of the France set-up, Martin attracted interest from Dortmund and Lille – among others – during the summer but was convinced to stay in eastern France by a contract extension that will allow him to leave the club at the end of the current campaign. A childhood PSG fan, he has previously stated that he would prefer to remain in France but, like Giroud, he will be unwilling to take risks with Euro 2012 looming on the horizon.
10. Benjamin Corgnet (Dijon)
One of the revelations of the first half of the season, 24-year-old attacking midfielder Corgnet scored seven goals prior to Christmas to help promoted Dijon keep their heads above the murky waters of the relegation zone. Having prioritised his studies in medicine in his early twenties, Corgnet did not become a professional footballer until he joined Dijon in July 2010 but he has thrilled Ligue 1 audiences with his bold running and eye for goal. He is reported to have attracted attention from Premier League clubs but potential suitors may wish to see how he fares in the second half of the campaign to establish whether or not he is the real deal.