All eyes on PSG, but French leagues have plenty of transfer interest
It’s been a long time since there has been a quiet transfer window in France. It seems whether it is in January or in the summer, Ligue 1 (and to a lesser degree Ligue 2) becomes the market where clubs from bigger leagues come to do their shopping.
French clubs, and not just PSG, have also not been afraid to spend money. This month is not going to be any different and it should be an active transfer window, but once again all eyes will be on the Paris club that broke the world-record to sign Neymar for €222 million in the summer and have Kylian Mbappe lined up for a €180m move in six months.
First, they have to sell to comply with financial fair play rules after their huge spending in the previous window.
Lucas Moura and Hatem Ben Arfa have been asked to leave and will likely be the first to depart. The Brazilian doesn’t want to go to China or Nantes but will be hoping that Manchester United come in for him. PSG reportedly want €40m — which is quite unrealistic considering he has hardly played this season — but may have to relent on that price as he never lived up to the hype.
Meanwhile, Ben Arfa would be happy to go but only if PSG pay him the remaining six months of his contract which they are not ready to do. Javier Pastore wants to play more and for that reason he could leave. Inter Milan and sporting director Walter Sabatini are reportedly keen but the transfer fee (around €25-30m) and his salary (around €9m gross a year) are a bridge too far at the moment for the Italian outfit.
Kevin Trapp, the No. 2 goalkeeper behind Alphonse Areola, also wants out because he needs to play to go to the World Cup with Germany but the club won’t allow him to leave; Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria could also depart if the right offer comes in.
So there could be some departures but the only position PSG really need to strengthen is in defensive midfield, although they can’t spend money on it. That’s why the Lassana Diarra option might be a good option as the former France international, 32, is available on a free after leaving Al Jazira last month.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1, champions Monaco have already let two players go on loan: Dutch international defender Terence Kongolo to Huddersfield and midfielder Soualiho Meite to Bordeaux. They have potential but it just hasn’t worked for them in Monaco. Other loans could follow like Rachid Ghezzal, the former Lyon attacking midfielder.
However, in terms of big names, it could be a very different story. Leonardo Jardim repeated on Monday that Monaco don’t usually sell players in January: they wait for the summer market and even more so when a World Cup is coming up.
For example, if Thomas Lemar shines and wins the trophy with France on July 15, his value will skyrocket. The club would be able to put his price up by another €30-40m like they did in selling James Rodriguez to Real Madrid after the 2014 World Cup.
The Lemar case is very interesting. He will leave at some point to go to Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham or another top European club, but it does not make much sense for him to leave now. At Monaco, he is sure to play every game until the end of the season, with Didier Deschamps watching him every week, in a team and with a manager he knows very well. All the teams who want him now will still want him in the summer, so there is no rush.
Fabinho will also be sold in the summer but not now; Southampton are reportedly interested in Guido Carrillo as Mauricio Pellegrino was his manager at Estudiantes, but he has been an efficient player off the bench this season.
Young and talented players will always be targets for foreign clubs, but Malcom is a special case. The Brazilian winger, 20, has been outstanding for Bordeaux so far this season, despite his team’s struggles. His left foot is a joy to watch, his goals and assists are usually spectacular (seven goals and four assists in 18 league matches this season so far) but most importantly there is still a lot of room for improvement.
He has the potential to become a fantastic player, so it’s no surprise that the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool have all been linked with him. Borussia Dortmund reportedly offered €20m last summer which Bordeaux rejected, but a bid of around €40m might well be accepted.
The money coming in for Malcom would be welcome to reinforce the squad. Manager Jocelyn Gourvennec wants a centre-back, with Malaga’s Paul Baysse, who who went through the Bordeaux academy as a teenager, linked. Gourvennec also needs a striker and talks with Aleksandar Mitrovic’s agent have reportedly started.
Leicester have already signed Fousseni Diabate from GFC Ajaccio in Ligue 2 for a fee between €3.5-5m. At 22, the forward is a very promising player and the Foxes will hope that he is as successful as their last French second division acquisition: Riyad Mahrez.
At Angers, Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi has attracted interest from Brighton, West Bromwich and Everton. The 25-year-old is a versatile forward, and full of pace; Angers have already rejected a €14m offer last week and are said to want at least €20m.
At Lille, centre-back Ibrahim Amadou, 24 and defensive midfielder Thiago Mendes, 25, have been the only two good things about the first half of the season. They could be set for a move away in exchange for €20m each, but for Lille and the other French clubs, it could be a long January.
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.