When it comes to French soccer and Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe is the transfer speculation name on everybody’s lips and links between the 23-year-old superstar and Real Madrid remain.
However, that move will not be happening until at least this summer — even though he is free to discuss terms with other clubs — so who could be tempted away as the likes of freshly minted Newcastle United and other clubs scour Le Championnat for unrivaled value.
Here are our picks.
1. PSG: Anyone but the big boys
An obvious first stop for clubs looking for available talent is the French capital with Mauricio Pochettino’s squad bloated and in major need of a trim. Layvin Kurzawa, Julian Draxler, Leandro Paredes, Mauro Icardi, Danilo Pereira, Abdou Diallo, Colin Dagba, Thilo Kehrer and Sergio Rico might not be the sexiest names based on current form, but most of them are top-level players on their day.
Kehrer and perhaps Paredes are the most useful to Pochettino, especially while the likes of Achraf Hakimi and Idrissa Gueye are on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Diallo, but PSG sporting director Leonardo will listen to offers for non-essential first team members to drive down the wage bill. Up until his recent injury, Georginio Wijnaldum might have also made that list, but now a potential Premier League return or move elsewhere will have to wait until at least this summer.
2. Lille: Jonathan David and Sven Botman
Another club likely to be busier at the end of the season than now are the French champions who boast Jonathan David and Sven Botman as two of their most coveted assets. With massive debts to tend to, there is no doubt that both players and most of their teammates of substantial value will be on the move before long. The sale of Jonathan Ikone to Fiorentina and the qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout phase have also provided a timely financial boost which should enable Les Dogues to hold on for this summer before their fire sale of talent.
3. Lens: Seko Fofana
One of the major success stories in Ligue 1 these past few years has been RC Lens since they returned to the topflight and several of their key performers are attracting admiring glances such as Jonathan Clauss. However, key for Franck Haise’s men has been the utterly talismanic Seko Fofana who has been a force of nature since his arrival from Udinese and is arguably the most consistent performer in Le Championnat so far this season.
Burnley and Leeds United are two clubs who have been credited with an interest in the 26-year-old but, given his skillset and current performance levels, bigger clubs could be keeping tabs on him ahead of the summer. European qualification for Lens could tempt him to stay with Les Sang et Or but Fofana will have his price given that the Northerners have the extremely shrewd Florent Ghisolfi calling the shots on the transfer market and the exciting Norwegian gem Patrick Berg has already been secured on his watch.
4. Monaco: Tchoumeni
There is a new boss in the principality with Philippe Clement replacing Niko Kovac but that should not change the fact that highly rated Aurelien Tchouameni should be on the move very soon. Given the sort of sum that it will take to lure Monaco to the negotiating table, it is unlikely that the France international leaves Stade Louis II this month, but interest in the 21-year-old will be strong come this summer.
5. Newcastle: Who do they not want?
The Magpies have been linked with every name under the sun since their Saudi takeover and no sooner had the January transfer window opened, they were being linked with a host of France-based names. Botman and Fofana were obvious targets but AS Monaco’s Benoit Badiashile and Stade de Reims’ Hugo Ekitike have also been of interest to Eddie Howe’s men with Chelsea also eyeing the 19-year-old attacking sensation.
6. Lyon: Bruno Guimaraes
Peter Bosz and OL are not having a happy time of it this season but that has not stopped teams from keeping a close eye on Bruno Gumaraes’ progress in midfield and the Brazil international, along with compatriot Lucas Paqueta, is arguably Les Gones’ outstanding performer. Lyon are blessed with a tremendous amount of homegrown talent, but the samba pair are outshining most of their French teammates and given how this campaign has already seen numerous roadblocks, the club could be tempted to cash in should a suitable offer arrive.
7. Marseille: Boubacar Kamara
Boubacar Kamara will be off either this month or in the summer given that he has already decided to not extend his stay with OM. Les Phoceens, who face transfer sanctions due to the signing of Pape Gueye, will be limited in future windows and could consider doing a deal now to further prepare his succession before their ability to maneuver is impaired.
8. Montpellier: Teji Tedy Savanier
An absolute joy to behold in his current form, the 30-year-old is attracting plenty of attention from Major League Soccer clubs but is keen to see this term out with hometown club Montpellier HSC. On the cusp of a call-up to France national team duty, this summer could be his last chance to make a jump to a big club and make the most of his rare talent.