With the January transfer window set to gently close in less than a week, French football expert Andrew Gibney names five Ligue 1 players who'd make good signings for the Premier League's cash-hurling big dogs...
Since the uprising of social media, transfer rumours are easy to start and often spread like wildfire. Information that scouts from a certain team are watching a game quickly turns into a definite move for one of the 22 players on the pitch.
The reality is that scouts go to games all the time, keeping tabs on certain targets or looking at players that have been recommended by local contacts.
Despite the chances of them moving being close to zero, it won’t stop the likes of Alexandre Lacazette at Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos and Saint-Étienne captain Loic Perrin being linked with a move from Ligue 1 to the Premier League.
The success of Diafra Sakho at West Ham United has shown that proper scouting can still unearth some gems from the French leagues, and if Premier League clubs are targeting one last January move, there are deals to be had in Ligue 1. Here are five stars that English clubs should be tracking this week...
André Ayew (Marseille)
Ayew's future is currently up in the air. The Ghana international becomes a free agent in the summer and can currently sign a pre-contract agreement with any club in Europe.
However, cashing in on Ayew this month may enable Marseille to extend the contract of top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac beyond this summer and avoid the possibility of losing both at the end of June.
Ayew has often struggled to find his identity as a player. He has the ability to play anywhere in attack and can even be effective as a striker. He is usually described as a forward, although he has previously claimed that central midfield could be his best position. There is no doubt he is strong and physical enough to play that role, but it would limit his attacking potential.
His aerial ability is often overlooked, but the header he scored against Germany in the World Cup is something he has been doing for years in Ligue 1. Ayew loves nothing more than arriving at the back post to out jump unsuspecting full-backs. Quick with the ball at his feet, he is unselfish, great at bringing people into play and his strength and pace help him to make dangerous runs in behind defences.
Ayew is the perfect January transfer: still only 25-years-old, available for a minimum fee and able to play in the Champions League.
Would suit: Tottenham, Newcastle.
Papy Djilobodji (Nantes)
Unable to sign any players last summer due to a transfer embargo, FC Nantes were predicted to struggle this season. However, a strong defence, led by Djilobodji, has seen Les Canaris concede an average of just one goal per game this campaign.
With the 25-year-old Senegalese centre-back currently at the Africa Cup of Nations, Nantes have lost their last two league games, showing the importance of Djilobodji’s physical presence.
He is quick along the ground, dominant in the air and usually positions himself well. Nantes’ full-backs have sometimes left him exposed, but put him in a stronger team and the physical nature of the Premier League could see him improve even further.
With his contract up in the summer of 2016, and Djilobodji playing the best football of his career, this would be the perfect time for Nantes to cash in and look to replace him in the summer when the embargo is lifted.
Would suit: West Ham, Leicester.
N’Golo Kante (Caen)
No member of the current SM Caen side has adapted better to life in Ligue 1 than powerhouse midfielder Kante.
The 23-year-old has shown superb qualities as Caen’s all-action box-to-box dynamo. He has been charging forward to score twice early in the season, but overall it has been his strong physical play that has impressed on-looking admirers.
Kante’s defensive work has been outstanding this season. Statistics show that no player in Ligue 1 averages more successful tackles a game than his 5.5 – which includes Maxim Gonalons at table-topping Lyon, and Monaco veteran Jeremy Toulalan.
Caen’s president Xavier Gravelaine has already suggested that the club will struggle to keep hold of their talented young star, but he was referring to this summer. With the Normandy side struggling to fight off a return to Ligue 2, there may be a deal to be had in the next week.
Would suit: Southampton, Newcastle.
Daniel Wass (Evian Thonon Gaillard)
When Wass signed for Evian on loan from Portuguese side Benfica in 2012, he was initially utilised as an attacking right-back. Over the years, the Dane has quickly become the best player in Annecy and now this season, he is mainly found playing as part of the attack.
Wass is tenacious, loves to drive the ball forward and has the skill and pace to beat players both wide and through the middle.
His eight goals this season represent an impressive return for a player not only featuring in a side fighting against relegation, but also in a variety of positions. Signing a player with Wass's versatility would give you more options in the final third and a player who not only knows where the goal is, but is also a huge creative influence.
This season he has caught the eye with his phenomenal ability from set-pieces. Wass wouldn’t command a huge salary and could cost under £6 million. If you can convince Evian to sell, he would be an ideal January transfer.
Would suit: Hull, Aston Villa.
Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient)
FC Lorient’s Raphael Guerreiro enjoyed a breakthrough year in the second half of 2014. His performances for the Breton club have taken his game to another level.
Moving from left-back to left midfield has opened up endless possibilities for the 20-year-old. Impressed so much by the France-born midfielder, Fernando Santos decided to hand him his international debut for Portugal against Argentina at Old Trafford. Not content with simply earning his first cap, Guerreiro would come on and score the winning goal in injury-time.
Guerreiro has been an ever-present for Lorient this season, with his five goals and two assists crucial to Les Merlus climbing out of the relegation zone.
His future may involve reverting to left-back. He has the pace to play as an attacking full-back and is a very underrated defender.
Guerreiro’s development through the ranks at Caen and now Lorient has helped him improve his all-round game. Adept at picking out crosses from deep with his deadly left foot, he can also drive through defences, creating chances for himself and others.
Would suit: West Brom, Stoke, Sunderland.