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10 Ligue 1 players who'd make fine Premier League buys – and who they'd suit

Ndombele Tottenham

France has proved a fertile hunting ground for Premier League clubs in the past and, as James Eastham explains, there are some intriguing talents being targeted across the channel this month

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Adrien Rabiot (PSG)

Adrien Rabiot

France international Rabiot confirmed last month that he won’t be extending his contract in the French capital and has found himself frozen out ever since.

Available as a free agent at the end of the season, the 23-year-old left-footed schemer would be a bargain for somebody despite concerns over his personality.

Labelled a troublemaker by some, he was left out of France’s World Cup squad last summer and refused to take his place on the standby list. Barcelona are among the interested parties.

Would suit: Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham

Nicolas Pepe (Lille)

Pepe

The fleet-footed Lille winger enjoyed a spectacular 2018 and ranks among Ligue 1’s most highly-regarded prospects. Quick and graceful across the turf, he’s scored 12 times and provided five assists this season in a side challenging for a top-three place.

The Paris-born Ivory Coast international nearly joined Lyon on August deadline day last year for €30 million. Lille will be delighted the move fell through – the 23-year-old is now worth as least half as much again on top of that.

Would suit: Arsenal, Chelsea

Wylan Cyprien (Nice)

Cyprien

Named on the four-man shortlist for Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year in 2017, midfielder Cyprien has recovered from the knee ligament injury that sidelined him for nine months and has gradually worked his way back to form.

Nicknamed ‘three lungs’ for his tremendous stamina, the Guadeloupe-born 23-year-old has the athletic capacity to handle the demands of Premier League football.

A move to the highest echelons of the Premier League may be too much, but he’d be a good fit for an ambitious outfit looking to secure European football.

Would suit: Bournemouth, Everton, Leicester, Southampton, Wolves

Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon)

Ndombele

Having impressed against Manchester City in the Champions League and emerged as one of the few players strong enough to break into France’s World Cup-winning squad over the autumn, Ndombele is now one of Europe’s most coveted central midfielders.

Athletic, powerful and composed on the ball in advanced areas, he’s developed tremendously over the past 12 months, and the €11 million Lyon paid Amiens for his services in 2017 now looks like a bargain. Ndombele is made to measure for the Premier League – so now it's just a question of who wants him the most. 

Would suit: Manchester City, Tottenham

Ismaila Sarr (Rennes)

Sarr

Sarr’s stupendous volleyed goal against Astana in the Europa League last month endeared him to ex-England international Gary Lineker among others, but the Senegal international has been on scouts’ radars across Europe for some time.

Rennes paid £14 million to sign the youngster from Metz 18 months ago, and he’s since thrilled fans in Brittany. Sarr is yet to find a way to turn on the magic consistently, but his natural ability is so obvious that Rennes can already look forward to making a handsome profit on him when he moves on.

Would suit: Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham

Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

Aouar

Pep Guardiola has called Aouar “incredible” and beamed: “He’s always very calm with the ball at his feet and has excellent technical ability.”

The latest gem to emerge from Lyon’s prolific youth academy, Aouar has won a place in the Lyon side thanks to his velvet touch, vision and impressive stats.

Versatility helps, too – he’s played on the left of midfield, in central midfield and as a No.10 behind the strikers. It won’t be long before he follows Lyon midfield colleague Ndombele into the France national team, and the pair may trace the same route across the Channel as well.

Would suit: Chelsea, Manchester City

Allan Saint-Maximin (Nice)

St Maximin

Saint-Maximin has attempted and completed more dribbles than any other player in Ligue 1 this season, and is one of the most exciting young players in Europe right now.

A chequered career has taken him from Saint-Etienne to Monaco, Hannover and Bastia but there are signs at Nice of the France U21 international adding maturity to his obvious talent.

Manager Patrick Vieira would be reluctant to let such an important player go this month, but realistically it won’t be long before the Riviera outfit receive an offer they’ll find difficult to refuse.

Would suit: Arsenal, Everton

Emiliano Sala (Nantes)

Emiliano Sala

Reports say that Cardiff have lined-up a £20 million deal for Sala, although the Nantes striker may not fancy the move.

It’s easy to see why the Bluebirds have targeted him, though: Sala is Ligue 1’s joint-second-highest scorer right now, having netted 12 times in 16 appearances at a rate of one goal every 100 minutes.

His career tally of 48 goals in 141 Ligue 1 games is especially impressive considering he’s only ever played for unfashionable outfits Bordeaux, Caen and Nantes. His work rate, commitment and energy would endear him to fans and team-mates alike.

Would suit: Brighton, Crystal Palace, Cardiff, Fulham, Southampton

Nabit Fekir (Lyon)

Nabil Fekir

Will Liverpool go back in for Fekir this month or wait until next summer to land their man? The France international came within a whisker of moving to Anfield in a £50 million deal last summer, and he’ll remain high on the Reds’ wanted list despite a dip in form during the autumn.

There are so many good players at Lyon that some will have to wait to move on, and club president Jean-Michel Aulas drives a hard bargain. It would be no surprise to see the lavishly gifted playmaker plying his trade in England soon, though.

Would suit: Chelsea, Liverpool

Mario Balotelli (Nice)

Mario Balotelli

Would anybody really be willing to take a chance on Balotelli? Media reports in Italy say Nice are on the point of releasing a player who’s failed to score in 752 minutes of Ligue 1 football this season.

The Italy international has made his displeasure known since a widely-expected move to Marseille fell through last summer, and you sense that Nice boss Patrick Vieira would be glad to get shot of him.

Newcastle are among the clubs supposedly considering a move for a player who may be available without a transfer fee. Mike Ashley's kind of signing.

Would suit: Newcastle, West Ham

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