1. Nabil Dirar (Monaco)
Can a 31-year-old on a sizeable salary really be considered a bargain? Arguably not, but Dirar will make for a high-calibre signing for someone this summer. A valued member of the Monaco squad that won Ligue 1 and reached the Champions League semi-finals, Dirar is a direct right winger who has the muscular strength to handle the intensity of the English game, and he can also play at right-back.
He would have made more than eight Ligue 1 starts last season but for the form of new Manchester City man Bernardo Silva, and admitted last month that he's considering leaving the principality club in order to find first-team opportunities elsewhere. The Premier League is said to be a dream destination.
2. Faitout Maouassa (Nancy)
Teenager Maouassa is one of Ligue 1’s most sought-after youngsters, and the €8m or so that it would cost to prise him away from relegated Nancy may end up being good value. There’s a touch of Roberto Carlos in the way Maouassa – who can play as a left-back or left winger – motors up and down the flank, leading some to predict that he’ll mature into a world-class wing-back.
He was outstanding during the final weeks of the 2016/17 Ligue 1 season, scoring three times and providing three assists in the final eight games of Nancy’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid the drop. It’s hard to know how teenagers will develop, but Maouassa is one player whose stock looks certain to rise over the next couple of years.
3. Grzegorz Krychowiak (PSG)
Krychowiak suffered a disastrous 2016/17 and may be available for half the €34m PSG forked out to buy him from Sevilla last summer. Unable to win a place in the starting line-up, he soon fell out of favour under Unai Emery – despite the pair having worked together so successfully at Sevilla – and made just seven Ligue 1 starts.
A price of €17m would represent good value for a player who won consecutive Europa Leagues (2015 and 2016) and was a La Liga regular at Sevilla. His smart positional play and pressing ability would make him an asset to several Premier League midfields. Arsenal were interested before he joined PSG, but Milan appear keenest to end his Parisian nightmare.
4. Adam Ounas (Bordeaux)
Ounas’ reputation has taken a hit over the past 12 months, but that means this summer could be the opportune moment to pick him up. The highly talented winger made just 11 starts in 2016/17 amid doubts over his attitude; towards the end of the campaign, though, Bordeaux boss Jocelyn Gourvennec said that the slightly-built winger was finally realising what was required to succeed at the highest level.
Tours-born Ounas, who has chosen to represent Algeria at international level, has bags of talent: his dribbling and close control are excellent, and he can be devastatingly effective cutting in from the right wing onto his stronger left foot. Napoli reportedly made a €10m bid last summer and are among a number of parties monitoring the player. Manchester United have previously been linked, but Liverpool are the most recent rumoured suitors from England.
5. Isaac Mbenza (Montpellier)
Mbenza impressed at Montpellier during the second half of 2016/17 following his €1.6m move from Standard Liege. As a teenager he emerged at Ligue 2 outfit Valenciennes, close to the border with his native Belgium, where his raw pace and energy helped him thrive in 48 second-tier appearances for 'VA'. It proved to be a stepping stone for his move to Standard, and then back to France.
At Montpellier he’s refined his game; he's less wasteful in the final third, and now adding end product to his flights of fancy. Mbenza is far from the finished article but looks like a low-cost rough diamond with the potential to be polished into something sparklier. West Ham have been loosely linked with interest so far.
6. Lois Diony (Dijon)
Dijon have slapped a €15m price tag on Diony. That may be wishful thinking but the powerful striker was excellent in his first season in Ligue 1, scoring 11 times and providing seven assists for a Dijon side that struggled at the wrong end of the table throughout the campaign.
His mixture of pace, energy and brute strength was too much for many defences to cope with. There’s interest from a number of Ligue 1 clubs (Saint-Etienne, Nantes, Toulouse) and his robust style and versatility – he can play wide or centrally – have made him a target for mid-ranking Premier League sides like Bournemouth as well.
7. Jean-Kevin Augustin (PSG)
Augustin is one of France’s most highly rated youngsters, yet PSG seem unwilling to trust him as Edinson Cavani’s understudy. The 20-year-old striker was six-goal top scorer and outshone Kylian Mbappe when France won the European U19 Championship last summer; he's netted a total of 23 goals in 38 matches for France from U16 to U21 level.
There are doubts about his ability to play as a lone striker, but he’d surely prove a good backup frontman at a club willing to give him more than the 146 minutes of league action he managed for PSG last season.
8. Christopher Jullien (Toulouse)
Toulouse defender Issa Diop is attracting admiring glances from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, but fellow centre-back Jullien could be a smarter purchase for a club of more limited means. While Diop is valued at around €15m, Jullien would cost only half that despite performing almost as well as his partner throughout last season.
Standing 6ft 5in, ex-Auxerre trainee Jullien is a colossal presence in both penalty areas, as his record of 13 goals over the past two seasons demonstrates. At 24, this would be the optimum time to buy a player whose positional play has improved markedly over the past couple of years and who has all the attributes to keep getting better. Southampton were linked in April, but that's before giving Claude Puel the shove.
9. Benjamin Moukandjo (Lorient)
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Moukandjo was part of the Lorient side relegated to Ligue 2 via the play-offs, so he'll be looking for a fresh start. The powerful Cameroon international will attract attention thanks to his excellent record of 26 goals (although this total includes eight penalties) over the past two Ligue 1 seasons, at a rate of one goal every 162 minutes.
His scoring return is all the more impressive given that Lorient finished in the bottom six in both campaigns.
At 28, Moukandjo will be looking for a big contract to take him into his early 30s. He can play out wide or through the middle, and would be an interesting target for a mid-ranking Premier League side – Crystal Palace, for example, who were reportedly interested in May before Sam Allardyce upped and left.
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