It is fair to say that French football is currently riding the crest of a wave. Success for the national team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup is now transmitting to the club game with both Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint Germain both making the semi-finals of the 2019/20 Champions League. Optimism is flowing and with the 2020/21 French Ligue 1 season set to begin, clubs are stepping up their preparations by being active in the transfer market. Here are seven transfers made by Ligue 1 clubs to keep an eye on this summer.
7. Martin Terrier – Lyon to Stade Rennais – €12 million
One side to make a noteworthy impression outside of French football’s perceived “elite” clubs is Stade Rennais. Despite a disappointing 10th place finish in the 2018/19 Ligue 1 season, the Breton outfit did manage to win the Coupe de France, beating mighty PSG on penalties in the final. 2019/20 didn’t see any cup successes for Les Rouges et Noir. However, in the COVID-19 shortened campaign, Rennes finished 3rd place in Ligue 1, guaranteeing Champions League football for 2020/21.
Rennes have wasted no time strengthening in preparation for doing battle with European football’s elite by snapping up left winger Martin Terrier from Olympique Lyonnais. After a strong 2018/19 at Lyon where Terrier noted 9 goals in 32 Ligue 1 fixtures on the left flank both as a starter and a substitute, Terrier’s productivity dropped in 2019/20. The 23 year-old only managing 1 goal and 2 assists in 23 Ligue 1 games, 13 of which as a starter and the other 10 as a substitute.
Terrier has pedigree as an under-age player for France’s national teams, most notably for the Under 21’s, he has managed 7 goals in 13 appearances. He will be looking to use this fresh start in Brittany as a chance to get back to the past levels of 2018/19 and crucially, play as a guaranteed regular starter, something that eluded him at Lyon
6. Jonathan David – KAA Gent to Lille OSC – €32 million
One of Ligue 1’s most consistent sides in recent seasons have been Lille OSC. The Northern outfit finished an impressive 2nd place in the 2018/19 campaign and followed that up with another strong 4th placed finish in 2019/20. Les Douges have become one of the best sides at generating big money through the sale of star players. Ivorian winger Nicolas Pepe and Portuguese striker Rafael Leao were sold for a combined €115 million to both Arsenal FC and AC Milan respectively last summer.
This summer, vultures circled Stade Pierre Mauroy once more with Italian heavyweights SSC Napoli signing Lille’s 21 year-old Nigerian striking star Victor Osimhen for €70 million. Using this cash windfall, Lille secured the signature of 20 year-old Canadian Jonathan David from Belgian side KAA Gent. David had a breakthrough campaign in Belgium in 2019/20, noting 18 goals and 8 assists in 27 Belgian top flight games. The youngster also netted 5 goals in 13 games in the UEFA Europa League.
According to Transfermarkt, David seemed to mainly play as an attacking midfielder for Gent with occasional stints as both a second striker and a centre forward. Osimhen’s boots will be big ones to fill, however, Lille have proven over the last few seasons to be geniuses in the transfer market. Club president Gerard Lopez will be hoping his side have struck gold once more
5. Sven Botman – AFC Ajax to Lille OSC – €8 million
It has not just been attack where Lille have looked to strengthen. The team’s defence also needed looking at. Veteran Portuguese defender Jose Fonte is the team’s captain, however, at 36 years of age, he may not have too much long left at the top level. Likewise, there is speculation of a summer move to the Premier League for Lille’s star 22 year-old Brazilian central defender Gabriel Magalhaes.
Lille, in preparation for all of the above scenarios have swooped in the transfer market to land 20 year-old Dutchman Sven Botman. The young defender signing a five year contract at Lille after they paid Dutch giants AFC Ajax a €8 million fee. Botman didn’t actually make a single appearance for Ajax’s senior team. However, he had a spell on loan at SC Heerenveen in the 2019/20 Dutch Eredivisie campaign, making 26 appearances before the campaign was ended early due to Covid-19.
Capped by his country at every level up to Under 20’s, Botman certainly has the pedigree one would expect of a player schooled at a famous academy like Ajax. Could he put himself in similar shoes to the aforementioned Magalhaes’ with suitors from the elite clubs next summer with some excellent displays at Lille?
4. Jordan Lotomba – Young Boys Bern to OGC Nice – €6 million
OGC Nice are currently embarking on their strongest era for many a season. Their last 4 campaigns have yielded 3rd, 8th, 7th and 5th placed finishes under the management of first Lucien Favre and the current incumbent Patrick Vieira. Off the pitch, the club was recently acquired in 2019 by British billionaire Sir Jim Radcliffe, owner and founder of chemical company Ineos. Strong structures are in place down by the French Riviera.
One intriguing move by Les Aiglons (The Eagles) in this summer’s transfer market is to bring Young Boys Bern’s young 21 year-old fullback Jordan Lotomba to South-East France. Fresh off winning their third consecutive Swiss Super League title and confirming themselves as the new dominant force in Swiss football, Lotomba made 35 appearances as a regular in 2019/20 for the Swiss capital club.
The Swiss Super League has proven a real launch pad for playing talent. The likes of Tomas Vaclik, Breel Embolo and Yann Sommer have all impressed in recent seasons before winning moves to top flight clubs in Europe’s Big Five leagues. Primarily a right fullback, with the ability to also play on the left, Lotomba is the latest player to win such a move. Can he break into Nice’s side and make the necessary step up?
3. Rony Lopes – Sevilla FC to OGC Nice – Loan
Another noteworthy signing made by Patrick Vieira’s Nice comes courtesy of a familiar face to Ligue 1 fans, 24 year-old Rony Lopes. After an impressive loan spell at fellow Ligue 1 club Lille in 2016/17 where he noted 4 goals and 4 assists in 25 Ligue 1 matches, Lopes was recalled by his parent club AS Monaco for the following season. At the Principality outfit, Lopes enjoyed a superb 2017/18, noting 15 goals and 7 assists from both the right and left wing.
Despite an injury-plagued 2018/19 campaign at Monaco, in the summer of 2019, Spanish La Liga heavyweights Sevilla FC splashed out €25 million to bring him to Andalucia. However, Lopes endured another frustrating season making only 14 appearances in all competitions for Sevilla. The form of another summer signing, Argentine winger Lucas Ocampos keeping Lopes side-lined for nearly the whole campaign.
Lopes has thus opted to return to the league where he made his name for 2020/21 and has joined ambitious Nice on a season’s long loan deal. Included in the loan deal is a permanent purchase option, which one would assume Nice would exercise should the Portuguese winger rediscover his form of three seasons ago in France.
2. Axel Disasi – Stade Reims to AS Monaco – €13 million
After their superb title victory in the 2016/17 French Ligue 1, its fair to say turbulence has affected AS Monaco. A second-place finish in 2017/18 was followed by a terrible 17th placed finish in 2018/19 and another underwhelming 9th place finish in 2019/20. Since the title triumph of 2016/17, Leonardo Jardim twice, Thierry Henry, Roberto Moreno and now current incumbent Niko Kovac have all had stints in the managerial position at the club.
With a strong desire to return to the top of French football once more, one of Monaco’s signings for 2020/21 and beyond has caught the eye, 22 year-old central defender Axel Disasi. After breaking into the Stade Reims team as a regular, Disasi appeared in all but one of their 28 Ligue 1 games in 2019/20. After the season was brought to a halt due to Covid-19, Reims on a points-per-game basis finished 6th, ahead of Lyon, thus securing UEFA Europa League football for 2020/21.
Monaco have therefore snapped up the young defender following his performances for Reims and will hope he is one of the foundation stones on which a Monaco recovery can be built. Many a talent has established themselves and then departed to the top of football from the Principality club in recent seasons such as Anthony Martial, Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe. Could Disasi follow in their footsteps?
1. Paul Bernardoni – Bordeaux to SCO Angers – €7.5 million
Our final transfer to watch was made by a club who have stabilised impressively in Ligue 1 since their return to the top flight in 2015/16 after an absence of 21 seasons, Angers SCO. Beaten finalists in the French Cup in 2017, Angers have never looked in serious danger of relegation over the last five seasons finishing 9th, 12th, 14th, 13th and 11th respectively.
The 2020/21 campaign is the first season where French club football’s record new television deal comes into force. Angers have already put this additional cash to use by securing the signing of 23 year-old goalkeeper Paul Bernadoni from Girondins de Bordeaux. Reports state that the €7.5 million fee to bring Bernardoni to Pays de la Loire was a club record.
Bernardoni arrives with a strong reputation. In 2017/18 whilst on loan at second tier side Clermont Foot 63, Bernardoni impressed with his performances, winning goalkeeper of the season. For the last two seasons Bernardoni has been on loan as a regular starting keeper at Nimes Olympique in Ligue 1. He is also a French Under 21 International who will be looking to continue to impress to put himself in contention for a call-up to the French national team in the future.