Money talks: Premier League cashes in on Ligue 1's January sales

Posted by Christopher Atkins

The January transfer window seems to have come alive in England this week, with a whole series of players linked to clubs from the top to the bottom of the Premier League. With just 10 days left until the window of opportunity slams shut, sides are now rushing to add the final touches to their squad to ensure targets for the season are met.

The Premier League is known for its mix of nationalities and, in turn, is often criticised for the lack of English players on show during any given weekend. This year, having been a major supply route for many years, it is Ligue 1's veritable January sales that are attracting the interest of several Premier League chairmen.

Established francophiles Newcastle and Arsenal have, predictably been heavily involved in newspaper speculation. However, they are far from alone in scouring the French top flight, with Queens Park Rangers and West Ham both reportedly looking to add to their Gallic ranks once more in the coming days.

Ligue 1 is, in many ways, the perfect breeding ground for the English game. Although not as fast as the Premier League, it remains highly physical and boasts relatively high technical standards due to the country's excellent academies and national training centres. This, combined with the financial realities of the European game, make it an appetising place to shop.

“The money in the English game means that they can easily entice players from France who are playing in the Champions League or Europa League,” French Football Weekly's Andrew Gibney explained. “For the likes of Loic Remy, who is probably on 100,000 euros a week now, he can double or triple his wage to go to a team facing relegation.

“Give him six months, he'll score eight or nine goals and he'll earn a move to one of the bigger teams. They are just happy to be going to the Premier League, it doesn't really matter which team. It's an opportunity.”

Remy is one of those to have already arrived and, on Saturday, he opened his QPR account in a tough-fought away draw at West Ham. There remains a real possibility he will be joined in his relegation battle at Loftus Road by 22-cap France international Yann M'Vila from Rennes - both for under 10 million pounds.

Newcastle United, just a few places above QPR, have been a major player in the French market for a couple of seasons now and that shows no sign of abating. The Magpies wanted Remy, but lost out to the Rs, before moving on to defenders Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara - who could both join the club this week. Right-back Mathieu Debuchy, the club's primary January target, was added two weeks ago.

Yanga-Mbiwa is well-known to European football fans, having played a major role in Montpellier's title win last season. The ball-playing centre-back was linked to AC Milan and Arsenal last summer, but it appears Newcastle may have timed their move to perfection in agreeing terms on a £6.7 million deal. He may not have hit the heights of last season recently, but is a bargain at that price.

Haidara, also linked to West Ham, has also been the subject of an accepted bid from the club. The 20-year-old has impressed at left-back for Nancy this season, but the club are in the process of cost-cutting with first-team regulars Andre Luiz, Helder and Yohan Mollo all exiting the club this month. Haidara appears to be next.

It is the left-back who has particularly caught Gibney's attention this season. However, he sounded a note of caution for the player. He continued: “It will be a real shame if he [Haidara] becomes a squad player at Newcastle, he needs to play games. He will make mistakes as he's still very young, but he is a top prospect. They are taking some of these players far too early, though.”

Herein lies the dilemma. We recently covered the interest from Liverpool in Valenciennes centre-back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, 21, and concluded that he will benefit more, in the long run, from regular first-team action. What players moving from France while still in their formative years must weigh is whether a move will grant them the necessary opportunities to develop and improve their long-term prospects. For too many, it has not been the case.

For now, with Paris Saint-Germain spending their oil riches predominantly outside of l'Hexagone and new TV deals yet to kick in, Ligue 1 is finding itself an easy target for foreign vultures. Next year, as Premier League incomes surge once more, France will no doubt continue to be prime pickings for England's elite. Until PSG begin to shop more internally, at the inflated prices that both Manchester City and Chelsea have encountered, it is a trend that will only continue.

For further discussion on any of the players featured in The Scout’s Notebook, Christopher can be found on Twitter - @chris_elastico

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