While the season in France is suspended, transfer work continues behind the scenes. A number of Ligue 1's brightest prospects remain high-profile targets for Premier League clubs, writes James Eastham... https://btfr.co/159549001
"Arsenal paid Lyon £47 million for Alexandre Lacazette three years ago, and Lyon will look for a similar fee at the very least for Moussa Dembele, who has scored 31 league goals at a rate of one goal every 136 minutes in Ligue 1 over the past two seasons."
Soumare left PSG's youth academy before playing a senior game, and it's proved a smart decision. Having joined Lille for a minimal compensation fee he's now rated as a £30m to £40m prospect and was the subject of a bid of that size from Newcastle United in this year's January window. A box-to-box midfielder with stamina and decent ability on the ball, he's far from the finished product but would prove a cost-effective signing should he continue to develop as he has over the past two seasons.
This powerful defender has been outstanding in Ligue 1 this season and is on the wanted lists of several Premier League clubs. An enthusiastic centre-back who combines tenacity in the air and on the ground, his aggressive style has made him a fans' favourite at Reims and an automatic starter in a back four with the best defensive record in the French top flight this season. With fewer than 50 professional starts to his name, he remains a relatively raw figure but his immense potential makes him a player to follow.
Heavily linked with Chelsea in recent months, Lyon centre-forward Dembele is one of the most coveted players in Europe in his position right now. He scored 26 goals in 55 Scottish Premier League appearances for Celtic and has added a further 31 league goals in 60 games for Lyon, netting at a rate of a goal every 136 minutes in France over the past two seasons. Arsenal had to pay Lyon £47 million to sign Alexandre Lacazette three years ago and the French club will look for a similar fee at the very least for Dembele, who now has an extra 12 months to force his way into the senior France squad ahead of Olivier Giroud before the rearranged European Championship next year.
Another graduate of PSG's highly productive youth academy, Ikone spent time on loan at Ligue 1 Montpellier before exploding into life at senior level following his €5 million move to Lille two years ago. Equally comfortable as a right winger or number 10, he was a key part of the Lille side that finished as runners-up to PSG last season, and was rewarded for fine form at club level and for the France U21s when he was handed his first France cap in September 2019. Ikone's finishing needs to improve - his shooting ability is distinctly average - but his pace makes him a final-third threat and he should become even more dangerous as he refines his skills in the years ahead.
A double international youth winner - Maouassa was a member of the France U17 side crowned European champions in 2015 before helping France U19s become European champions as an under-age player a year later - the flying Rennes full-back has the energy, speed and athleticism to be both an immediate and long-term asset for whomever he joins should he leave France this summer. Primarily used as a left-back at Rennes, he's arguably more effective as a left-wing-back thanks to the driving runs he makes and ability to be decisive in the final third.
Nigeria international Osimhen's goals rate has dropped in recent months but suitors will recall the explosive start he made to this season and the high-calibre finishing skills - including a goal and all-round performance against Chelsea in the Champions League that drew praise from Blues manager Frank Lampard, pictured above - that suggest Osimhen would be a welcome addition to the Premier League. Still only 21, he's netted 12 goals in 26 appearances in his maiden Ligue 1 season at a rate of a goal every 196 minutes. Having thrived as a lone striker during the autumn he's recently underlined his versatility by contributing to some good team performances in a 4-4-2 system alongside rejuvenated former Chelsea and Newcastle United striker Loic Remy.
Everton have been linked repeatedly with Sangare over the past 12 months and 2020 should be the year that either they or someone else finally gets their man. Toulouse are rooted to the foot of the Ligue 1 table and stand virtually no chance of escaping relegation if and when the season resumes. Like every single one of his Toulouse team-mates Sangare has struggled to impress on the pitch in recent months but the Ivory Coast international has impressive physical and athletic attributes and the potential to develop into a highly effective box-to-box midfielder in the years ahead.
Santamaria is one of those players who has followed a steady rather than sudden route to the top and his trajectory suggests a move to either a bigger Ligue 1 club or the Premier League would be the next logical step for this tidy midfielder. He spent three seasons playing for Tours in Ligue 2 and is now nearing the end of his fourth season in the top flight for Angers. Valued for his ability to retain possession while deftly changing the angles of attack, Santamaria is also impressively available for selection: an ever-present for Angers in Ligue 1 last season, he's started 134 of 142 (94%) games for which he's been eligible since joining Angers in 2016.
It's no overstatement to say that Diallo might be the most valuable player in Ligue 1 this season. The powerfully-built centre-forward has scored 11 of Metz's 27 (41%) goals, so it doesn't take a genius to work out where Metz - seven points above the relegation positions - would be without the Senegal front man's finishing skills. Excellent in the air and able to contribute to his team's build-up play as well as find the net, Diallo was Ligue 2 top scorer with 26 goals in 37 games when Metz won promotion last season. He looks ready to move on to a higher level now he's proved himself in France's top flight.
Chouiar is an exciting France U21 international that came through the youth ranks at Lens and has shown tantalising glimpses of his immense potential during his maiden season at Dijon. He has notably scored against PSG in two separate fixtures and his decision-making in the final third continues to improve. Mainly used as a wide attacker, he may eventually develop into a number ten. His silky touch, ability to run with the ball and close control in the penalty area are stand-out features of his play. The youngster is not yet mature enough to hurt opposition defences on a weekly basis but has an obvious and highly appealing 'margin for progression', as the French say, in the years to come.
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