Away from the box-office speculation, skysports.com offers five Ligue 1 players who could move to the Premier League
Last Updated: January 5, 2011 5:47pm
Mvila: Rapid progress at Rennes
The French top flight may not be the hot-bed of talent it once was, but the home of the famed Clairefontaine youth academy continues to produce its fair share of highly-regarded talent.
Both home-grown youngsters and an array of potential world beaters plucked from every corner of the globe currently ply their trade in Ligue 1, and among them are a number of players that would slip seamlessly into most sides.
It therefore comes as no surprise to find that English eyes have descended on French football again this winter, especially as continental imports can often be slightly kinder on the bank balance.
With that in mind, and with the January transfer window now in full swing, we at skysports.com take a look at a collection of stars from Ligue 1 who could be packing their bags for the Premier League in the not too distant future.
France have always had a reputation for producing world class defensive midfielders, and they currently have a selection of such types at their disposal.
Among those causing the most hype is 20-year-old Mvila, who has shot to prominence since making his Rennes debut at the start of the 2009/10 campaign.
He has gone on to earn international recognition with the French senior side and was one of the stars for Les Bleus in their 2-1 friendly victory over England in November 2010.
That showing, coupled with a number of assured displays at domestic level, has led to mounting speculation that he could soon be on the move.
Among those reported to be keeping tabs on his impressive progress are Liverpool, who could do with some strengthening in the middle of the park, as well as Tottenham and Aston Villa.
Gerard Houllier's Villa are also believed to be monitoring Sessegnon's situation at Paris St Germain, with the Benin international enduring something of a difficult time in the French capital at present.
Reports of a bust-up with coach Antoine Kombouare have fuelled speculation that he could be on his way out of Parc des Princes during the January transfer window.
The 26-year-old midfielder has done little to curb those rumours, publicly announcing on more than one occasion that he is keen to move on.
PSG have yet to relax their stance and open the door for a switch to be pushed through, but it appears to be only a matter of time before their hand is forced.
Once the green light is given, expect Villa to be joined in the chase for Sessegnon's signature by Newcastle and Everton.
Diarra has already moved to England once, joining Liverpool from Bayern Munich in 2002.
Unfortunately his spell at Anfield was a forgettable one, with no senior appearances made in two years and he was subsequently moved on to Lens.
The Reds have been left to rue that decision ever since, with Diarra having gone on to become a key man for club and country.
Now skipper of Bordeaux and the France national side, the 29-year-old is regarded as one of the finest exponents of the anchorman role in the business.
It would take big money to prise him away from Les Girondins, but Manchester City have pretty deep pockets these days and could be tempted to make a move.
Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud has already admitted that he expects to be contacted by the Blues this winter.
Arsene Wenger has made a habit of returning to his homeland for rough diamonds down the years and 2011 could be no different.
The Arsenal boss is renowned for his astute dealing, with the Frenchman one of few top class coaches to concern himself as much with the financial health of his employers than the quality within their ranks.
The latest promising starlet to fall under his watchful eye is Hazard, with the 19-year-old playmaker widely regarded as one of Europe's hottest properties.
He may be lacking in big-game experience, having graduated through the ranks at Lille, but he is already a fully fledged Belgium international and has made over 100 appearances at club level.
Liverpool are also believed to have shown an interest in the talented teenager in the recent past, but it is understood that Arsenal head the queue waiting patiently for 'the new Cristiano Ronaldo' to issue a come-and-get-me plea.
The man tipped to fill Patrick Vieira's rather sizeable shoes in the France side is Toulouse midfielder Sissoko.
The comparisons with Manchester City's World Cup-winning midfielder come as no surprise, as at 6ft 2in tall and with a languid, buccaneering style that looks uncomfortable but produces results, he is every inch a Vieira clone.
He has been a first-team regular at Toulouse for some three-and-a-half years now, having made his senior bow a day before his 18th birthday back in 2007.
His progress since then has been rapid, with international honours safely secured and a bright future laid out in front of him.
Sissoko has also been able to add goals to his considerable repertoire of late, making him an even more complete package.
With European giants such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich having all been linked with an approach in the past, it may not be too long before Sissoko is strutting his stuff on a much grander stage.
Mbokani only moved to France in July of last year, leaving Belgian outfit Standard Liege for Monaco.
Things have not gone to plan for him, though, at Stade Louis II, with a lack of goals seeing him become an easy target for terrace abuse in a side struggling towards the wrong end of the table.
The 25-year-old's ability is unquestionable, though, with his strike rate in Belgium proving what a potent frontman he can be when on top of his game and brimming with confidence.
It may be that Monaco agree to loan him out in January, giving him an opportunity to rebuild his self belief before returning to France in the summer.
Everton are believed to have already started sniffing around the Congolese frontman, with David Moyes desperately short on goals, while a swap deal for Aston Villa's out of favour midfielder Stephen Ireland has also been touted.
West Ham are also believed to be in the running should there be a deal to be done, while Fulham have been linked with the African ace in the past and may rekindle their interest.
Best of the rest
Jean Makoun has often been linked with a move to England in the past and currently finds himself on the substitutes bench at Lyon. The Cameroon international may welcome a change of scenery in January.
Brest starlet Nolan Roux has supposedly impressed English scouts over recent months, with North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal said to have had him watched on numerous occasions.
Rennes' Sylvain Marveaux is another believed to be interesting Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson, but a serious groin problem currently has him sidelined and any possible move may have to wait until the end of the season.