As was expected the transfer window finally closed last week amidst a late flurry of moves and it threw up a few surprise deals between England and France. In an interesting twist, the moves were not from Premier League sides to French outfits but the other way around and the transfers involved some big names. A number of players from English sides decided to switch to a growing Ligue 1, whilst many French-based talents decided to stay despite a number of stars being linked with moves across The Channel.
Deals That Did Happen
The biggest transfer of this summer's window between the two leagues was Joe Cole's deadline day move from Liverpool to Lille on loan. The move is another coup for French football as it looks to enhance its reputation and pull level with Europe's more decorated leagues and the 29-year-old joins stars such as Javier Pastore and Eden Hazard as the championship's new figureheads. Facing competition from a host of Premier League sides, the England international elected to join France's reigning champions in a surprise move that is bound to bring more attention to Ligue 1. The mercurial talent is the first Englishman to play in France since Bolton's Tyrone Mears in 2008-2009 but he will be looking to make an impact similar to that of Chris Waddle in his four year spell at Marseille in 1989-1992 than that of the Trotters' full-back at the same club.
Whilst many people have questioned the move, Cole is optimistic that he can make a big impact during his time in Northern France and is looking forward to his new adventure. "I wanted a challenge from abroad and Lille is a beautiful, family club that plays well," he said. "It will be an interesting experience for me and I think I'm going in the right direction. I'm here to help Lille by bringing my experience and the quality to win many trophies."
Another Liverpool player to make a move to Ligue 1 is Denmark international Christian Poulsen who made a shock switch to newly-promoted Evian. The new boys in Ligue 1 have embarked upon an ambitious transfer campaign this summer which has seen them bring in the likes of Sidney Govou and Jerome Leroy and the tenacious midfielder will add to Evian's considerable levels of experience and provide a solid, reliable presence in midfield.
Despite not enjoying the best of spells on Merseyside, the former Schalke, Sevilla and Juventus man believes he still has a lot to offer and revealed that he was impressed by the project that is being put in place at the club. Speaking to the club's official website, he said: "I liked the speech of Pascal Dupraz [Evian's sporting director] and the project of the club is really good too. What matters is the level of competition and the French championship is very good. I will do everything to have a dominant share in the future success of my new team."
Two more players made the switch from Premier League to Ligue 1 on deadline day as Arsenal's new signing, promising Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell, and long-time Academy prospect Gilles Sunu joined French feeder club Lorient. Campbell arrives on a season-long loan whilst Sunu has signed a permanent deal ending his three-year association with the Gunners. Because of the Costa Rican's ineligibility for a work permit, Arsene Wenger has decided to park the talented youngster in northern France with the Breton club, a popular destination for upcoming Arsenal youngsters to cut their teeth. Sunu, however, never quite made the grade at the Emirates and will be hoping that Les Merlus boss Christian Gourcuff can help him make the most of his potential. He will also team-up with fellow Arsenal cast-off and recent arrival, Jeremie Aliadiere.
An interesting last-minute move between England and France saw Saint-Etienne sign Leeds United's explosive Ivorian winger Max Gradel, despite competition from a number of fellow Championship sides and other Ligue 1 clubs. The talented 23-year-old opted to return to the country where he grew up and has signed a three-year deal.
Les Verts manager Christophe Galtier is delighted with his club's business and told their official website: "He's very versatile and he's able to play in every attacking position bringing an impact and finishing qualities." Speaking of his move, Gradel said: "It was a difficult decision for me as Leeds has been a wonderful place to live and to play football. However, I have made the decision based on my career development, and the opportunity to play at the highest level in France is too big an opportunity to turn down."
Another player of interest to Premier League fans who moved on deadline day is France's under-21 international captain Gueida Fofana, who had been a long-time target of Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham and Aston Villa. The commanding defensive midfielder opted to move to Lyon on deadline day and fill the void left by Jeremy Toulalan's exit earlier this summer. The transfer was made possible by Bosnian playmaker Miralem Pjanic's late move to Roma for €11million.
Deals That Did Not Go Through
Despite a number of English sides being linked with Ligue 1-based talent, no moves to the Premier League from France materialised on deadline day. Amongst those that did not go through were the widely expected transfers of Sochaux's want-away striker Modibo Maiga and Lyon's sought after full-back Aly Cissokho to Newcastle. The Magpies elected to sign Inter Milan's Davide Santon which ruled out Cissokho, but Sochaux dug their heels in over Maiga and, despite his desire to complete a switch to Saint James' Park, Les Lionceaux kept their player because of their concerns over finding a replacement at such short notice.
Club chairman Alexandre Lacombe said: "If we had found a successor then he would have gone. However, if we find a replacement in December then, yes he could leave in January."
Nolan Roux was another player to be linked with Newcastle during the summer and he also stayed put in Ligue 1, opting to accept that his immediate future lies with Brest although he could be tempted away in the future given the heavy interest in him this summer. Andre-Pierre Gignac, another France-based striker saw his hopes of a move to the Premier League dashed as his transfer to Fulham fell through at the last minute. Following a successful medical and having agreed terms, the move hit a stumbling block when Marseille's replacement, rumoured to be Alberto Gilardino, could not agree terms with the club. The move fell through and a last-minute swap deal for Sunderland involving Asamoah Gyan also failed because the Frenchman did not feel the Black Cats' interest was substantial.
Gignac has since returned to Marseille and is determined to prove the club wrong for wanting to sell him, despite his desire to stay. Speaking to L'Equipe, he said: "Last Tuesday l'OM told me and my agent they would be listening to offers for me. There was an agreement with Fulham but at 11:30pm they called me to say I have to return because my forward replacement would not come. I'm not angry, but I have a bitter taste in my mouth. I am happy to be at Marseille and I know my worth. I will set the record straight and prove I am not useless as I've read."
Mevlut Erding is another name that had been linked with a move all summer long but the Turkish international eventually earned himself an extended stay at Paris Saint-Germain thanks to a heroic final substitute appearance against Toulouse the previous weekend. With little over 15 minutes to go and the scores tied at 1-1, the striker entered the pitch for what was expected to be a farewell performance. However, by the end of the game he had scored a goal and laid on another, linking up fantastically well with Javier Pastore and in the aftermath the club made an announcement stating that Erding would not be completing his expected switch to Rennes and would be staying for the rest of the season. The news ended the capital club's chase for Marco Borriello and completed what has been a busy summer for the side.Rennes eventually replaced Erding with Youssouf Hadji in a late deal from Nancy although they will still be pleased with their performance this transfer window as they were able to keep hold of highly-rated midfielder Yann M'Vila despite a host of late offers. Reports in France suggest that Arsene Wenger made an extremely late offer of approximately €26.5million for the French international but Rennes rebuffed their bid. The Gunners are expected to return with a bigger offer in January but for the moment, the talented midfielder will be staying in Ligue 1 and Rennes will feel confident that over the coming months they can persuade him to resist any offers that might be received next year.
Busy Summer Between Both Leagues
With the transfer window now closed, reflecting on this summer's transfer dealings between the two leagues it has been a busy few months. In addition to the late deals already mentioned, a number of important transfers took place earlier this summer. Arsenal were active in the French market as always and secured Lille star winger Gervinho as well as Monaco stand-out attacker Park Chu-Young, the latter amidst a whirl of controversy but perhaps without it Joe Cole would not have moved to Lille. Newcastle also invested heavily in Ligue 1 this summer and acquired Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and Mehdi Abeid from Lille, Rennes and Lens respectively. Despite criticising Arsene Wenger's supposed bias towards French football in the past, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was happy to shop for value this summer and will feel frustrated that he did not add to his growing French contingent at the club.
Swansea also delved into the French transfer market to sign Darnel Situ from Lens, the promising centre-back who is capped at under-18 level internationally was on trial at Newcastle but was snapped up by the Premier League new boys. Birmingham also made a splash in France, landing Guirane N'Daw from Saint-Etienne on loan and Rangers snared Carlos Bocanegra from the same side earlier in the window.
Arguably the biggest name in this summer's French transfer window has been Javier Pastore, the Argentine midfielder was signed for a whopping €42million and had at one point looked set for a move to the Premier league. The move was a huge coup for Ligue 1 and since then, the competition has been able to attract a number of other talents and PSG have been able to flex their financial muscles at various points over the summer and even almost hijacked Samir Nasri's move to Manchester City.
Speaking to Telefoot recently he said: "I talked to Leonardo because he wanted me at Inter. The PSG situation was a bit more complex because I told him about my choice for Manchester City. He had already signed Pastore and it was a little difficult for them to find funds to invest and be able to sign me."
In addition to that deal, a number of players have made the move from the Premier League to Ligue 1 including former Bolton and West Bromwich Albion defender Abdoulaye Meite who now captains newly-promoted Dijon, former Arsenal striker Aliadiere at Lorient and Wolves defender Steven Mouyokolo, who is on loan at Sochaux.
This summer's transfer window has been a success for both British and French sides and Ligue 1 has lost a handful of top talents, with the Premier League gaining some exciting new additions. French football has done well out of the deal and has emerged as a serious competitor as a destination for future talent coveted by Premier League sides. Players like Yohan Cabaye, Gervinho, Park Chu-Young and Sylvain Marveaux are all talented players who will bring entertaining football with them to the Premier League. Cabaye in particular is a complete player and his future performances will be sure to alert top-flight rivals to the calibre of player currently available in France and Ligue 1 sides will need to brace themselves for a flood of interest in their players come January when the transfer window re-opens.
However, despite losing a number of talents, France has gained a few from the Premier league as well. Joe Cole and Christian Poulsen bring great experience and big-name excitement to their new sides and the Englishman in particular will be tracked by fans eager to see what he is capable of abroad, bringing Ligue 1 even more attention following on from a summer that has already seen it spring to the front of everybody's minds. The Pastore deal is obviously France's biggest transfer story of the summer as it has opened the league up to new markets and made it the centre of attention for world football fans right now, however, the best news is actually that French football has managed to keep hold of so many of its home grown talents this year.
Normally sides in France suffer an annual exodus of top talent that leaves for other more established leagues, but now with the promise of more money and a developing league, as well as Laurent Blanc's pleas to the next generation of talent to stay in France for the time being, Ligue 1 looks set to enjoy its best season in years. The likes of Marvin Martin, Yann M'Vila and Eden Hazard will all still be playing domestically this campaign and combined with the quality of some of the new arrivals, the competition could be set for another major growth spurt. Now with Joe Cole playing in France and the league already shaping up to be exciting given the unpredictable start that many teams have experienced, there are even more reasons for Premier League fans to be taking an interest in Ligue 1 this season.