French correspondent Jonathan Johnson reflects on the market moves in Ligue 1 as PSG continue to make waves across Europe with their big spending.
By Jonathan Johnson - @Jon_LeGossip
Last Updated: 02/08/11 2:06pm
Paris Saint-Germain again featured heavily in what was another huge week of action in the French transfer window and their impressive level of activity looks set to continue into next week with the club set to sign Javier Pastore from Palermo.
This recent activity has made the capital club the talk of Europe and another couple of signings are expected before the end of the current window.
A number of English clubs have been involved in PSG's current activity although most have been on the receiving end of the big stick currently wielded by Leonardo in dealing with the club's transfers.
However, a number of deals could be struck this week that will be of interest to Premier League fans and there has been some progress made regarding a number of other possible moves between the two countries.
The biggest news this week obviously came at the Parc des Princes where les Parisiens followed up the impressive triple swoop for Jeremy Menez, Blaise Matuidi and Milan Bisevac with two further signings from Serie A. Midfield enforcer Momo Sissoko and highly-rated goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu were brought in before it was revealed that they were directly competing with Chelsea for the signature of Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore. As updates on the progress of the transfer began to filter out of Italian and French media outlets it quickly became clear that the Argentine's future lay in Paris and not London.
Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini consistently mentioned Leonardo and the great rapport the pair have, not to mention the business they did earlier in the week for the sale of Salvatore Sirigu, and it seems that PSG always had the upper hand in these negotiations.
"It's true, I have a good rapport with Zamparini and everyone would like a player like Pastore," admitted Leonardo in the press conference preceding the Emirates Cup.
Whilst speaking in Italy, Zamparini claimed: "Leonardo is a great man. He called me and told me he was very interested in Pastore. Everything has been done and conducted the right way. I have great respect for him."
Set to sign in the coming week for a fee in the region of €43million, the deal would be a huge coup for Ligue 1 as it seeks to raise its profile. The signing of such a highly coveted and world-renowned player from a league with a greater reputation than France's in the face of strong interest from Premier League powerhouse Chelsea, suggests that the Qatari takeover at the club is already having the desired effect on the league.
With Pastore to sign any day now, some more big news came out of France on Monday as rumours began to circulate suggesting that the capital club had lodged a bid for Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov. Sources in the French media claim that the club have followed up their previously credited interest in the Bulgarian, a player that Leonardo was consistently linked with in his time at Milan, with a bid of €21.5million.
How he would fit into the team at the moment remains unclear but it appears that the rumours from earlier in the summer are true and the club look set to make the most of their recent positive publicity to persuade the unsettled and enigmatic striker to come to Parc des Princes.
The transfer machine has not stopped there though as it was revealed early last week that PSG had bid €45million for Santos' attacking midfield prodigy Ganso; a target for both Manchester United and Chelsea. Although les Rouge-et-Bleu were expected to drop their interest in the player if their bid for Pastore was successful this does not seem to be the case. Fifa agent Mario Miele admitted on Monday that the club were close to meeting the player's buy-out clause and that the youngster was currently leaning towards joining Leonardo's French revolution. This news could see Chelsea lose out on two major transfer targets to PSG this summer as the club look to try and spring another major coup over the more reputable European leagues.
"Regarding Ganso, it is Paris Saint-Germain, then Milan and Manchester United. My impression with Leonardo in France is that they may soon pay the full termination clause of €50million since they have already submitted a bid of €45million," he claimed.
Other rumours about players possibly departing to the EPL include Mevlut Erding who would be deemed surplus to requirements in Paris should Berbatov arrive. Despite his insistence that he is happy in Paris, the rumours hinting that he will join Newcastle United just won't go away and the club appear open to selling him. In England for the Emirates Cup this weekend, his representative vehemently denied talk suggesting that he would take the opportunity to discuss a move with Newcastle officials.
During the Emirates Cup agent Pierre Frelot claimed: "Mevlut was in England only to play in the tournament. He has not had discussions with Newcastle and he will not have discussions with them this weekend."
Michel Bastos is the other big name in France who has recently been linked with a move to the Premier League but the Lyon winger who is coveted by Tottenham Hotspur has thrown a spanner in the works by claiming that he is ready to sign a new contract, despite President Jean-Michel Aulas' desire to trim the wage bill by selling a few star names.
Despite an absence of any EPL-related transfers last week, a number of French sides have moved to bolster their ranks, which include a few familiar faces. As part of a double swoop, minnows Ajaccio added former West Ham striker Ilan to their squad as well as Sedan's midfielder Damien Tiberi. The Brazilian had a spell with the Hammers in 2009-2010, scoring four goals in their successful bid to beat the drop. He has signed a one-year deal and is delighted to return to France following successful spells with Sochaux and Saint-Etienne.
"We had been in contact for some time," he said of the negotiations. "I had other offers, but it has been clear for days now that I would be coming here. I was impressed by what the coach and the board had to say, and it felt like they really wanted me to sign."
Another face familiar to European football fans will be that of Jonathan Zebina, the versatile ex-Juventus defender. Previously on the books of recently-relegated Brescia in Italy, the former Cannes full-back returns to Ligue 1 for the first time in 13 years after joining Brest last week. There was also movement at Caen, who signed highly-rated youngster Faycal Fajr from Championnat National outfit EFC Frejus after an extremely successful season last term, while Saint-Etienne announced the signing of defender and Auxerre stalwart Jean-Pascal Mignot for €1.5million. The move sees les Verts net an experienced defender as they look to shore up a leaky backline and, at that value, he could prove to be a bargain.
Once again though, PSG dominated the domestic news as they followed up an impressive trio of signings at the beginning of the week when they netted Menez, Matuidi and Bisevac with two more purchases from Italy. Goalkeeper Sirigu arrives from Palermo to provide competition for Nicolas Douchez who looks set to miss the start of the new season with a shoulder problem. Tough tacking defensive midfielder Momo Sissoko, formerly of Liverpool, has also joined as the capital club's squad is now beginning to take shape.
"I am very pleased to sign for PSG," Sirigu told the club's official website. "I am honoured to play at such a club and I will learn French as quickly as possible in order to communicate with my team-mates. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rub shoulders with Nicolas Douchez and I look forward to learning from him."
Sissoko then added: "It's a great pleasure to play for PSG. I opted to come here because the club has a very ambitious project and I did not hesitate. Leonardo's speech and Antoine Kombouare made the difference. I've never played in France. I now have the opportunity to experience this championship and impose myself."
Expected business in coming days
PSG are again expected to heavily feature in this week's transfer dealings with Berbatov seemingly in their sights. The capital club's interest in Ganso may well spark Andre Villas-Boas' side into life as they seek new creativity and some young blood in an ageing side.
The capital are also expected to bid for a defender in the coming weeks and Luisao of Benfica has been touted as a possible arrival. Leonardo's interest in his fellow countryman is well-known in France but the Potuguese giants have so far denied that any bid has been lodged. With Zoumana Camara being linked with a number of sides in Ligue 1, it would suggest that the club are looking to offload him and with options at the back limited due to Sylvain Armand's injury, further recruitment will be a must for les Parisiens.
The Bastos situation should also be resolved this week as Spurs wait to discover whether he will actually be offered a new deal at Lyon, if he is then that will force Liverpool target Aly Cissokho closer to the exit. Conversely, if Liverpool take the opportunity to buy the full-back, that will give Lyon the funds to purchase Auxerre's midfielder Delvin N'Dinga as well as a new left-back. Jose Enrique has been linked with the club many times over the summer and sources indicate that a bid of €6million would be sufficient to prise him away from Newcastle.