Five Ligue 1 Summer Exports – Half Term Report

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

As we approach the half way points in domestic leagues across Europe, we’ve all had a chance to see how the plethora of players who have made that bold step and try their luck in a brand, spanking new league have got on. Some arrived on the back of championship winning seasons marked by virtuoso performances, whereas others did so with an enticing reputation derived from Football Manager folklore and carefully edited Youtube clips complete with a dire a Eurotrash pop soundtrack. The halfway point of a campaign seems like a good point to make some poignant/groundless observations, so that’s what I’m going to do here. In the first of four pieces, I’ll have a look at a selection of Ligue 1 players who left the comfort of their respective leagues for scarier, fresh shores, and establish whether they have stolen the hearts of their new fans, or already been consigned to the reject bin just in time for the January transfer window.

Yohan Cabaye

LOSC Lille Métropole to Newcastle United – £4.4 million

Alongside Gabriel Obertan, Hatem Ben Arfa and Sylvain Marvex, the dynamic Cabaye is spear-heading a French revolution on Tyneside. The elegant playmaker has quickly won the admiration of fans with his pulsating performances in midfield that have left many wondering, how the hell did Newcastle manage this Del Boy-esque bit of business? Blessed with clear technical ability and an industrious mentality that mirrors Newcastle’s hard-working attitude this season, Cabaye has demonstrated the ability to swiftly take control of the tempo of a game, and has largely been the source of Newcastle’s unprecedented success this term. His unerring accuracy from set piece execution has not gone unnoticed either. The departure of Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton to West Ham and QPR respectively may have left Newcastle fans wondering where the craft and invention would stem from this season, but Cabaye’s presence seems to have rightly put those worries to bed. In terms of pure monetary value of a transfer, there won’t be many more remarkable than Cabaye’s this season.

Adil Rami

LOSC Lille Métropole to Valencia CF – €6-8 million

Valencia agreed a deal for the buccaneering 25-year-old centre half last January, but sent him back to Ligue 1 to see out the remainder of the season on loan, allowing Rami to lift Le Championnat with Lille before starting off his Los Che career officially in July. For a fee in the region of a mere €6million, Valencia seemed to have come across another bargain, a pattern that is becoming increasingly familiar as Valencia look to cease splashing the cash in order to restore financial order, following  their new stadium fiasco. Blessed with daunting height and strength, Rami has exhibited that he also has an elegance to his game, having displayed the capability to bring the ball out of defence and attempt a Hollywood pass or two himself. Alongside Victor Ruiz, the two have formed one of the most potent central defence partnerships in La Liga, an effective blend of power and intelligence. Still prone to the odd lapse of concentration, Rami is still improving, and keeping his temper in check might not do him any harm either. The 25-year-old picked up a red card in a draw with Mallorca this season,  after allegedly telling the referee that his mother was of erm… a questionable profession, upon a penalty being awarded in Mallorca’s favour.

Taye Taiwo

Olympique de Marseille to AC Milan – free transfer

After six solid years at Marseille, 26-year-old Taiwo finally made his long awaited move to one of Europe’s recognized elite, jumping at the chance to join AC Milan after his contract with OM expired last July. Unfortunately for the rampaging left back, it hasn’t really happened for him at the Rossoneri  just yet, having failed to hold down a spot in the first team, with coach Massimiliano Allegri favouring Gianluca Zambrotta with disappointing frequency for the Nigerian. The owner of a vicious left foot shot reminiscent of Roberto Carlos, Taiwo has made just four appearances this season, and the Nigerian international may find himself subject to a change of scenery come January, with Benfica touted as a possible destination.

Raphael Varane

RC Lens to Real Madrid – £10 million

As a gifted 18-year-old with over 20 appearances notched up in his debut season with RC Lens, you didn’t need a crystal ball to see one of Europe’s elite swooping in for this prodigious centre half. Signed for a fee of approximately £10 million in August of last summer, Varane has made three appearances during his short Real Madrid career, grabbing his first goal with what can only be cleverly described as a ‘super flying back heel volley’ in Real’s 6-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano, a goal which made him Real Madrid’s youngsters foreign goal scorer at 18 years and 152 days. Also appearing in a 0-0 draw away to Racing Santander and a 3-0 victory over Ajax in the Champions League, Varane looked at ease amongst Madrid’s plethora of stars. Having shown admirers (and there are many of them) that he possessed the poise, command and maturity to lead the backline at previous club Lens, Varane’s influence in the Real Madrid side will only grow from here.


LOSC Lille Métropole to Arsenal – £10.8 Million

Another of Lille’s Le Championnat winners to depart for the Premier League, The Ivorian Gervinho’s transition to the rush of the Premier League life has been a bit more convoluted. A red card marred his Premier League debut in a 0-0 draw away Newcastle, but seeing as the cheeky slap that earned him the straight red was thrown in the direction of British heart throb Joey Barton, no one really minded that much. With three goals and five assists in his eleven Premier League appearances for Arsenal  thus far, Gervinho has had moderate success in front of goal . But blessed with pace, direct attacking qualities and a magnificent forehead, he has proven to be a useful part of Arsenal’s vibrant attacking front line, spearheaded by Robin Van Persie. With Arsenal’s other striking options looking increasingly blunt, (Maurane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young the only other two viable forwards in the squad), Gervinho may be looked at to increase his tally in the second half of the season.


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