As the end of the 2018/19 Premier League season draws to a close, the rumour mill is once again in overdrive. With the relationship between the top flights of England and France seemingly as healthy as ever, here are five names who could move from Ligue 1 to the Premier League this summer
Nabil Fekir – Lyon to Liverpool
Equally adept in a ‘number ten’ role as he is up front, Fekir’s all-round style fits Jurgen Klopp’s high-tempo setup like a glove. While his links to Anfield in the last two transfer windows have come to nothing, he is now in the prime of his life, and remains an unmissable target.
While Reds fans have been utterly spoilt this season for entertainment, a true agent of centric transition between the middle of the park and the 18-yard box has been needed at times. While Gini Wijnaldum’s tireless work rate is impressive, his efforts can prove fruitless if the likes of Naby Keita and Fabinho are struggling for form.
The (very) occasional mediocre midfield performances from Liverpool, such as those seen in Liverpool’s drab derby draws at Old Trafford and Goodison Park, would be consigned to the past with Fekir’s arrival. Thus, whether the ribbons on the trophy are red or sky blue this spring, Liverpool need fresh blood in midfield, and a real driving force, to keep themselves amongst the top flight’s elite.
Ismaila Sarr – Rennes to Arsenal
In truth, he is also being linked to Chelsea and Tottenham by various sources, but if Arsenal are to win the race for his signature, then his involvement with Rennes in their Europa League double-header with the Gunners provides an interesting backstory.
Sarr was in fact on the scoresheet in Rennes’ shock 3-1 first-leg win over Arsenal in the round of 16, prompting Gunners legend Robert Pires to highlight him as a must-buy in the summer. Though Sarr was unable to do the same at the Emirates Stadium, he will undoubtedly be monitored by Arsenal scouts throughout this summer’s AFCON tournament.
He has already proven his ability at the highest level, playing every minute of Senegal’s three World Cup games. However, it is at club level that he has truly shone in 2018/19, with Sarr’s personal tally for the season standing at ten goals and eleven assists in all competitions on the weekend prior to the March international break.
Rafael Leao – Lille to Everton
Ever since the transfer of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United in 2017, the plaintiff cry of many Everton fans has been a lack of presence in the final third. Though his critics remain vocal, main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was a commanding presence when Everton ended a two-year wait to beat a top-six side. However, he is seen as lacking consistency and experience, leaving Marco Silva to court Rafael Leao of Lille.
Known as a pacy forward with a lethal shot, Leao’s arrival in the Lille first team has coincided with a surge in form for the French outfit after a troubled period for the club. His overall style bears hints of Kylian Mbappe according to some sources, and with both himself and Richarlison representing a good – though for now hypothetical – blend of youth and ability in the Everton front-line, this is a transfer story worth keeping tabs on in the coming weeks.
Francois Kamano – Bordeaux to Southampton
Blistering pace, driving runs into the box and plenty of assists. While that could easily be Nathan Redmond on a good day, Southampton need greater strength in depth if they are to avoid another relegation tussle next season – provided that there is a next season in English football’s promised land for struggling Saints.
While the Saints are considered only outside candidates for the drop – as noted in a recent entry on the Sporting Index sports spread betting blog – they remain very much in the mix. However, that has not doused links to Bordeaux winger Francois Kamano, who is preparing for AFCON action with Guinea as a very wanted man. Priced at around 18m Euros, he a winger who combines the classic with the modern, utilising not only great speed and accuracy, but a clever turn of pace to invert his stance and fire in from the angle.
Arguably, such an eye-catching trick is easier done in Ligue 1 than the Premier League, but many Saints fans will argue that it is high time for someone to make a statement of intent on the South Coast.
Kenny Lala – Strasbourg to Newcastle
After spending much of last summer being linked to Bournemouth, the winter transfer window just gone has shifted Lala’s likeliest English destination to Tyneside. There is an ever-present feeling that current first-choice wide-men Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin could offer so much more, even if they are restricted by Rafael Benitez’ focus on structural preservation.
That is particularly the case with Yedlin, whose pace should offer Newcastle an extra dimension. Sadly though, he isn’t consistent enough, meaning that competition is needed in the right-back. For ‘consistency’ – and a differential option in that position – Benitez need look no further than Lala, who spent the March international break having provided eight assists in Ligue 1.
Those eight assists (and counting) have kept him in contention to be the ‘top assist’ winner of the 2018/19 season, and anyone with a mathematical chance of beating Paris SG star Angel Di Maria to that accolade is certainly worth watching.