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FEATURE: Why are there so many bargains in Ligue 1?

Nathan Staples addresses the question on everyone’s mind: Why are Ligue 1 players such good value for money?

Swansea City did some fantastic early business last week, signing Marseille’s Andre Ayew on a free transfer. It’s reported that the Ghanaian will be earning around 90,000-a-week but it’s a bargain in the rich Premier League and they could add more should the Franck Tabanou deal go through, believed to be around €3m.

Which is around £2.1m at the current exchange. Getting both an international footballer with Champions League experience and, in all likelihood, picking up a versatile wide player that’s well respected in French football for less than Hull City paid for League One centre-back Harry Maguire last season.

That is impeccable value.

So let’s say Ayew plays for two years in Swansea, the club would have paid £9,360,000 before bonuses for his entire transfer. It’s feasible that a bigger club in England could spend between £15-20 million for his services in 2017, meaning the Welsh club could make a huge profit. Even if they don’t, they will pay him around £18.2 million for his entire four-year contract should he stay.

In perspective, Liverpool paid Benfica a reported £20 million fee for Lazar Markovic. Sometimes the ridiculous value is lost in transfer dealings but at the same time, it’s a worrying trend for Ligue 1.

Apart from Paris Saint-Germain, many of Ligue 1’s clubs lack the budget to either attract or keep the very best talent. Take Marseille for example, who have allowed both Andre Ayew, Jeremy Morel and Andre Pierre Gignac leave for free whilst rumours swirl about moves for Steve Mandanda, Nicolas N’Koulou and Gianelli Imbula.

That’s six players from one of the most celebrated clubs in French football history that many fear will move on. More disappointing is that they are joining clubs that L’OM would see as below them and it’s even lead to some very strange deals, like Gignac’s reported move to Tigres in Mexico.

It’s not like it’s a new occurrence, players like Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and Bafetimbi Gomis left for modest fees to the Premier League and have attracted bigger interest since. At the same time, others like Yoan Gouffran, Emmanuel Riviere and Benjamin Stambouli have yet to have as much success as they have been poached by clubs as squad players when they would more than likely start in Ligue 1.

The real worry is that it doesn’t look like it’ll end soon unless something can be done about the tax threshold in France. With it being so debilitating to the rising cost of footballers, a lot of Ligue 1 clubs simply can’t compete and have to work within their means or risk serious financial issues should they begin to struggle.

It’s an incredibly harsh reality and it means that more of Ligue 1’s talent will go but at the same time, clubs abroad should keep taking note of the incredible value you can find in French football.

It’s a difficult issue for Ligue 1 to address without some help from the government, especially as the fifty percent tax rate on high earners is killing their competitiveness against their overseas rivals. 

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