Eric Devin takes a look at two of the most underrated, but exceptional signings made by Ligue 1 sides in 2015/16.
Renato Civelli, LOSC Lille (Bursaspor, free, 32 matches, 0 goals, 0 assists)
Lille in the recent past, under both Rene Girard and Frederic Antonetti have made their name under being the league’s gold standard as regards defensive play.
Two seasons ago, Vincent Enyeama, playing behind Simon Kjaer and Marko Basa, went more than ten matches without conceding, propelling Lille to an eventual third place despite a limited attack.
With Kjaer now at Fenerbahce and Basa slowing a bit at 33, the well-traveled Civelli emerged as one of Lille’s key players in establishing a certain continuity as regards that defensive solidity.
A veteran of Ligue 1 through spells with Nice and Marseille, the big Argentine played with a nasty edge throughout the season, helping the club to a Coupe de la Ligue final and proving a fine example for the young Adama Soumaoro.
While a pair of red cards were admittedly less than ideal, for Lille to qualify for Europe after the position that the team occupied in January was impressive indeed, and Civelli was one of the lynchpins in that improvement.
Jean Michael Seri, OGC Nice (Paços Ferreira, €1m, 37 matches, 3 goals, 5 assists)
Yet another in a series of young-ish players who have impressed in France since arriving from the Portuguese league, (Bernardo Silva, Fabinho) Seri has been perhaps the most surprising.
While the likes of Fabinho and Silva came from the distinguished benfica academy, Seri arrived from comparative minnow Pacos Ferreira, with a brief spell at Porto’s academy in the interim.
At Nice, played on the left-hand side of a diamond, Seri demonstrated an impressive composure, playing box-to-box and giving the impressive strikers and Hatem Ben Arfa the leeway to attack while also contributing the odd assist.
Now a full-fledged Ivorian international, Seri still needs some polish as regards his defensive abilities, but he was undoubtedly once of Nice’s keys to a fine season beyond the obvious hero, Ben Arfa.