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FEATURE | The Top 5 Summer Signing Successes by Ligue 1 clubs

With the first half of the 2019/20 Ligue 1 campaign now over, we take a look at the best pieces of business made by sides in the recent summer window

Mauro Icardi (PSG – 26 | loan from Inter Milan)

The 26-year-old arrived at the Parc des Princes on a one-year loan deal on transfer deadline day in France in a typical blitz of publicity following a controversial and protracted departure from Inter Milan. It cued widespread criticism of the signing on PSG’s part owing to Icardi’s controversial reputation across Europe and South America, to a side already brimming with a host of ego-driven personalities.

However, the Argentine has fitted seamlessly into Thomas Tuchel’s talented forward line in the first half of the season, recording nine goals in his first 10 matches for Les Parisiens – including important Champions’ League winners against Galatasaray and Club Brugge –  to such an extent that the club have already begun preliminary discussions to make his loan deal permanent next summer for the agreed €65m fee.

Icardi has appeared to dovetail smoothly into the front-two attacking duo with Kylian Mbappé at the head of Tuchel’s 4-2-2-2 formation, and barring any unforeseen downturn in form or any repeating damaging media sagas, should see one of the most prolific strikers in world football, in the peak years of his career, remain at the club for years to come.

Wissam Ben Yedder (AS Monaco – 29 | €40m from Sevilla)

There were a few raised eyebrows when AS Monaco triggered the €40m release clause of 29-year-old Wissam Ben Yedder from Sevilla on a five-year-contract back in August.

In hindsight, it is now hard to think of a more fruitful transfer last summer, not least in France.

The former Toulouse forward is currently the top-scorer in Ligue 1 with eleven goals, currently averaging an impressive 109 minutes per goal.  

Upon his arrival, Ben Yedder scored in all of his first nine league games for a Monaco side suffering from see-sawing form.

Such an instant impression at the Stade Louis II has significantly softened the blow felt by the departure of 2017 Ligue 1-winning captain Radamel Falcao, who made the move to Galatasaray just weeks after Ben Yedder’s arrival.

His winner away at Nantes on October 27 was a particular highlight, receiving the ball across his body during the height of a Monaco counter-attack, surrounded by two opposition defenders, Ben Yedder displayed exemplary individualism and quickness of feet to leave both in a heap and to dispatch a clinical effort into the roof of the net.

If he is to continue his imperious form and not be dragged into the mediocrity suffered by many of the playing staff at Monaco, Ben Yedder should continue to be a regular fixture for Didier Deschamps’ France side in 2020.

Valentin Rongier (Marseille – 25 | €15m from Nantes)

The renaissance of Marseille under André Villas-Boas this season cannot be underestimated.

Having failed to finish in the top-3 every season since the 2015 departure of Marcelo Bielsa, Marseille currently sit in the unexpected position of 2nd in Ligue 1, seven points shy of leaders PSG.

The Portuguese’s arrival has brought much-needed consistency and stability to the ranks but one of the key figures has been midfielder Valentin Rongier, a last-minute €15m summer signing from Nantes bought to fill the void left by Fenerbahçe-bound Luiz Gustavo.

Having progressed through the ranks at the Stade de la Beaujoire, Rongier made the smooth transition from first-team midfielder to captain with Les Canaris.

After being linked with several French and English sides last year, it was the Stade Vélodrome where Rongier was to sign.

Despite not impressing initially this season, the 24-year-old has been a transformative presence for Villas-Boas’ side, displaying an equal balance of versatility, physicality and technical distribution that has been so fundamental to Marseille gaining recent footholds in midfield battles.

They are no longer reliant on the ageing Kevin Strootman and with the transition of the adept Boubacar Kamara into midfield, are now a far more balanced unit to give a firm foundation to the more offensively-minded Morgan Sanson and Dimitri Payet.

Idrissa Gueye (PSG – 30 | €32m from Everton)

Idrissa Gueye’s move from Merseyside to the French capital may not have radiated quite the fanfare and hysteria that has shrouded recent PSG summer transfers but it may have signalled a desired, even if temporary, change in transfer scouting policy: the need for pragmatism.

Following the disaster that was last January’s signing of Leandro Paredes, the club recognised the growing necessity for a stable and combative midfield presence who could operate as a box-to-box midfielder.

The diminutive Gueye’s £30m arrival has proved to be the precise figure Les Parisiens were missing, his high-energy approach and defensive assuredness and efficiency in possession clearly popular with Thomas Tuchel. “With him playing, we don’t concede any goals. He’s a machine. He never stops running and wins a lot of balls.”

The fact that PSG did not concede a goal in Gueye’s first eight games only serves to vindicate Tuchel’s assessment.

Islam Slimani (AS Monaco – 31 | loan from Leicester City)

A club-record signing for Leicester City in 2016 following his £30m transfer from Sporting, Islam Slimani never appeared to settle to life at the King Power Stadium and when unconvincing loan spells at Newcastle and Fenerbahçe ensued, the Algerian’s career appeared to be dwindling.

It took a reunion with former manager Leonardo Jardim to restore the 31-year-old’s confidence and spark, signing his third consecutive loan deal from Leicester in as many seasons, this time to AS Monaco on 21st August.

His partnership with strike-partner Wissam Ben Yedder in the early stages of the season saw him return to his Sporting form that earned him a transfer to then-Premier League champions Leicester City, scoring five goals in his first seven starts in the South of France, not to mention the four assists for Ben Yedder that promised such a prolific partnership.

Going into the winter break, Slimani is the joint-highest assister in Ligue 1 with eight to his name-tied with Ángel di María.

Despite being a substitute option in recent weeks – while Jardim has tinkered with formations as well as allowing fellow loan forward Jean-Kévin Augustin more game-time – Slimani’s rejuvenation has been one of the surprising stories of the season in this ever-changing Monaco side.

H.W.

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