Why Premier League clubs should target Franck Honorat, France’s most overlooked man

Value is becoming increasingly rare for Premier League clubs in the transfer market. While clubs like Brighton have artfully engineered precise, intelligent, and extensive recruitment programs to help them over-perform, English clubs’ relative wealth means a premium is always paid.

Ligue 1, however, a league with a good record of exports to England, remains one of the few reliable options when looking for undervalued players. Lens’ midfield talisman, Seko Fofana, and Montpellier creator Teji Savanier are the two most obvious examples of effectiveness outpacing perceived value in recent seasons, but Brest’s Franck Honorat isn’t far behind.

The 26-year-old Frenchman has carried a poor Brest side for three seasons since he arrived from Saint-Etienne. The Breton club have often battled relegation in recent years and, according to Understat, have the lowest total of expected points (that’s the average amount of points a team would expect to win based on thousands of simulations using expected goals data) of any side not to be promoted or relegated throughout that period, an average of 43.9 points per season.

Versatile attacker Honorat, however, has both reached double figures for goal contributions (12, 15, 11) and made Ligue 1’s top ten for key passes (6th, 10th, 4th) in all three campaigns, even placing eighth in Europe’s big five leagues for key passes this season. His tally of 89 was only seven short of Kevin de Bruyne’s, according to FBRef.

Brest have played 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, and 3-4-3 in that time, and Honorat has been used successfully as a central forward, at wing-back, and as a wide attacker in a three-man front line on either side of a four. Few in Ligue 1 are as consistent but, rugged, energetic, and direct, Honorat is usually a quietly effective operator rather than a gun-slinger, his lack of obvious flair and workmanlike style contributing to his low profile.

Still, he often performs against the best. The former Clermont forward scored on PSG’s last two visits to Stade Francis Le Blé, a composed run and emphatic finish in March was a season highlight for the forward, while Honorat scored two of his most memorable Brest goals away at Marseille (a thunderbolt to round off a swift counter) and at Lens (cutting in from the right to dink home).

Considering the lack of quality around him, Honorat’s stats are outstanding, ranking high for crosses (2nd), shot-creating actions (8th), and xA (expected assists) (8th) in Ligue 1 this season. Most impressively, only three players (De Bruyne, Giovanni Simeone, and Son Heung-min) outperformed their non-penalty xG in 21/22 more than the Frenchman, who added 6.7 goals more than expected – crucial to keeping Brest out of danger.

Borussia Mönchengladbach reportedly offered €9m (£7.7m) this week, a considerable undervaluation given the player’s output and consistency. Brest will want more as his deal runs until 2026 and demanded €15m from Gladbach last year, but that price point makes the 26-year-old eminently affordable for promoted Premier League sides Luton, Burnley, and Sheffield United. As a versatile, industrious player who has proven his worth in a relegation battle and against his division’s elite, as players from those three sides will likely need to do in the coming season.

Genuine transfer value is rare for English clubs but the Premier League’s promoted sides, relegation battlers and even top-end Championship clubs will find it in this low-key Frenchman from Brittany.

Adam White

GFFN

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