Focus this summer has naturally been on the Euros, but after France’s defeat in the final on Sunday, eyes turn back to the domestic scene. Even during the tournament, there were some interesting moves in the transfer market; a couple of big moves have caught a lot of the attention as the free-agents move around (Zlatan Ibrahimović from PSG to Manchester United, Hatem Ben Arfa from Nice to PSG), but the pack-shuffling going on elsewhere will be key to how 2016/17 pans out.
Loan deals have a big effect on Ligue 1 – and two teams show this in very different ways. Monaco, whose project is largely based on stockpiling young talent with an eye to future returns, are welcoming thirteen loan players back to the fold, including Falcao and Valère Germain. The dressing room at Stade Louis II must be like Freshers’ Week: “Hey, where were you last season? Was it exotic?” Many of these players will be moved on again, more or less permanently – Rony Lopes has already been sent back to Lille for another season – but this could leave some big holes in other squads as players return to the mothership.
Conversely, Marseille have been running on fumes in a financial sense for a while now, and this will be a crunch summer. They have already sold some key players, with Michy Batshuayi going to Chelsea, Benjamin Mendy to Monaco, and keeper Steve Mandanda to Crystal Palace. After nine years with the club, OM’s captain won the UNFP award for best keeper, and was elected player of the season by fans with a massive 84.25% of the vote. Second was Lass Diarra (heavily linked with a move away), with Florian Thauvin third – he’s one of half a dozen loan players going home, along with Steven Fletcher.
So, Marseille look to have significant issues all over the park requiring attention, with their current centre-forward options both under 21, and a confused managerial situation. Batshuayi’s farewell message referred positively to previous manager Marcelo Bielsa and current interim boss Franck Passi, but pointedly didn’t mention Michel, the man in charge as OM had their worst league finish since 2000/01. With the club up for sale and President Vincent Labrune sloping off, they need to spend the Michy money wisely (not a given) to re-equip their squad.
Europa League team Nice are another who could be seriously weakened next season – top-scorers Ben Arfa and Germain have left, and Nampalys Mendy has been sold to Leicester. Another important loss for them is manager Claude Puel, now at Southampton, whose ability to get the best out of some very young players with not much budget to speak of was a key component not just in their success, but also how enjoyable Nice were to watch last season. Lucien Favre comes in to try to continue their run, but that could be a big ask.
There are clearly still many deals to be done, and Lyon will be the focus of much attention for the rest of the window, as they build a wall around Alexandre Lacazette – high, but not insurmountable with the sufficient financial step-ladder. And then there’s always PSG, who have picked up not just Ben Arfa, but Euro players Thomas Meunier and Grzegorz Krychowiak. They also look in the market for a left-winger – and have the number 10 shirt free – as new manager Unai Emery seeks to put his stamp on the champions for another tilt at the Champions League. As the transfer market gets properly into gear, this will only get more involved.