One of Europe’s top football leagues, France’s Ligue 1 is packed full of talented players and excellent prospects. However, in recent months, Ligue 1 has been under the shadow of a looming financial crisis, caused by the collapse of their existing TV deal, which was worth around €3.25bn.
With their clubs in potential financial peril, could we see some of Ligue 1’s greatest talents making their way to the Premier League this summer? It’s definitely possible.
In fact, we may already have seen the beginning. Talented midfielder Morgan Sanson joined Aston Villa in January from Marseille in a cut-price deal worth only £14m.
And while ultra-rich Paris St. Germain may not need to sell players to keep their heads above water, the same cannot likely be said for Ligue 1’s other sides.
With this in mind, here are ten Ligue 1 stars who could end up moving to the Premier League in the near future.
#1 Jason Denayer (Lyon)
Like a number of the players on this list, Jason Denayer has already had a brief time as a Premier League player.
As a teenager, the Belgian defender spent a number of years in Manchester City’s academy. But when loans to Celtic, Galatasaray, and Sunderland didn’t impress the Etihad brass, he was sold to Lyon in the summer of 2018 for just €6.5m.
Since then, Denayer has gone from strength to strength. Not only is he now one of Belgium’s first-choice defenders, but he’s arguably the best center-back in Ligue 1.
Blessed with plenty of natural athleticism, Denayer is not just a quick and powerful defender. Still, he’s also got an excellent range of passing – with an impressive success rate of 95.5% this season alone.
Essentially, Denayer would be an asset for any Premier League side. Given that he’s already played with Virgil van Dijk at Celtic, Liverpool could do worse than look at the 25-year-old this summer.
#2 Renato Sanches (Lille)
Once considered arguably the hottest midfield prospect in world football, it doesn’t feel like almost half a decade since Renato Sanches lit up Euro 2016 as part of the victorious Portugal squad.
Sanches made a big-money move that summer, going from Benfica to Bayern Munich for €35m, but the move turned out to be a disaster.
After struggling through four seasons at Bayern – one of which saw him make an equally disastrous loan move to then-Premier League side Swansea City – Sanches was largely seen as a busted flush.
However, after making a move to Lille in the summer of 2019, the Portuguese has re-ignited his career. His first season in France was a success, as he made 19 appearances in the truncated 2019-20 campaign, scoring three goals and registering one assist.
Sanches now looks back to his best, with the skills that made him such a coveted player at Euro 2016 coming back to the forefront.
The Portuguese remains excellent on the ball. And his ability to drive forward from a deep-lying midfield spot, as well as his strong passing skills, has meant that he’s been linked with Liverpool as a potential replacement for Gini Wijnaldum.
If he does return to the Premier League, one will hope he’d have a better experience than he did in 2017-18.
#3 Gael Kakuta (Lens)
The case of Gael Kakuta, who now plays for Lens, is an absolutely fascinating one. Once signed by Chelsea’s academy as a 17-year-old, Kakuta left the Blues in 2015 after a string of largely fruitless loan moves.
In the years that followed, Kakuta played in Spain and China – essentially becoming a journeyman – before returning to France in the summer of 2019.
His move to Amiens appeared to work out well, but his performances weren’t quite enough to prevent his side from being relegated.
However, since moving on loan to Lens in the summer of 2020, Kakuta has suddenly rediscovered the spark that once made him one of Europe’s hottest prospects.
The playmaker has made 23 Ligue 1 appearances for Lens this season, scoring nine goals and registering four assists. His average of 1.7 key passes per game puts him in Ligue 1’s top 10, and he’s arguably been Lens’ key player in their surprising rise up the table.
At 29 years old, Kakuta is no longer a prospect – but given that he likely wouldn’t command a large fee, his creative skills could certainly help a lower or mid-table Premier League side, giving him an unlikely return to England’s top flight.