The summer 2019 transfer window has seen Ligue 1 Conforama clubs moving to bolster their attacks, signing a wave of high-quality strikers from around the world. French football's cutting edge just got sharper…
Many strikers have arrived in Ligue 1 Conforama from abroad in this summer transfer window, with some big names opting to test their mettle in the France's top division. Paris Saint-Germain, OM, AS Monaco, LOSC, Bordeaux, Stade Rennais and OGC Nice have all strengthened their offensive sectors.
AS Monaco: busy up front
Wissam Ben Yedder, the summer star of the season in the principality, is a good example of the renewal of attacking spirit that clubs have brought about during the off-season.
The 29-year-old French international made his return to Ligue 1 Conforama at AS Monaco with a completely different status from the one he had when he left Toulouse for La Liga in the summer of 2016. With Ben Yedder, the principality club has secured the services of a reliable European striker.
The man who struck for Monaco in just his second appearance (against Nîmes) enjoyed three successful seasons at Sevilla FC: 38 goals in 91 La Liga matches, ten more in the Cope del Rey and 22 in European competition (29 matches).
"I learned a lot in Spain," said the France striker, who made no secret of his ambition for this return. "We're going to do everything we can to qualify for Europe again. Monaco's recruitment is moving in this direction, particularly offensively."
For the side who finished in 17th place in the last Ligue 1 Conforama campaign, Ben Yedder is a perfect recruit to succeed Radamel Falcao.
"Once we had recruited Wissam Ben Yedder, Falcao's situation continued to develop on its own, until it seemed better for the club to let him go," said Oleg Petrov (vice-president) on Tuesday during the presentation of the last two recruits (Tiémoué Bakayoko and Jean-Kévin Augustin).
"He is an important player who has scored a lot of goals in recent years. We can play him with a second striker," said Leonardo Jardim in mid-August. "His profile will offer solutions to the team: in particular more presence in front of the surface. We need players who destabilize the opponent in the last 30 metres."
Slimani making a splash
In the principality, Ben Yedder is not the only new head in attack; his partner is Islam Slimani, 31, who has hit the ground running in the France's top flight, scoring three goals in two games! This form is reminiscent of his convincing debut for Leicester, which featured a double in the Premier League in September 2016, and of a winning goal ten days later in the Champions League against Porto (a club against which he had scored the 57th and last of his goals with Sporting a month earlier...).
It is partly because of all this experience that AS Monaco brought him to Ligue 1 Conforama.
"Islam has proven his qualities both in the major European leagues and at international level," explained Petrov. "With his experience, he will be able to help the younger players in the squad."
In addition to the Algerian international (61 caps), who has proven to be energetic and effective, AS Monaco have brought Jean-Kévin Augustin - trained at Paris Saint-Germain and on loan from RB Leipzig, back to Ligue 1 Conforama. At 22 years of age, the Frenchman has enjoyed a successful career in the Bundesliga (12 goals in 42 games) and has also played regularly at European level (seven goals in 22 games).
Benedetto and Icardi: Argentine hitmen
This season, Ligue 1 Conforama could return to the 70s and 80s and the glorious Argentines who tormented French defences: Carlos Bianchi and Delio Onnis, who together won no fewer than ten French league top scorer titles between 1974 and 1984.
OM first put their faith in Dario Benedetto (29), while Paris Saint-Germain signed Mauro Icardi (26) one hour before the end of the summer transfer window. Both strikers are proven goalscorers.
While 'Pipa' first worried the Marseille fans with his failed penalty in Nantes on his first start, he then convinced everyone in the derby against Nice and then against Sainté, with two classic striker's goals. The former Boca stalwart quickly confirmed the quality he showed in the Argentine league (31 goals in 49 games).
After his decisive goal against Saint-Etienne on Sunday (1-0), his first at the Orange Vélodrome, Dario Benedetto was congratulated by André Villas Boas: "He delivered a very fine performance by scoring, which is always the most important thing for a striker. He will be totally ready after the international break."
Even before being in full possession of his powers, Benedetto seems to be living up to expectations at OM.
The second Argentine striker to move to Ligue 1 Conforama this season will be Mauro Icardi, for Paris Saint-Germain. Set to ply his trade in an already impressive offensive line (Mbappé-Neymar-Cavani), the Argentine international should fit in well. A world-class striker, as illustrated by two Capocannoniere titles in Serie A (2015 and 2018), Icardi fired four goals in six UEFA Champions League matches against Tottenham, Barcelona and PSV last season.
In Italy, where he racked up the goals season after season (135), there was much praise, such as that of Zvonimir Boban, a former AC Milan player, who declared in 2015: "Icardi was born to score goals. This is obvious and he will continue to do a lot of it. If he used to lack concentration, now he is more active and shows a very good vision of the game in addition to his ability to score."
This was illustrated during the 2017-18 season, when he became the first Inter striker to reach and exceed the 26-goal mark in Serie A since 1959. Something Ronaldo, Zamorano, Milito and Vieri couldn't manage…
Other Ligue 1 Conforama clubs have also revamped their front lines, and the league is set for a deluge of new faces as the season continues. Some of them come with high expectations - like Kasper Dolberg, who signed for OGC Nice from Ajax Amsterdam. Les Aiglons have set their hopes on the 21-year-old Dane, whose best season in the Netherlands' Eredivisie saw him score 16 goals in 29 games (2016-17), a performance that was rewarded at the time by the Johan Cruyff Trophy for Talent of the Year.
His thunderous start to that season, with a hat-trick in the space of 18 minutes in the league against NEC Nijmegen, led his father to make a commendable comparison with Marco van Basten, a triple Ballon d'Or winner handed his professional start by Ajax in 1981: "I see a lot of similarities. They have the same profile, the same speed and both have the same style of hitting. Maybe they will soon be in the same boat.
While his next season was marked by a stubborn foot injury, followed by fierce competition with Huntelaar and then Tadic for the centre-forward position, Dolberg remains a force to be reckoned with in his national team, as his double against Georgia in June proved.
Another international who arrived this summer is Ui-jo Hwang (27). The South Korean striker (27 caps and eight goals) got right down to business after arriving at Bordeaux, hitting his first of the season in the 2-0 win over Dijon. The Asian striker has landed with star status from his time in the Japanese league, where he scored 20 times in his last 43 appearances for Gamba Osaka. Before making the move to France, Hwang - who won gold at the Asian games with South Korea - was a proven unquestionably a confirmed talent.
And we mustn't forget early season revelation Victor Osimhen at LOSC. The 20-year-old Nigerian is already co-top scorer in Ligue 1 Conforama, with four goals from two doubles. Over and above this promising position, the Lille man impresses with his ability to carry danger into the opposing penalty area with authoritative shots, powerful sequences and a significant speed.
Attackign stars Nicolas Pépé and Leao left LOSC in the off-season, but the club quickly found a new attacking leader who equalled Nolan Roux's feat of a double on debut back in 2012.
"I knew what his profile was because we had broken it down with my staff. He was our priority for centre-forward," said LOSC coach Christophe Galtier after the opening-day win over Nantes. "Before being a player, he's a team-mate and a scorer. He loves spaces but also has a very strong presence in the area, which is something we didn't have last year."
Raphinha set to dazzle
Stade Rennais F.C. will also be introducing a striker who could quickly come to the fore: Brazilian winger Raphinha (22), who landed in Brittany on the last day of the transfer window.
"He is a player can eliminate his man, break through lines and dribble superbly. He is also capable of making the last pass and scoring goals, winning one-on-one. He complements the characteristics of our other offensive players and can also play as a second central striker," enthused Rennes coach Julien Stéphan.
Raphinha has played 93 Liga NOS (Portuguese D1) and ten UEFA Europa League matches with Vitoria Guimaraes and Sporting CP. In the Lisbon club's jersey last season, he scored four goals in 24 games. In 2017-18, he scored 15 goals in 32 games for Vitoria Guimaraes.
"The biggest transfer in the modern history of the Stade Rennais" as Rennes president Olivier Létang referred to the Brazilian, should be ready to make his debut in the Week 5 Brittany derby away to Stade Brestois 29.