TRANSFERS: Ligue 1 Conforama bolstered
Check out our wrap-up of the summer 2018 transfer action that saw Ligue 1 Conforama welcome a number of internationals as well as some significant returns to France's top flight.
The summer transfer window, which closed at midnight on August 31, saw Ligue 1 Conforama attract several new internationals and some former greats while trade among Ligue 1 Conforama clubs - and Domino's Ligue 2 clubs - continued apace with a total of 579 transfers completed in total.
First of all, the league was bolstered by the arrival of internationally recognised players, with notably ten new signings on deals worth over €10m and 79 new players joining the league from overseas. While the overall accent was on youth talent, the first big star to come to France in the summer was none other than Gianluigi Buffon, who signed for Paris Saint-Germain. The 40-year-old Italian 'keeper was one of the most surprising signings, given his glittering 17-year career with Juventus! Meanwhile Brazilian Ganso also made the move to Ligue 1 Conforama, the 28-year-old signing with Amiens SC on loan from Sevilla. After playing for Santos, where he won the Cope Libertadores in 2011, Sao Paulo and Sevilla, the 2009 U20 World Cup finalist has eight senior Brail caps to his name, as well as a silver medal from the 2012 Olympics.
Big names arrive
Olympique Lyonnais were more focused on young players and managed to clinch the signature of France youth international Moussa Dembélé (22). The new OL striker will be making his Ligue 1 Conforama debut after starring for Celtic in Scotland since 2016. Meanwhile Olympique de Marseille brought in a proven midfield talent in the form of the Netherlands' Kevin Strootman (41 caps). After five seasons patrolling in front of the defence with AS Roma, for whom he made 11 UEFA Champions League appearances on the way to the semi-finals in 2017-18, the 28-year-old opted to follow former Roma boss to the Orange Vélodrome.
AS Monaco also signed some players whose reputation preceded them, starting with Aleksandr Golovin, 22, who signed from CSKA Moscow after proving one of the revelations of the recent World Cup in his homeland. Despite his young years, Golovin has made 23 UEFA Champions League appearances since 2015. Monaco's other main recruit was another World Cup star - Belgium's Nacer Chadli. The Red Devil with 51 caps to his name has returned to his best at age 29, and is looking at Ligue 1 Conforama as the staging ground for him to build on his the experience he gained in 123 English Premier League matches, mainly notched in his solid three-year stint with Tottenham from 2013 to 2016,
Ligue 1 Conforama also welcomed internationals Duje Caleta-Car and Nemanja (OM), Anthony Limbombe and Kara M’Bodji (FC Nantes), Saman Ghoddos (Amiens), Eric Choupo-Moting (PSG), Stefan Mitrovic (RC Strasbourg Alsace) and Andreas Cornelius (Bordeaux), not to mention reigning European Champion José Fonte (LOSC).
Big names remain
Although several leading lights left for other leagues over the summer (Lemar, Malcom, Fabinho, Seri and Pléa), the league of the current World Champions managed to hang onto its biggest stars and the early stages of the new season have already been lit up by the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar Jr, Florian Thauvin, Nabil Fekir, Falcao, Memphis Depay, Nicolas Pépé, Max-Alain Gradel, Dimitri Payet and Edinson Cavani as well as Ismaïla Sarr and Wahbi Khazri.
The Tunisian international changed clubs and is now turning out in the green shirt of Saint-Etienne. This trend in domestic action saw 36 transfers between Ligue 1 Conforama clubs, notably in the attacking sector: Clément Grenier and Hatem Ben Arfa (SRFC); Nolan Roux and Ronny Rodelin (EAG); Jonathan Bamba, Rémy Cabella and Yannis Salibur (ASSE); Mathieu Dossevi (TFC); Yacine Bammou (SMC); Martin Terrier (OL); Florent Mollet, Gaëtan Laborde and Andy Delort (MHSC); Stéphane Bahoken (SCO); Jimmy Briand (FCGB), Yoann Gourcuff (DFCO), Samuel Grandsir (ASM); and Myzian Maolida (OGCN). But they weren't all forwards: Baptiste Reynet, one of the league's top 'keepers with Dijon last season, now plays for TFC; Léo Dubois swapped Nantes for the right-hand side of OL's midfield; Christophe Hérelle left Troyes to bolster the OGC Nice back-line; and midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou swapped Strasbourg for AS Monaco.
Welcome back to Ligue 1 Conforama!
Along with its capacity to hang onto its biggest names, Ligue 1 Conforama also proved that it can bring the one who do leave back. Notably Loïc Rémy (LOSC), who returns to the league he won with OL in 2007 and 2008; Claudio Beauvue (SM Caen), who scored 17 goals in 2014-15 with Guingamp; and two former SM Caen starlets who return to France's top flight after stints in the Italian Serie A - Mbaye Niang (SRFC) and Yann Karamoh (FCGB). Among the other names to return to France, we have Cheikh Ndoye (Angers SCO), Thimothée Kolodziejczak (ASSE), Alaixys Romao (SdR), Lamine Koné (RCSA), Lionel Carole (RCSA) and Stéphane Mbia (TFC).
Domino's Ligue 2 developing young talent
Last but not least, Domino’s Ligue 2 remained a rich source of young talent for Ligue 1 Conforama clubs, with 23 players making the move up to the top tier. Brilliant last season with Clermont, Ludovic Ajorque now leads the attacking line for Strasbourg, while Cristian Lopez left RC Lens for Angers SCO and Malik Tchokounte continued his inexorable rise by eschewing Paris FC for SM Caen. Meanwhile, Jordan Siebatcheu swapped Stades, moving from Reims to Rennes with the aim of improving on his 17-goal haul in Domino's Ligue 2 last season. His will be just one of the many arrivals that we will be monitoring throughout the Ligue 1 Conforama season!