By Robin Bairner
Spending has become fashionable at the summit of Ligue 1, with Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco both earning a reputation for being amongst the most lavish clubs in the world over the last couple of years.
But in January, though, shrewdness is vital to tinker squads as the climax of the season approaches, and the two giants will attempt to bolster their units to secure the top two spots in Le Championnat, with Lille snapping at their heels. Meanwhile, former giants such as Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais battle just to be credible.
With that in mind, Goal is here to give you the low-down on what each of France's big guns can be expected to do in the winter transfer window.
The summer saw fewer recruits arrive in Paris than in recent years, yet there was no stop to the flow of spending as PSG splashed out on high-quality recruits Edinson Cavani, Lucas Digne and Marquinhos.
January may see the Parc des Princes outfit add further class to their ranks as they are set to chase Juan Mata from Chelsea. Having narrowly missed out on the playmaker towards the end of the summer window, when they had a bid rejected from the London club, they are to approach Jose Mourinho’s outfit again. Their chances of success seem to have been increased with the Spain star’s lack of game time ahead of the upcoming World Cup but they have been unable to make much headway with the London club.
Another long-term target for Laurent Blanc’s club is Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who would be added to the midfield rotation. The ex-Lille man would be eligible to play in the Champions League and is therefore a genuine target, yet the stumbling block could be that the move may disrupt his World Cup chances.
Meanwhile, departures are probable. Jeremy Menez’s inability to gain a regular spot under Blanc is likely to see him leave the club, with Juventus favourites to take the winger ahead of Monaco. Javier Pastore is another who could be shipped out, with a move back to Serie A favoured.
Lucas Moura had been linked with a loan move back to Brazil, yet his positive form of late means he will remain in Paris.
No one spent bigger than Monaco during the summer, and while it is practically impossible for the principality club to match the coups of Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez in January, they will spend to ensure they finish in the Champions League spots.
Lacina Traore, who is currently with Anzhi Makhachkala, appears the player likeliest to join the revolution on the Mediterranean. He is in advanced contact with the club, yet Juventus and Borussia Dortmund are also reportedly interested in the Cote d’Ivoire international.
Angel Di Maria, meanwhile, has been linked to the Ligue 1 outfit since the summer, yet the chances of Claudio Ranieri getting his hands on the left winger appear increasingly remote. At one stage this transfer was hot, yet Real Madrid are refusing to cede the former Benfica man, with Carlo Ancelotti professing his admiration for the Argentina international.
At the back, summer signings Nicolas Isimat and Borja Lopes have failed to make an impact and could be loaned out, while room would be made for Nicolas Otamendi of Porto. The Argentine centre-back is another of Jorge Mendes’ clients, with the agent stockpiling players at the club. A right-back may also be courted.
Such are Mendes’ interests at the club, it seems unlikely that Falcao will instantly be sold on to either Chelsea or Real Madrid, who both hold an interest in the Colombian. The striker is the crown jewel of Monaco’s resurgence, and they will not wish to see him depart after less than six months.
A number of fringe players are likely to leave, as the squad is bloated and is far larger than is required or practical.
Monaco are targeting a goalkeeper in the long term, with Barcelona’s Victor Valdes expected to move to the club in the summer, although he is keeping his cards close to his chest with regards his future destination.
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Olympique de Marseille spent big in the summer and are unlikely to make any significant reinforcements in January. Paul-Georges Ntep is a target for OM - just as he is for Olympique Lyonnais and Lille - yet the €7 million price tag put on his head by Ligue 2 Auxerre is likely to be too great for the Provence side, who will no go above €3m. Right-back Sebastien Corchia, meanwhile, is a fresh target, with France international Rod Fanni a possible departure.
Another side struggling to make much headway are Lyon, whose biggest move in January will be keeping hold of Bafetimbi Gomis and Yoann Gourcuff until their contracts expire in the summer.
The other major moves already slated for January will see Bastia and Montpellier sign Djibril Cisse and Mbaye Niang (on loan) respectively from Kuban Krasnodar and AC Milan.