Ultimate summer transfer targets: Clement Grenier

The young Frenchman has very publicly piqued the interest of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and could be ready to depart his formative club after an excellent campaign in Ligue 1
By Robin Bairner

Clement Grenier's rise to prominence with Olympique Lyonnais this season was secured as he claimed the club's Player of the Year award, which was voted for by the fans. It marked the high point of the 22-year-old's long journey from youth-team prodigy to established star and marks a great farewell from the club at which he has spent the last 11 years.

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It seems that Grenier's time at Stade Gerland is coming to an end. Although he was able to lead them to the Champions League next season by scoring two magnificent high-profile free kicks at key moments in the final fortnight of the season, the playmaker has outgrown the club who have nurtured him for over a decade.

No longer are Lyon a force who can afford to cling on to their promising young players. Financial realities posed by the building of a new stadium mean that they are, for the moment, very much a selling club and Grenier is one of their most marketable assets.

Highlight reels could easily be filled with his graceful movement on the ball, the way that he can dip his body to fool a defender as to his future path or the speed of his feet that allows him to negotiate even the tightest of situations. Technically, there can be few more aesthetically pleasing players to watch in Ligue 1.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who loves such gifted players, has expressed his interest in the young Frenchman, which has established the London club as strong favourites to secure his signature.

Given the attributes of the Ardeche-born star, it is easy to see why he would have such an attraction.

Grenier's game is certainly not based upon dribbling. Instead, it is the perceptiveness of his passing that really makes him stand out. He uses the ball cleverly and often in an inventive manner, fashioning opportunities for his side with the delicate nature of his game.

Jean-Michal Aulas stated recently that he wants to keep Grenier until the end of his contract but the young midfielder does not share this feeling, especially as Arsenal want him.

Lyon want to sell the expensive and under-performing Yoann Gourcuff and to hold on Grenier. However, some say that the youngster wants to make Aulas pay for marginalising him last summer and threatening to sell him to Nice before Gourcuff picked up an injury.

Arsenal are very appealing to French youngsters, who have seen many childhood heroes succeed there under the watch of Wenger. Grenier said it; he is only interested in improving and Arsenal offers him just that, and a bigger salary of course. According to the French press, he asked Lyon to give him €250,000 (£212,900) per month to put pen on paper on a new deal last April. He currently earns €80,000 (£68,100) per month and is in a far better form than Gourcuff.

This might all be a blag from Aulas to sell for a higher price because Grenier has a year left on his contract and Lyon need to pay for the Stade des Lumieres that they are building.

- Hocine Harzoune | Goal France
Of course, the Frenchman is not all subtlety. His free-kick equaliser against Nice to secure a vital 1-1 draw for his side was smashed into the top corner of the net from 35 metres with all the force of a Cristiano Ronaldo drive, while he reproduced the trick a week later against Sochaux as if to show that his first effort was no mere fluke.

Having failed to register a senior goal prior to this season, Grenier struck seven in only 28 league matches for Lyon, notching up six assists in the process. His ability to deliver at key moments was also admirable for one so young, with a 90th-minute winner in Montpellier another memorable highpoint of a breakthrough campaign.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has made it clear that he does not want a player whom he has described as "Juninho's little brother" to depart.

"If Arsene wants to have an idea of Grenier's price, I will tell him that it is the same as what Bayern Munich paid for Mario Gotze - around €37 million (£32m)," he bullishly told Canal+ in the wake of Wenger’s public declaration of interest.

No doubt that OL's leader would like to keep hold of his most prized young asset as the club rediscover the Champions League next season after an uncharacteristic year in the Europa League. That aspiration will be very difficult to achieve, however.

Negotiations over a new deal for the player have broken down, with Grenier reportedly seeking three times as much as he is presently paid. While this in itself is not an issue, Lyon's inability to offload the out-of-form Yoann Gourcuff is a major burden to their wage bill.

Such is Lyon's financial status, it is impossible for them to hold out for such a sum and Arsenal will be looking to profit at their expense. After such a mature campaign in France, Grenier may well feel that it would be wise to leave on a high to the Emirates Stadium, where the reputation for developing young players remains second to none, despite the inability of the club to win silverware.

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