Top five Ligue 1 signings of the 2020/21 season
The 2020/21 Ligue 1 season promises a thrilling climax to the campaign, with Paris Saint-Germain, Lille, Lyon and Monaco all split by just four points at the top of the league.
While the coronavirus pandemic has handicapped PSG by giving them an unwieldy fixture list to handle – as well as the inevitable injuries that come along with it – one of the reasons that this season has been more competitive is that the champions’ rivals have got things right in the transfer market.
Here are the five best pieces of business in Ligue 1 this season.
1. Sven Botman, Ajax to Lille, €8m
Lille offloaded Gabriel to Arsenal in the summer for €30 million and spent only €8m gaining a player who has looked an upgrade in the form of Sven Botman.
Botman arrived from Ajax having never played with the first team, yet as a 20-year-old, he was thrust immediately into the spotlight in Lille. It was a challenge he has risen to impressively.
Indeed, Liverpool were linked with him in the January transfer window, with a fee of around €30m suggested – indicating just how rapid his rise has been.
Botman has been a key figure in the Lille side that is challenging for the title, having gone virtually mistake free in his open months in France.
2. Kevin Volland, Bayer Leverkusen to Monaco, €11m
Kevin Volland followed Monaco coach Niko Kovac from the Bundesliga to Monaco and has proven a major hit in Ligue 1.
Just as the boss struggled to find his feet, so too did the 28-year-old Volland. Initially deployed out on the wing, he played six somewhat unconvincing matches before being brought to life by his first goals for the club.
He was aided by a change in system that saw him play in a more central role. Once he had settled in, he exploded into life, notably scoring two and creating the other in a 3-2 win over PSG. Further more, he scored in five straight Ligue 1 matches either side of the winter break, chipping in four goals in those games for good measure.
His form may have cooled somewhat since then, but he has played arguably the greatest role of anyone as Monaco chase the title.
3. Amine Gouiri, Lyon to Nice, €7m
In a Nice side that has flopped spectacularly, there has been one notable exception: 21-year-old attacker Amine Gouiri.
He was signed from Lyon last summer having suffered a 2019/20 campaign ruined by serious injury. Gouiri has bounced back, eager to make up for lost time.
In what is effectively his first Ligue 1 season, he has scored 12 goals and laid on six more, single-handedly carrying the Nice attack, which has suffered from poor form, injury and illness.
He laid down his marker with a match-winning double against Lens on the opening day of the season and has not looked back since.
Talented, tenacious and versatile, Nice have a serious talent on their hands.
4. Nayef Aguerd, Dijon to Rennes, €4m
It may not have been the season that Rennes wanted it to be, but one of their shining lights has been centre-back Nayef Aguerd, who has been a redoubtable figure since arriving in the summer from Dijon.
Having impressed in his first season in France, he has taken a further step up over the last seven months and has elevated himself to become one of the outstanding centre-backs in the league.
While Rennes have suffered from individual errors, he has not been culpable, while he has even chipped in three goals.
If the Breton side reach Europe next season, he will have had a significant role to play.
5. Lucas Paqueta, Milan to Lyon, €20m
Lucas Paqueta may have failed to live up to his billing as the ‘next Kaka’ in Milan, but since moving to Lyon in the summer, he has shown why there was a such a dogfight for his signature when he left Flamengo in 2018.
The midfielder is classy on the ball and poses a genuine threat of goals and assists when around the opposing penalty box.
Having taken some time to settle in France, there is a sense that there is more to be unlocked from his game, yet there is no doubt that he has been a shrewd investment on the part of Lyon.