Bernardo Silva’s transfer to Manchester City shows that Europe’s elite have their eye on the French top flight once again. Pep Guardiola has arguably picked up the best player in the league, but that doesn’t mean there are not a whole host of players worthy of your attention.
Barcelona are coming off a season where they have finished second in La Liga and fell to Juventus in the UEFA Champions League. For the Catalan giants, this represents failure, and you know under suspected new boss Ernesto Valverde they will be looking to strengthen across the board.
If City and a whole host of other clubs eyeing up Ligue 1’s emerging stars, we’ve picked out five that could join Barça this summer.
Nabil Fekir – Lyon
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It’s the question that no one wants to ask: what is going to happen once Lionel Messi hangs up his boots? Yes, he’s only 29 years old, but unlike Cristiano Ronaldo’s transition to a centre-forward, there will come a point, eventually, when he’s superhuman powers begin to slow down.
Nabil Fekir is perhaps the one player in France that has the attributes to attempt to fill the phenom’s boots.
The French international isn’t going to come in and score 54 goals in all competitions, but with a low centre of gravity, great acceleration and that deft ability to change direction in between defenders, the similarities are there to see.
Fekir has struggled for form this season, playing back-up to Alexandre Lacazette and Memphis Depay. He’s at his best when allowed to come through the centre and link up around the penalty area. His return of nine goals and four assists may not excite the Barcelona fans, but at his best, Fekir is a player capable of outstanding moments of magic.
Although contracted until 2020, his performances this term could offer a chance for someone to offer Lyon a good deal this summer.
Benjamin Mendy – Monaco
There are a lot of clubs looking to improve in the full-back positions this summer. Barcelona’s weakness may be on the right side, but the chance of signing Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy should not be passed up.
The left-back has enjoyed a wonderful campaign with the Ligue 1 champions. His powerful, direct and terrorising runs down the flank made him as crucial to the Monegasque attack as any of their forwards.
Jordi Alba has been linked with moves away from the Camp Nou, plus his defensive stability has been questioned by the best teams in Europe. Mendy’s absence against Juventus was a big reason Leonardo Jardim’s failed to reach the Cardiff final.
Mendy has already progressed more than Lucas Digne and if the 23-year-old Frenchman leaves Barcelona, not only could the Monaco player replace him, he would be a huge upgrade.
Barcelona aren’t known for getting on the end of crosses, but Mendy’s direct low balls from wide, providing 11 assists in all competitions, can cause havoc and open up space for others.
Rumoured to be a target for Liverpool and Manchester City, Barcelona would be another ideal destination.
Jean Michaël Seri – Nice
Midfielders when they arrive at the Nou Camp are known to fit a certain mould: good passers, stylish and the sort of players that can dictate play. Nice’s impressive Jean Michaël Seri might not fit the stereotypical Barça player, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be an excellent signing.
Initially he looked like a defensive midfielder, but this season his surging runs, intelligent passing and terrific energy transformed Nice into one of the best teams in France.
Only Monaco’s Thomas Lemar managed more assists, with the Ivorian contributing nine, with seven goals thrown in. He’s an all-action, non-stop running, energetic and battling midfielder.
Arsenal and Spurs are known to have him on their rumoured transfer list. Although Seri is not the next Andrés Iniesta or a future Xavi, his penetrating runs, reading of the game and vision would provide Barcelona with something they currently don’t have, plus, the Ivorian is a known supporter of the Catalan club.
“If Barça comes to sign you, you can’t say no. No way,” he said in an interview with Mundo Deportivo.
“I have supported Barça since I was a child, when I was still in my native country, in Ivory Coast. I was always a big culé (Barcelona fan) and those who know me know it well. Then, when I moved to Portugal, I had the chance to follow their games closely.”
If Valverde wants a different dimension in the middle of the park, someone who can complement what he already has, a €20-25million bid for Seri would certainly boost their options next season.
Ricardo Pereira – Nice
It says a lot about a full-back when, due to injuries and then a push further up the pitch, with just 16 games in defence, he was named as the best right-back in France.
Ricardo Pereira has just finished the second of a two-year loan deal at Nice and his time on the Cote d’Azur has been a massive success.
Under Claude Puel and Lucien Favre, the Brazilian, owned by FC Porto, has played at right-back in a four-man defence, right wing-back in a 3-5-2 and then as a winger in a 4-2-3-1. Last season, he even played a left-back.
Regardless of where he lines up, he impresses. Great on the ball, the 23-year-old is technically gifted and doesn’t look out of place anywhere on the pitch.
Ricardo can beat a defender for pace, or dribble past with skill. His off the ball runs help him get beyond defenders and he has the talent on either foot to deliver crosses into the box.
There is an element of Dani Alves to his game, and although he’s not as powerful as his countryman, he’s got time to improve and there is so much more still to come from the full-back.
Nice were hoping they could try and engineer a permanent move, but the player has returned to Porto, but his future his up in the air. “I don’t know anything yet,” he told O Jogo.
“Porto officials will also have more to think about. I finished my loan and now I will wait on Porto.”
Sergi Roberto has done ok at the Camp Nou, but Ricardo could be that versatile, attacking option down the right that Barça have been missing since Alves joined Juventus.
Marco Verratti – Paris Saint-Germain
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As one of Europe’s most wanted midfielders, it’s no shock that Marco Verratti is in demand – and a rumoured Chelsea target. But if a deal is possible, he is a player that not only completely fits Barcelona’s style, but would be a huge upgrade for their team.
There was talk of a possible swap deal including Neymar going in the opposite direction, but although it helps massive in one area, it weakens both sides at the same time. Not ideal for either party.
Although the Italian believes he will be in the French capital for the new season, speaking after the Coupe de France victory over Angers there is still a chance a move could be on the cards.
“It's the club that decides, but I think I'll be there [next season],” he said. “Afterwards we will talk with the club like every year.”
“I still have four years left on my contract and I'm not thinking about leaving. I am very happy to be a part of this project and I have always said that winning with PSG is different from winning with all the other teams because I have been here for five years and I would really like to win something very important here in Paris.”
His chances of picking up silverware in Paris, outside of domestic success, look limited, especially if the club is looking to make more coaching changes. A move to Barcelona would be perfect for the player and the Spanish club.
A pass master, he is the man who dictates everything PSG create. He is the tempo, the metronome and the heartbeat of this club. He’s tenacious, fiery and a warrior; even when the chips are down, Verratti fights for his cause.
Ideal for a Barça side looking to catch their rivals this summer.