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Why Are Premier League Clubs Raiding Ligue 1 So Much This Summer?

06/08/2015 17:29 BST | Updated 06/08/2016 10:59 BST

This summer has been a brilliant summer to be the finance director at a French top-flight side - and a pretty poor one to be a manager out there. Premier League clubs have looked at their overstocked transfer war-chests and gone a'spending, and Ligue 1's talent base has taken a pounding.

Andre and Jordan Ayew, Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gueye, Yohan Cabaye, Dimitri Payet, Franck Tabanou, Jordan Veretout, N'Golo Kante and Max Gradel have all gone Premier League-wards, mostly to mid-table clubs looking for a relative bargain.

When big clubs come knocking, it seems like the 'lure' of mid-table football in one of Europe's smaller leagues is somewhat lacking, with players flooding even to Premier League relegation candidates Aston Villa to escape Ligue 1. So, what's going on?

There are two parts to the French exodus - why the English sides are so keen on getting players to hop over the channel suddenly, and why the players themselves are so happy to oblige.

We'll take a look at the first bit to start with, because it's as good a place to start as any. European transfer prices tend to move up and down in cycles, and clubs strike for talent when the prices are lower. That's obvious enough. But the cause goes deeper than that.

When the likes of Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Emmanuel Petit all streamed out of their home country in the mid-to-late 90s, it sent club football in the country on a downward spiral.

It was obvious that that would happen - when you strip a league of its best players and they don't get replaced, the clubs are going to fail to challenge in continental competitions. Without the hope of success in Europe, mid-to-top level players are going to choose other destinations, and the league begins to crumble from the top down.

The last remaining talents all abandons ship, and leave the league a hollow shell of what it used to be. Once the league is generally recognised to be 'lesser', any players performing well there have their achievements underestimated. "He's scored 25 goals, but only in Ligue 1." "He's looked like the footballing reincarnation of Franco Baresi, but only in Ligue 1," etc.

When that happens, the league can recover. When its prospects are being underestimated, they stay in the country and improve - and so do the teams in the league. Then the country's footballing reputation improves as they start to challenge on a continental stage again... you get the gist.

The influx of oil money at Paris Saint-Germain sped up the process in Ligue 1 a little, and then we arrived at this summer. Ligue 1 is still not on the level of La Liga, the Bundesliga or Serie A so, while the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United aren't raiding mid-table French clubs, the talents are all there and ready to be picked up.

Then comes the Premier League's sudden TV cash influx, which has given even mid-table clubs the freedom to throw eight-figure sums around if they want to. Cheap, largely untapped talent, plus clubs suddenly coming into money equals the transfer carnage we've seen this summer.

The French aren't loving it - Montpellier coach Rolland Courbis has talked of his "profound disgust" at the "pillaging" of French talent - but the players still want to come. And so, we come to the second part of the equation.

Players from Ligue 1 are coming to the Premier League because of the money. That's not to say they're greedy, or even coming over for bigger wages, but money is at the heart of it all.

The money in the Premier League at the moment means that any team can, conceivably, put together an excellent squad in a couple of years. The league's open enough to get a Europa League spot, and good enough to challenge for European silverware straight away.

You know how many French teams have won the Europa League (or UEFA Cup) or the Champions League? One. Marseille, in 1993. England, on the other hand, has nearly 20 victories across those two competitions. Odds are, players are more likely to find success here.

Is it fair? It's no less fair than denying French players the right to go and win trophies overseas, certainly. Will all of the players succeed? Not a chance. Will it keep happening? Absolutely, for a while. Then the talent will dry up, and another country will take France's place. Expect to see Belgium's Jupiler League decimated within the next five years.

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