10 Ligue 1 Players to watch

23.02.2017 21:30:28 No author
French flag in stadium

Ligue 1 is noted as one of Europe’s chief exporters of footballing talent, and while clubs are queueing up to sign many of the players currently starring on a regular basis, there is a conveyor belt of youngsters ready to step into the voids.  

Here are 10 players, none of whom can yet consider themselves regular first teamers, who may have big roles to play before the end of the season – or certainly going forward into next term. 

Nicolas Pepe (att) – Angers 

On the fringes at things in Angers, the wide forward was absent throughout January due to his presence at the Africa Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast. He has often appeared as a substitute for the Stade Jean Bouin side this season, but has looked a very able replacement for them and could be a player called upon increasingly in the final weeks of the campaign. Quick and with a keen eye for goal, he piqued the interest of several sides, including Lyon, in January. His long-term future lies away from Angers, but he might just be the man to fire them to safety. 

Malcom () – Bordeaux 

When Malcom arrived in France little over a year ago, there was some scepticism as to whether he was just another hopeful young Brazilian coming across to Europe on the back of a wave of hype. Twelve months on, that certainly does not look like the case. He is growing increasingly influential in Jocelyn Gourvennec’s plans at Stade Matmut-Atlantique and has been one of their most in-form players in 2016-16. He has started to refine himself in the final third of the park and has two assists and four goals to his credit. 

Yann Karamoh () – Caen 

One of the quickest players in Ligue 1, 18-year-old Karamoh caught the eye from the moment he was given a chance with Caen. Has already banned an impressive four goals for the strugglers this season, and the teenager is set to play an important role before the season concludes. At the moment, his pace is his main weapon, and though he is technically quite able, unless he can learn to make the right choices at key moments, it may be he does not realise his full potential for another few seasons.  

Lucas Tousart (mid) – Lyon 

Tousart did not come through Lyon’s youth ranks, rather he gained experience with Valenciennes in Ligue 2 before moving to the Rhone side in the summer of 2015. A year spent in the reserves appears to have been well spent, though, as the 19-year-old is already forcing himself into Bruno Genesio’s plans at Parc OL with increasing regularity. Indeed, it may well be that he is the heir to Corentin Tolisso, who is set to leave in the summer. He is currently developing into a box-to-box player to play alongside Maxime Gonalons at the base of the midfield, and after being gently introduced to action, he is being given an increased responsibility. 

Maxime Lopez (mid) – Marseille 

Burst onto the scene in the autumn, when the arrival of Rudi Garcia suddenly opened up the possibility of this teenager featuring for the first team. He was instantly given the keys to the OM side, and was tasked with the great responsibility of dictating the pace of their play. Although he has been compared to Samir Nasri, he was initially used in a role more similar to Marco Verratti, playing in front of the defence and taking possession from the rearguard before funnelling it on. Started with great success but has not been such a standout in the second half of the season. Garcia is still toying with his role and has even utilised him as a playmaker, where his long-term future may yet lie. 

Kylian Mbappe (att) – Monaco 

Possibly the greatest talent to come out of Ligue 1 in the last 20 years, teenager Mbappe has already hit the headlines due to the ease at which comparisons can be made to Thierry Henry, another graduate of the Monaco academy. Has had to wait for his chance before Radamel Falcao and Valere Germain, but after getting the opportunity to start at the Eithad Stadium in the Champions League, it seems that he may yet earn a regular starting berth before the end of the season. His numbers are already better than Henry’s at a similar age, and so far he has done a superb job of justifying the hype. 

Nordi Mukiele (def) – Montpellier 

Only moved to Montpellier in January, but the 19-year-old right-back is set to make a significant impression at Stade de la Mosson. Under the guidance of Jean-Louis Gasset, he has already started to make his presence felt in the starting XI and has held down a berth ahead of Mathieu Deplagne since he arrived at the club. Looks a strong addition to a defence that has struggled, as he is quick and capable going forward. Already a France Under-20 international.  

Christopher Nkunku (mid) – Paris Saint-Germain 

Not necessarily one of the young PSG stars tipped to make an immediate breakthrough at the start of the season, particularly as forwards Jean-Kevin Augustin and Odsonne Edouard looked sharp in pre-season. But it is Nkunku who has earned the most game time, and who looks likeliest to have a long-term future at the club. Has muscled his way into the fringes of the midfield rotation with energetic displays but also technically assured ones. He appears a mix of Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi 

Presnel Kimpbembe (def) – Paris Saint-Germain 

When it was announced that David Luiz was leaving PSG for Chelsea in the summer, there was an air of shock all round. Head coach Unai Emery appeared to be leaving himself short handed at the back, yet he had been suitably convinced by the performance of young Presnel Kimpembe to feel that he was justified in allowing the Brazilian to depart at the start of the season. In giving youth a chance, the Spaniard made a bold choice, but it seems he made the correct one. Kimpembe has excelled on almost every occasion when he has been called upon, and showed his growing stature in the game when he was part of a rearguard that shutout Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in a 4-0 home Champions League win.  

Adama Diakhaby (att) – Rennes 

Made a stunning start to life in the professional ranks with several bright performances in succession, and was hailed as the heir apparent to Ousmane Dembele, who departed Rennes last summer to join Dortmund. Has similar attributes to his predecessor, in that he is exceptionally quick, deceptive strong and good on the dribble. An ebbing of his confidence, however, has seen him play a more peripheral role in recent times, but if he can regain that, he will be a huge asset to Rennes late in the season.

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