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Sep 2, 2014

Ligue 1 left in tatters after high-profile transfer exits

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti reveals all the inside information on Radamel Falcao's move to Manchester United.

Summers in French football can't always feel like Christmas. After the arrivals of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2012 and Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez a year later, something had to give. This summer, Ligue 1 has given massively.

Monaco have gone from spending millions to austerity; PSG are tied up by Financial Fair Play; Marseille had to sell before buying; Lille have been cautious; Rennes have gone for quantity (10 players from nine different nationalities); Lyon are broke and the others have not much left in the bank, either. So it was always going to be a much busier window in terms of outs than ins. Ligue 1 played the role of a feeder league this summer, and a lot of top European clubs have picked up a bargain.

The new faces

There is one you obviously can't miss, because of the curly frizzy hair and the huge price tag hanging off his shirt. David Luiz signed for PSG for 50 million pounds from Chelsea before the World Cup. The French champions were allowed one big deal by UEFA under Financial Fair Play rules, and they chose the Brazilian defender. Many said they overpaid -- perhaps they did -- but the idea was to bolster Silva's confidence in big games by bringing his international teammate in to partner with him. The season may hold a moment like the Germany semifinal (or more properly, the Netherlands third-place playoff, when they both played together) but so far, Luiz has done well with three clean sheets in the three league games he has played. The club from the capital also managed to dodge FFP by getting Ivorian international defender Serge Aurier on loan from Toulouse.

In Monaco, it was far from the 120 million pounds they spent 12 months ago. Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg arrived on loan from Fulham, along with Wallace, a young Brazilian centre-back; Tiemoue Bakayoko, a France under-19 international and a very promising midfielder, cost them 5 million pounds. But they hardly replaced the departed.

Marseille needed defensive players. They got only one, but a promising one: Doria, a 19-year-old centre-back from Brazil. Offensively, though, Michy Batshuayi and Romain Alessandrini arrived from Standard Liege and Rennes, but they haven't shone so far. Bordeaux, currently top of the league, were clever by sealing a loan deal for Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori and a permanent one for left-back Diego Contento from Bayern Munich, but it would be a surprise if their excellent start continued much longer.

In Lille, the summer is a story of two loanees. The first one, Divock Origi, the Belgian wonderkid who impressed at the World Cup, was sold to Liverpool and came back on loan. The second one comes from Manchester City: Marcos "Rony" Lopes, a young and very talented creative Portuguese midfielder with a superb left foot.

Meanwhile, a few players have come to Ligue 1 to revive their careers. Remember Lucas Barrios, a key player for Borussia Dortmund when they won back to back league titles in 2010 and 2011? After getting lost in China and Russia, the Paraguay international striker joined Montpellier. Ricky van Wolfswinkel had a nightmare in the Premier League last season at Norwich, scoring only once in the league, and St Etienne gambled to bring him in on loan with an option to buy. Finally, the most exotic signing (and the best name too) is Yeltsin Tejeda at Evian; the Costa Rican midfielder enjoyed a great World Cup and will now try to keep Evian above water.

James Rodriguez impressed at the World Cup, and Real Madrid came calling.

The departed

An incredible amount of talent has left Ligue 1 this summer, but the two biggest names to have departed stand out: James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao. After just one season at Monaco, the former joined Real Madrid and the latter Manchester United (on loan). Everybody knew that they would not spend their whole life in the Principality but it is still disappointing to see them leave, especially Falcao and especially the way he did it.

PSG have lost Alex and Jeremy Menez, both on a free to AC Milan, after their contracts were not renewed, but most importantly Kingsley Coman also left the club on a free for Juventus. The youngster, a pure product of the Paris academy is one of the most promising forwards of his generation and it's a shame for him to move away from France.

A few French internationals have also left the country though. Remy Cabella went to Newcastle, Joshua Guilavogui to Wolfsburg, Bafétimbi Gomis to Swansea and Mathieu Valbuena to Dynamo Moscow. Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier) and Kurt Zouma (St Etienne), who should become full internationals soon, left for Tottenham and Chelsea.

And a few other internationals did the same: Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast) from Lille to Hertha Berlin; David Ospina (Colombia) from Nice to Arsenal; Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon) from Lorient to Porto; Diafra Sakho (Senegal) from Metz to West Ham; Filip Djordjevic (Serbia) from Nantes to Lazio; and Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland) from Reims to Sevilla.

New managers in the dugout

More surprisingly, the summer has also been very productive in terms of new managers. There were seven changes on benches across France since the end of last season. The biggest name is of course Marcelo "El Loco" Bielsa who took over at Marseille to revolutionise the club. Leonardo Jardim has a massive task on his hand at Monaco now that the club has decided not to invest anymore, while Hubert Fournier is having a nightmare at Lyon and has lost his last three league games; Jean-Luc Vasseur is also finding it difficult at Reims.

And what about the rookies on their first managerial experience? Willy Sagnol is already doing a great job at Bordeaux who are top of the league after four league games. Claude Makelele has had some encouraging games too with Bastia while Sylvain Ripoll is sixth in the table with Lorient.

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