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Five Ligue 1 forwards in demand this summer

Ligue 1 witnessed a fascinating race to finish as the league’s leading scorer last season, with a remarkable number of forwards enjoying campaigns to remember.

While the outcome was somewhat predictable as Kylian Mbappe claimed a fifth straight award as France’s top scorer, a dozen players scored more than 15 league goals in the division last season.

The form of forwards in France has piqued the interest of clubs elsewhere in Europe and we’ve profiled five names who are set to be in transfer demand.

Five Ligue 1 forwards in demand this summer.

Jonathan David

Jonathan David has settled at centre-forward at Lille after two campaigns of movement across the forward line. Signed from Belgian side Genk as a replacement for Victor Osimhen in 2020, his contribution has improved each campaign and culminated in a career-best 2022/23.

David scored 24 league goals despite an unspectacular season for Lille who missed out on Champions League qualification, extending his record to 52 goals in 112 league games since moving to France.

The 23-year-old continues to be linked with Premier League clubs and with good reason, with the Canadian boasting a range of attributes that seem well-suited to English football. He has impressed when dropping deep to connect the build-up and possesses the pace to stretch defences in behind when required.

He ranked in the top 3% of strikers in Europe’s top five league last season for pass completion and in the highest 12% of all forwards for both progressive passes received and shot-creating actions.

Valued at around €65m at Lille, it is a figure that represents risk given David is far from the finished article. His game requires refinement, but there is clear potential for a forward ready to take the next step in his career.

Lois Openda

Lois Openda’s goals fired RC Lens back into the big time last season as the club secured Champions League qualification for the first time since 2002/03.

Runners-up in Ligue 1, Openda starred as one of France’s finest forwards to score 21 league goals for Franck Haise’s side. Openda’s return included the fastest hat-trick in Ligue 1 history, scored within four minutes and 30 seconds in a 4–0 away win over Clermont Foot.

Signed in a €10m (Β£8.5m) deal from Club Brugge after two successful seasons on loan at Vitesse Arnhen in the Eredivisie, Lens now value Openda at €50m (Β£42.5m) as clubs across Europe chase a deal for the 23-year-old.

RB Leipzig have already seen an offer of €44m (Β£37.4m) turned down as the Bundesliga side search for a replacement for Christopher Nkunku. In the top 7% of forwards in Europe’s top leagues for non-penalty goals, non-penalty xG and total shots per 90 last season, the appeal in Openda is clear.

Lens have reportedly already sourced a potential replacement for Openda, with the club interested in signing Gift Orban from Belgian club Gent.

Habib Diallo

Habib Diallo is on the radar of a number of Premier League clubs after the forward’s year-on-year improvement at Strasbourg.

Diallo has scored 40 goals in 100 Ligue 1 appearances for the club after a career-best campaign that delivered 20 league goals in 2022/23.

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West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brentford and Roma have been credited with interest in the 28-year-old, whose goal return was more impressive given Strasbourg’s fight to survive in Ligue 1 last season.

Excellent in the air, hard-working and with goal-threat, Diallo has all the attributes required to impress in the Premier League. His underlying numbers appear tailor-made for the demands of David Moyes, as West Ham consider centre-forward targets.

Elye Wahi

Elye Wahi has emerged as one of Ligue 1’s brightest talents across the last two campaigns, with the 20-year-old forward having shown real signs of potential at Montpellier.

Wahi followed a 10-goal return in 2021/22 with an even better campaign last season, scoring 19 league goals to rank among the league’s leading scorers.

Chelsea are understood to have placed Wahi on their striker shortlist as Mauricio Pochettino overhauls his forward line, with the west Londoners considering a move to sign the France u21 international.

Only Neymar (34.2%) had a better conversion rate than Wahi (30.2%) of players to have taken 25+ shots in Ligue 1 last season, while the forward has forged a reputation as a pest for opposition defences with his exuberance in chasing down defenders – he picked up eight yellow cards last season. All-action and full of potential, it would be no surprise to see sizeable bids lodged.

Folarin Balogun

Ok, we’re cheating with this one, but Folarin Balogun’s fine form in Ligue 1 is what has propelled the forward into the consciousness of recruiters across Europe.

Balogun scored 21 league goals on loan at Reims from Arsenal last season, in a campaign which saw the 21-year-old bounce back from a difficult loan spell at Middlesbrough to reemphasise his potential in Ligue 1.

Balogun’s brilliant form saw Reims overcome a difficult start to secure mid-table safety in France and has alerted numerous top clubs. RB Leipzig and both Milan sides are among those credited with an interest in Balogun, who is expected to leave Arsenal on a permanent basis due to the presence of Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah at the Emirates.

The United States international is keen to ensure regular first-team football next season and Crystal Palace and Chelsea are also said to have considered approaches. Arsenal value Balogun at Β£50m, a figure which will likely need to reduce if he is to secure a move away from north London.

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