Ibrahim Sangaré, £20m
The 22-year-old is coming off an impressive season despite Toulouse struggling. He has already won five caps for the Ivory Coast and has 78 appearances for his club, a huge amount in a top league considering his young age. The 6’3” defensive midfielder won the ball back 5.1 times per 90 and ranked sixth in the league for tackling per 90 in Ligue 1, the season before he finished fifth. Throughout 2018/19 he made 124 tackles and interceptions in 25 appearances. To put this in perspective, by mid-June Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Lucas Torreira has completed 151 between them in 2019/20.
He also completed over a dribble per 90 for the second consecutive season, it did however fall from 1.8 in 2018/19 to 1.2 in 2019/20. This drop is mainly to the change in style for Toulouse and not because Sangaré has got worse as highlighted by his 75% success rate. When you watch him, it is easy to see how he uses his body to shield the ball and evade pressure so he can get the ball forward through dribbling or passing. The Ivorian leads his side in both passes and long balls per 90 with 50.6 and 3.7 respectively, this also saw him finish in the top 20 for passes in the final third in Ligue 1.
A bargain for any side that wants an all action and/or a defensive midfielder.
Wesley Fofana, £25m
There were many option in this list for centre back. Mohammed Salisu has a £10m buy out, Axel Disasi has a year left on his contract and Malang Sarr will be available on a free transfer once the window opens but Fofana’s contributions at Saint-Étienne have gone under the radar.
Fofana has partnered Arsenal bound Saliba for most of the season and is more active than his teammate. Saliba averages 3.6 tackles and interceptions whilst Fofana averages 4.6 and also has a higher tackle success rate with 83% compared to Saliba’s 77%. Despite being slightly shorter than his defensive partner, Wesley is better in the air as he wins a massive 4.9 aerial duels per game. This is good enough for tenth in Ligue 1 and is top in his team for aerial duel success, 72% which is only 2% of Virgil Van Dijk.
Fofana is still very young, especially for a centre back, which is why his passing isn’t very impressive. His long ball pass accuracy is around 33%. This may be something he develops as he gets older but if not, he is still an excellent defender who could partner a passing defender. Due to ASSE’s boss Claude Puel talking about having to reduce the club’s wage bill and ruling out making signings for over £4m, the French side are in a weak bargaining position and Wesley Fofana could go for a pittance.
Josip Brekalo, £25m
Creativity and goalscoring from midfield rarely go unnoticed which is why Chelsea and Man United have both payed upwards of £35m for players outside of a top league for players in that role. Lorenzo Pellegrini is a great option for this with his buy out sitting at £27m. A different option would be Wolfsburg’s Josip Brekalo.
Brekalo came through the Dinamo Zagreb academy, an academy which have become synonymous with producing technically gifted and versatile midfielders such as Modrić and Kovačić. Wolfsburg signed the number 10 for £9m four years ago and has been an established starter for the last two seasons.
In 2018/19 the Croat grabbed three goals and three assists whilst last campaign he got three goals and four assists with xG saying he should’ve had closer to nine direct goal involvements. This meant the 22-year-old averaged 0.46 xG+xA in the Bundesliga for 2019/20, this is made all the more impressive as Wolfsburg were ninth in the league for goals scored.
Josip Brekalo could be a cheap pickup for a club like Wolves or Lazio and if he doesn’t workout, due to his age he will have a large resale value.