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Liverpool handed £30m reason to make midfield transfer move

The French midfielder is high on the list of a number of European clubs this summer

Back in the summer of 2020 the pandemic had already arrived but the true financial impact of what was to come had not yet been realised.

The Premier League pressed pause on their season in March and resumed in June, with broadcast companies seeking rebates the matches that had been pushed back.

But given the huge sums that broadcasters pay for Premier League content and the money that flows into the biggest league in the world, the League has been able to ride out the storm better than most, even if it is set for combined losses across clubs of around £1.5bn as a result of the pandemic.

English football's top flight managed to get off pretty lightly when you take a look across Europe, with clubs even as big as Barcelona and Real Madrid having to scramble to seek restructuring loans and implement wage cuts in order to muddle through. In the case of Barcelona they aren't even assured of being able to register Lionel Messi and new signings Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero next season unless they significantly reduce their wage bill below La Liga's strict salary cap.

But there are few leagues who have been hit quite as hard as French football.

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Ligue 1, France's top tier, has for some time wanted to bridge the gap between themselves and the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, having fallen away when it comes to competing at the top level of European competition, the Champions League.

Paris Saint-Germain's heavy spending has allowed them to try and drive forward, but even that wasn't enough to deliver a league title for them last season as Lille claimed the honours.

It was a huge rise from the deal that had existed previously with long-time broadcaster Canal+ and one that emboldened clubs to go out and spend in the knowledge that they had some real financial security behind them.

But the pandemic hit and Mediapro missed one payment of £157m in October last year, then another for the same amount in December.

Last season was one of deep financial distress for French clubs, PSG excluded. Such was their desire to keep up with the biggest leagues in Europe that they entered into a major multi-year broadcast deal with Mediapro for a fee around £1bn per season.

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That was enough to throw French football into chaos and require the LFP, the league's governing body, to seek a government loan to help clubs meet their short-term obligations.

Mediapro exited the scene in a messy divorce and Canal+ came back on board on a shorter deal worth some £400m less for the remainder of the season. But now they have removed themselves from the equation after Amazon Prime Video were afforded the main package, with Canal+ unhappy at what Amazon were paying for so many games compared to what they were paying for so few.

This new row has plunged French football into an even deeper crisis and the clubs, who boast some of Europe's top talent among their ranks, are facing financial ruin in some cases unless they can engage in a fire sale and bring in cash from their assets. But with the rest of the continent knowing that French football does not have a strong hand, what they would have achieved 12 to 18 months ago is not what they would realise in the market this summer.

From a ruthless point of view, there has never been a better time for Liverpool to engage with some of their longer term targets, and it is certainly something that would chime with the Fenway Sports Group strategy of signing younger players for less than their true value.

Houssem Aouar seems to fit that bill.

The 23-year-old Lyon midfielder has been on the radar for the Reds for some time, and he is of the age that FSG will want to focus on in the coming transfer windows, especially as Liverpool's core group gets older and into their 30s. Having an older side is not what FSG want, nor is it the cheapest way to operate, with older more experienced players often more expensive when it comes to salaries, unless it is an Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe you are signing.

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Last summer Aouar was being touted around Europe with a value of around £54m. This summer that value has plummeted to around the £21m to £25m bracket - a near £30m drop.

Lyon failed to make the Champions League for this coming season after finishing fourth in Ligue 1, and on top of the losses incurred last year through the pandemic, French newspaper L'Equipe reports that the club could be looking at a deficit of some €184m (£159m).

That is enough to prompt the club to move on their higher earners such as Aouar and Maxwell Cornet, but they know that in a flat transfer market they will have to lower their expectations from 12 months ago significantly.

A year ago a deal at £54m would have seemed unlikely for Liverpool to engage in, especially after spending big to land Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara. But this summer, given that funds have already started to arrive thanks to the £17m raised from the sales of Marko Grujic to FC Porto and Taiwo Awoniyi to Union Berlin, it is a deal that is realistic.

But such a player at a cut price will have alerted plenty of other potential suitors, and Liverpool would have a battle on their hands should they wish to engage a player who has been on their shortlist for some time.

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