Florian Thauvin completed his move to Olympique de Marseille after refusing to play for LOSC Lille Metropole in the most high-profile move of an otherwise quiet last day of the summer transfer window in Ligue 1 on Monday.
Marseille signed the 20-year-old winger on a five-year deal, with reports estimating the transfer at 15 million euros (US$20 million) — five times the fee Lille paid SC Bastia in January.
“This city breathes football,” Thauvin said after joining the 1992-1993 European Cup winners. “For me, it’s a big step forward. I’m going to have to work hard and I have a lot to prove to the club.”
After signing Thauvin, one of the stars of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup won by France in July, Lille loaned him back to SC Bastia, where he scored several outstanding goals to catch the eye of Europe’s leading clubs.
Newcastle United, Arsenal and Liverpool and were all reportedly keen to beat Marseille to his signature.
“We’re obviously very happy to have reached a positive outcome after long negotiations with our Lille counterparts,” Marseille president Vincent Labrune said. “I would like to point out the quality of the exchanges I’ve had these last few days with [Lille president] Michel Seydoux.”
Thauvin attracted widespread criticism for refusing to play or train with Lille this season and never made an appearance for the club as he tried to force a move to Marseille, who are playing in the UEFA Champions League.
“Such an offer for a player who still has everything to prove can’t be refused. So we accepted it in the interests of Lille,” Seydoux said. “Everyone is united in condemning the unacceptable attitude of Florian Thauvin. We suffered from a situation created by a player and his adviser, without scruples, interested exclusively by financial concerns.”
Thauvin’s transfer falls short of the 20 million euros Monaco recently paid to buy midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia from Sevilla.
Marseille followed up Thauvin’s deal by signing another member of France’s under-20 team, with 20-year-old central midfielder Mario Lemina arriving on a five-year deal from Lorient.
Sochaux-Montbeliard midfielder Ryad Boudebouz, linked with a move to Liverpool two seasons ago, joined SC Bastia on a three-year deal reportedly costing the Corsican club only 1 million euros plus assorted bonuses, as the 23-year-old was in the final year of his contract.
Elsewhere, Zambia international striker Emmanuel Mayuka joined Sochaux on loan from Southampton.
The 22-year-old Mayuka was only in the Southampton starting lineup for one match last season, along with a further 10 appearances from the bench, but showed his potential as he helped Zambia win last year’s Africa Cup of Nations, scoring in the semi-final win over Ghana.
Newly promoted Nantes secured loan moves to bring forward Johan Audel from VfB Stuttgart and Romanian midfielder Banel Nicolita from AS Saint-Etienne for the rest of the season.
Stade Rennais acquired forward Silvio Romero on loan from Argentine club Club Atletico Lanus with an option to buy his contract at the end of the season.
The 25-year-old scored 13 league goals last season.