A French tricolour emblazoned with "Le Toon" fluttered amid the travelling fans at Newcastle on Tuesday night, a tribute to the latest influx of talent from across Channel. In France, meanwhile, all that is fluttering is a tear-stained handkerchief, as Ligue 1 bids farewell to ever-increasing numbers of top players. Several more will probably depart before the transfer window shuts on Thursday.
When the France president François Hollande announced his intention to impose a 75% tax on footballers' salaries, he thought he would be feted as an egalitarian. Many did support the proposal, but football clubs were aghast and complained it would be "the death of French football" and counterproductive, as it would trigger an exodus of players and achieve nothing but the ruin of clubs because television income and attendances would fall. The league estimated the measure would cost French clubs €1bn. Hollande eventually backed down, yet the exodus of players from Ligue 1 is gathering pace.