It couldn’t go unnoticed. Last Thursday, when Didier Deschamps unveiled the list of Blues to face Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa, the French coach announced eight names of players trained at Paris Saint-Germain: Alphonse Areola, Mike Maignan, Presnel Kimpembe , Mattéo Guendouzi, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku. More than a third of the group from the same club, it’s remarkable. That Kimpembe is the only one among them to still evolve at PSG is just as important.
It is the exception that proves the rule. Paris did not want, or was not able, to retain within it players who have reached a high enough level to integrate the selection of a reigning world champion nation. The situation raises questions about the policy of the Parisian club. The urgency of the result, the desire to acquire experienced players to achieve its stated objective of winning the Champions League, the marketing potential of world stars… So many reasons which pushed PSG to turn their backs on the jewels of their formation. . Even if this observation is to be put into perspective on a case-by-case basis.
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Coman, Nkunku, Diaby: the blocked attack at PSG
The Parisian leaders have always made the most of their recruitment for the offensive sector, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Leo Messi via Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappé, Julian Draxler or Mauro Icardi. The future of young people trained at PSG has always been more blocked in attack than elsewhere. This prompted Kingsley Coman, then 18, to leave Paris at the end of his contract in 2014 to find more playing time, after four appearances in the Parisian jersey.
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Coman, initially open to a loan that PSG did not wish to grant him, had not chosen the easy way by joining Juventus Turin. A club with ambitions quite similar to those of Paris and not necessarily renowned for betting on young people. The prospects of his playing time skyrocketing in Piedmont weren’t necessarily so clear. But in his eyes, they were clearly still superior to what PSG could offer him. This already said enough about the state of mind of a striker as to his chances of breaking through within his training club.
Christopher Nkunku and Moussa Diaby confirmed this trend by leaving Paris for RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, even if their case is different. Unlike Coman, they were sold by a cash-seeking PSG as part of financial fair play. They each chose a league, the Bundesliga, which had already proven its ability to launch quickly into the deep end of young players, especially the French. And they opted for certainly ambitious clubs, but not displayed contenders for the Champions League. An ideal setting and game time guarantees to quickly explode at the highest level. Everything that Paris never really wanted to offer them.
Areola, Maignan: a lesson to ponder
Paris and its guardians is quite a novel. The idea of having a goalkeeper trained at the club has long made its way to PSG. But in the minds of the Parisian leaders, it had to be Areola. His loan to Villarreal in the summer of 2015 to allow him to toughen up was part of this logic. At the same time, Paris had recruited the German Kevin Trapp to make it its number one and relegated the Italian Salvatore Sirigu, holder during the first four years of the QSI era, to the rank of understudy. Maignan, even if he wanted to stay, had no other choice than to leave for Lille to launch his career as the path to the PSG first team seemed to be closed at the moment T.
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Areola never really convinced in the capital after returning from loan from Villarreal. Perhaps for a question of level, but that can also be explained by a delicate context with the competition of Trapp to a post where a hierarchy is essential more than in the other sectors. And when Thomas Tuchel seemed willing to give him clear number one status in the summer of 2019, Paris definitely blocked his way by recruiting Keylor Navas just before the transfer window closed. Since then, Areola has been on loan. Maignan, he broke through in a much healthier environment in Lille before confirming his progress at AC Milan. A lesson to ponder for a PSG still entangled in its goalkeeper problems…
The Rabiot case, the Guendouzi epiphenomenon
They have in common their position, midfield, and their long hair. But their cases are totally different. Adrien Rabiot had left PSG for Juventus Turin at the end of his contract in June 2019, after a long standoff which had notably led to his dismissal from the first team. While he was firmly established there. “Le Duc” already wanted to leave Paris in the summer of 2018, more because he did not consider himself considered at his fair value than for lack of playing time. He did not appreciate that his management closed the door to him and had refused to extend until his departure.
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Guendouzi, he had not waited to knock on the door of the first team to set sail. The current OM midfielder had left long before that, at the age of 15, to finish his training in Lorient after having attended the PSG youth teams since he was 6 years old. He wanted to have playing time as soon as possible and had chosen “a more modest club”, in the words of his agent Philippe Nabe, to give himself more chances to launch his career quickly. A recurring argument to explain the early departures of Parisian titis to other skies. But unlike all the players previously mentioned, Guendouzi left the club too early to really give the impression of having tried to break through in Paris.
The Kimpembe exception
It is ultimately quite symbolic. Kimpembe is the only defender among the eight “titis” during this gathering of the Blues, and also the only one still at the club. It’s not necessarily a coincidence. His case embodies above all the gap that can exist to cut his way to the Parisian first team according to the sectors of play, and thus benefit from the playing time and the exposure necessary to become international. An example to ponder for PSG. His repeated failures in the Champions League have shown, among other things, the limits of his recruitment policy. And the success of his young shoots arrived at the Blues after leaving the Parisian nest indicates, perhaps, that there are other means to achieve his ends.
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