Drawing lessons from past failures, PSG decides to look local

PSG head coach Christophe Galtier gestures with his players during a water break during the French Super Cup final soccer match between Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain at the Bloomfield stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, July 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

PSG head coach Christophe Galtier gestures with his players during a water break during the French Super Cup final soccer match between Nantes and Paris Saint-Germain at the Bloomfield stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, July 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

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Known for spending money on superstars, Paris Saint-Germain are changing their strategy as a 16-year-old midfielder has become the youngest player in club history.

Warren Zaire-Emery impressed during a tour of Japan last month, showing great composure and a clever reading of the game. PSG coach Christophe Galtier gave Zaire-Emery his debut in the French league against Clermont last week, sending him off in place of Italian international Marco Verratti in the 82nd minute. PSG won their first league game 5-0 and will face Montpellier on Saturday.

“Warren was very serious and very good during pre-season. I had to give him his first minutes in the French league,” Galtier told Canal Plus television. “Our young players have to feel involved.”

Zaire-Emery joined PSG’s youth academy in 2014 and won the Euros with the France Under-17 team in June. He lifted the trophy with his PSG teammate El Chadaille Bitshiabu, who was the club’s former youngest player.

A look at the PSG bench against Clermont showed that Zaire-Emery’s presence was no anomaly. Of course, there were internationals like Keylor Navas and Leandro Paredes. But young French players like Nordi Mukiele, Arnaud Kalimuendo and Hugo Ekitike also sat next to Zaire-Emery. Mukiele replaced Sergio Ramos in the 67th while Ekitike replaced Pablo Sarabia in the 78th.

“My goal for the next few years is to have only Parisian players in our squad,” PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi told local daily Le Parisien. “There is so much talent in our region. The best players in our region deserve to play at PSG. »

The introduction of UEFA’s financial sustainability rules in June could explain PSG’s focus on homegrown talent, with European clubs facing financial and sporting penalties if they fail to limit their wage expenditure.

European clubs can only have a maximum of 17 non-national players in a squad limited to 25, which means that a minimum of eight national players must “have been trained by their club or by another club of the same association national for at least three years”. years between 15 and 21 years old.

PSG have failed to retain homegrown talent since the takeover by Qatar Sports Investments in 2011. The owner’s impatience to win the Champions League has robbed the youngsters of time to develop. By signing so many stars, PSG ended up blocking the way for players from their academy.

PSG’s youth academy let a handful of talented players go. Kingsley Coman rejected PSG’s contract offer after playing just two league games during the 2013-14 season. At 18, Coman moved to Juventus before joining Bayern Munich in 2017. Coman scored Bayern’s winning goal against PSG in the 2020 Champions League final.

Mike Maignan didn’t have a chance at senior level for PSG after his youth academy and left for Lille aged 20. Maignan won the Ligue 1 best goalkeeper award in 2019 and helped Lille win the league title in 2021. He showed it was no fluke by winning the Serie A best goalkeeper award and helping AC Milan win the title this year. As a French international, Maignan is also expected to succeed Hugo Lloris.

Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku are two players who have also escaped. Diaby made 25 French league appearances for PSG in the 2018-19 season but still preferred to go to Bayer Leverkusen aged 19. The winger was one of the best performers in the Bundesliga last season with 13 goals and 12 assists.

PSG were also unlucky with Nkunku, who made 22 French league appearances in the 2018-19 season before signing for Leipzig aged 21. Nkunku scored 20 goals and 13 assists in the Bundesliga last season to win the Player of the Season award.

Moussa Dembele, Matteo Guendouzi, Jonathan Ikone and Dan-Axel Zagadou are among the other players who also left PSG’s youth academy.

There are only two local players among the regular starters: Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe. Mbappe is the example of what went wrong with PSG’s recruitment policy. PSG could have had Mbappe for free instead of paying a €180m (now $186m) transfer fee to Monaco in 2017.

Born in Paris, Mbappe grew up in the suburbs of Paris and trained at Bondy and the Clairefontaine academy. PSG’s youth academy should have been the next logical step. But 14-year-old Mbappe decided to join Monaco’s youth academy as he had a better chance of playing there than at PSG. Mbappe made his French league debut aged 16 with Monaco.

PSG have sent a strong signal to young people by recruiting Galtier and football adviser Luis Campos this summer. Campos is a renowned talent scout who helped Monaco and Lille win the league titles in 2017 and 2021, respectively, by building their squads. And Galtier has a good track record for youth development. He helped Dutch centre-back Sven Botman and Canadian striker Jonathan David improve at Lille and trusted France Under-21 international Amine Gouiri to lead Nice’s attack last season.

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