Considering the embarrassment of riches that Paris Saint-Germain are under their current ownership, it’s easy to look past the fact their talent factory. That factory is, quietly, one of the best in world football, but you wouldn’t know that because most of them have to move away from PSG to get their big break.
After another year of European disappointment, it’s fair to say that PSG are in the midst of an identity crisis. Well and truly. Their owners have spent the last decade doing everything they possibly can – spending lots of money – in a bid to finally see the club lift the Champions League. But, even with a front three of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, that’s proven too much.
Perhaps the next step for Les Parisiens is to reset, take a step back and take the pressure off every manager who takes the job. The following XI is comprised of talent who the club let go too soon; maybe they ought to learn from such mistakes and craft a more considered side in the coming years… Would this finally get them over the line in Europe?
GK: Mike Maignan
Leaving PSG in 2015 for a nominal €1m after never managing to make a first-team appearance, Ligue 1 rivals Lille snapped up Maignan, who immediately was out with the intention to show his former employers what they were missing.
In six years at the club, Maignan would leave after winning the Ligue 1 title, shockingly pipping PSG to the crown in 2020-21 and ending their domestic dominance. He’s since signed for Milan to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma – who left to join PSG and has not been missed by Milan in the time since, because of Maignan.
Imagine if they’d have simply integrated him properly in the first place…
Magic Mike Maignan 🪄
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 18, 2023
RB: Matteo Guendouzi
Cut us a little bit of slack here, alright? This is a fantasy XI and in an ideal world, an elite tactician coach has walked in and transformed Guendouzi into a right-back in the way that Philipp Lahm transitioned. Got it? Cool.
Guendouzi left PSG to join Lorient’s academy and there impressed enough to earn a move to Arsenal. It proved too soon for the Frenchman, but he’s since proven his worth in Ligue 1. In a position where they could do with some character and industry, they’ve missed out.
CB: David Luiz
A wildcard defender who on his day had quality in abundance, Les Parisens perhaps ran out of patience a little too soon with David Luiz, who returned to Chelsea after three years in the French capital and helped them to more silverware as a perfect fit for Antonio Conte’s patented back three.
That, and they sold him back to Chelsea for half of what they paid for him. Pretty poor business.
CB: Thiago Silva
Another instance of a PSG defender leaving for Chelsea in somewhat of a bargain, it becomes more baffling with each passing day as to why they let someone of Silva’s calibre leave for free. He was 35 at the time, but he’s since proven age is but a number.
Not only was he the club captain, but he was also still a world-class defender with experience that money cannot just buy. Oh, he also went and lifted the Champions League after joining Chelsea for free, which just about says it all.
LB: Yuri Berchiche
Look, no starting XI contains a world class player in every single position on the pitch. PSG have literally tried to buy their way to this and failed.
That’s why it would’ve made more sense to take a gamble on Berchiche, who has thrived in Bilbao at Athletic Club after joining from PSG in 2018.
Les Parisiens gave him one year to prove himself before moving him on. Doesn’t sound like them at all, does it?
RW: Moussa Diaby
Joining PSG at 13, Diaby actually graduated from PSG’s academy and hung around in the first team for a short while before being shown the exit.
He joined Bayer Leverkusen in 2019 and, now 23, is regarded as one of the most exciting wingers in the Bundesliga. With Les Parisiens desperately needing to refresh their front line and perhaps ending the Messi experiment, looking for a way to bring him back to Paris might not be a bad idea.
CM: Giovani Lo Celso
Okay, we know what you’re thinking. Lo Celso didn’t pull up any trees at Tottenham and nor has he set the world alight at Villarreal.
But the midfielder shone in a role that perfectly supported Lionel Messi as Argentina won the Copa America at the Maracana in 2021. He likely would’ve remained in Lionel Scaloni’s XI at the World Cup in Qatar were it not for injury.
Messi’s not done too badly in Paris but you can imagine he would’ve enjoyed playing with his compatriot at club level.
Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María, Nicolás Otamendi, Rodrigo De Paul, Gio Lo Celso, Papu Gómez and Leandro Paredes with the Copa America and Finalissima trophy for Argentina! pic.twitter.com/pFfcEGxFPj
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) June 2, 2022
CM: Xavi Simons
Having established something of a wonderkid reputation at La Masia, Simons made the switch to PSG’s academy in 2019 to continue his development.
He made a handful of appearances for the first team but left on a free last summer in search of more opportunities elsewhere. That’s proven an inspired decision – the 19-year-old has notched 14 goals and seven assists in 29 appearances in his debut Eredivisie campaign.
PSG’s loss was PSV’s gain.
LW: Kingsley Coman
Coman has done alright for himself since departing the French capital in 2014. He’s won the league title in every single one of his seasons as a professional footballer – 10 at the age of 26 is some going.
Is there anything more PSG than losing a Champions League final thanks to a match-winning goal from the Paris-born academy graduate they let go on a free?
Kingsley Coman was the hero as Bayern Munich claimed their sixth Champions League title 🏆
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 24, 2020
ST: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
The Cameroon international arrived from Stoke following their relegation in 2018. He proved a handy-ish squad player, notching nine goals from 51 appearances – the majority of which came off the bench.
Choupo-Moting went on to fulfil the same role at Bayern Munich, except he’s flourished into something of a leading man since the departure of Robert Lewandowski – he’s notched a career-best 17 goals for the Bavarians this season.
ST: Christopher Nkunku
Having grown up in the eastern suburbs of Paris, Nkunku joined PSG’s academy as a 13-year-old and eventually graduated to make 55 appearances in Ligue 1 for the senior team.
But he never could nail down a spot as a starter and the Parisiens cashed in on him to the tune of just €13million in 2019.
Now into his fourth season at RB Leipzig, he’s worth considerably more than that today. Last term he was named the Bundesliga Player of the Season after notching 20 goals and 13 assists in 34 appearances for Leipzig.
According to widespread reports, Chelsea have all but sealed a deal to sign Nkunku for over £50million this summer.