Seven wonderkids PSG let go too early: Nkunku, Coman, Diaby & more
Paris Saint-Germain have been a club that focuses on the short term rather than planning for the future, and since their big-money takeover in 2011, they have favoured expensive superstars over academy products.
They have had mixed success with this strategy of throwing endless money at their squad, asserting near complete dominance in France’s domestic league and cups, but a poor European record means the Champions League title still eludes them.
After their latest knockout round collapse to Real Madrid, their fans expressed their anger towards some of their highly paid stars, with Neymar and Lionel Messi receiving loud boos in the league game that followed their European exit.
Constantly chopping and changing the squad and staff has led to chaos amongst the hierarchy at the club, and their latest failure coming after a summer window that saw some of the world’s biggest names arrive has fans questioning whether the high spending project should be abandoned.
PSG also boast a high-quality youth academy, but the path to the first team for these talented youngsters seems constantly blocked by the latest shiny toys bought for marketing rather than footballing purposes, and as a result, some incredible talents have departed the club before they had a chance to prove themselves.
We’ve picked out seven wonderkids whom PSG should have given a bigger chance to over the years.
Probably the biggest regret on this list, Coman left PSG as a 18-year-old on a free transfer to Juventus after making just four appearances in France, where he became the youngest ever player to play for the club when he was 16.
After just one season at Juventus, Coman joined Bayern Munich on an initial loan and then exploded into life.
Still just 25, Coman has won pretty much everything on offer and scored the winner in the 2020 Champions League final…against PSG.
This made him the first-ever player to score against his former club in a Champions League final. A painful one to take for PSG.
Happy birthday Kingsley Coman 🇫🇷 🎉
This guy knows how to win trophies! He’s won a league title every year since coming professional! 🤯
Throwback to the most important goal of his career, the winner in the 2020 #UCL final 🏆
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) June 13, 2021
A surprising name on the list, Guendouzi spent nine years in the PSG academy but joined FC Lorient in 2014.
After two eventful seasons in the Arsenal first team, the 22-year-old is finding his feet back in France at Marseille, where he has performed so well that he received his first senior France cap in November 2021.
A talented central midfielder with a knack for causing trouble, Guendouzi could have been a good option for PSG ahead of some of the other players they’ve tried in his position, and with plenty of years ahead of him, represents a better prospect for the future than a 31-year-old Georginio Wijnaldum.
But he yet again found himself in the centre of controversy, after insulting PSG fans ahead of his international debut by stating that he would prefer to play in a different stadium to the Parc Des Princes.
“I would have preferred to play at the Stade de France, that’s for sure!” Guendouzi claimed ahead of France’s World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan in November 2021.
“The Parc des Princes is the stadium of PSG. But we will be keen to win there and I hope that the people who will come to the stadium will be entertained and proud of us and we will push to qualify for the World Cup.”
Guendouzi’s name was booed by the PSG fans before kick-off. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked out for him there after all.
One of the highest-rated prospects in the PSG academy, Nkunku made sporadic appearances over four years after being promoted to the first team but joined RB Leipzig in 2019 in search of regular minutes.
Nkunku has excelled in his time in the Bundesliga and has 26 goals and 15 assists to his name in 2021-22, which has seen the 24-year-old earn his first senior France call-up.
“I needed more game time and I wanted to grow, both as a footballer and a man,” Nkunku told Kicker in November 2020, justifying his choice to leave. “I made the right decision.”
Nkunku, who has recently been linked with Manchester United, even scored against PSG twice in the Champions League, adding insult to injury.
🌟 Highlights in 2020 🌟
— UEFA.com DE (@UEFAcom_de) December 22, 2020
One of the most talented wonderkids ever, Anelka initially left PSG in 1996 after just 12 appearances for the club, joining Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal for £500k.
Twenty-eight goals and a League and Cup double later, Anelka had established himself as one of the best strikers in the world when Real Madrid came calling, and he moved to Spain for £23.5million.
PSG then brought Anelka back to France, but he arguably never fulfilled his vast potential and ended up playing for 12 different clubs during his career.
Many thought he was more talented than Thierry Henry. If PSG kept him in the first place, his career may have panned out differently.
A pacey winger with an eye for goal, Diaby made 34 appearances as a teenager for PSG in 2018-19 but was then sold to Bayer Leverkusen for around £13.5million.
PSG should have shown more patience as the 22-year-old is starting to show his true ability in Germany, with 16 goals and nine assists this season.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle United are reportedly showing an interest in the winger, who is valued at around £50million.
Diaby received his first France call-up in August 2021 but looks back on his time at PSG as a learning opportunity, rather than a failed endeavour.
“It was the period in which I discovered the world of professional football. I was there to learn,” Diaby stated ahead of joining his first France squad.
“I was part of a very good group of players at PSG. I was very happy, I learned a lot, and it allowed me to make the step to Leverkusen. Had I not gone through the PSG academy, I wouldn’t be here at Leverkusen today.”
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) August 6, 2021
The 24-year-old forward may not be on Kylian Mbappe’s level, but he earned himself a Premier League move to Crystal Palace after scoring 88 goals at Celtic.
With his explosive pace and deadly finishing ability, the only way is up for Edouard, and his departure from PSG in 2018 earned the club £9million, but he’d be worth over four times that amount now.
The striker was one of the top talents in PSG’s academy failed to make a single appearance before his departure, highlighting the difficulty young stars have to go through to gain opportunities in the French capital.
Like Coman before him, Maignan’s departure from PSG in 2015 eventually came back to bite them.
The goalkeeper found regular football at Lille and was magnificent as his club beat PSG to the 2020-21 league title by one point.
He then moved to AC Milan to replace PSG’s big-name signing Gianluigi Donnarumma and continues to impress, whilst Donnarumma made a costly error in PSG’s Champions League collapse against Real Madrid.
Maignan is also another ex-PSG product who has found their way into the France squad after leaving.