Whenever such a patriarchal figure hangs up his boots and hands over the baton to the young buck chomping at the bit, it can either be an overbearing burden on the shoulders of the player or it could turn out to be a masterstroke. Claude Makelele’s retirement in the summer lead to a young man arriving from eastern-central France looking to undertake the responsibility as a midfield general. His name, Blaise Matuidi, and he looks as if he has been at the Parc des Princes his whole life.
The 24-year-old arrived from Saint-Etienne in a deal believed to be in the region of €7.5m during the summer. An established Ligue 1 player with a domineering presence in the middle of the park to quell the opposition. He was tailor-made to adopt the – clichéd – Makelele role with aplomb, which Antoine Kombouare and his recruitment team identified.
Their judgment has been sound and although the more luxury signings of Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez have drawn the gazing eyes of Europe, it is Matuidi who is becoming the integral figure in the PSG eleven. He has started every league game thus far, completing the entirety of all. He has been sensational in retaining possession and going about his business quietly with nimble play and assured distribution.
He is no shrinking violet either and has already racked up four yellow cards this campaign. Nevertheless, his tenacity and desire to get stuck in is an attribute that will be of no hindrance to the team, but one that can see PSG reap the benefits. His involvement in the opener against Montpellier at the weekend was not given the credit it deserved. It was his quick thinking and positional awareness that got the move rolling as he intercepted Younes Belhanda’s pass in midfield before setting off Pastore on one of vintage bursts down the middle to play the ball out wide to Nene who subsequently put the ball on a plate for Kevin Giroud to score. When other players may have been caught unawares, Matuidi’s quick thinking and desire got what it deserved.
His efforts are not going unnoticed, last week he given his inaugural bow in Ligue 1’s team of the week, following on from his impressive display in the 2-2 stalemate against Evian. He will surely see his name there again over the coming months if he continues his form.
Internationally, he has only earned four caps with Les Bleus. However, it is evident Coach Laurent Blanc is a keen admirer and sees him as part of his plans within the camp in the build-up to Euro 2012. His move to the capital will no doubt see his prospects enhanced in gaining a starting berth.
Although many would have been quite sceptical at Matuidi taking over the responsibility of such a pristine player in Claude Makelele, he has risen to the challenge immensely and looks right at home at the Parc Des Princes. His contribution may go unnoticed at times, but it is certainly effective.
If he can prolong the form he has shown in a consistent manner, then there is no stopping him or his club this season.