It is staggering to think that a week from this Saturday, Paris Saint-Germain will be lining up against Coupe de France winners Guingamp in the season’s curtain raiser in Beijing. The champions will go head to head with the Coupe de France winners for the first time in the Trophees des Champions which we captured last season in a dramatic late victory against Bordeaux. Having just witnessed the greatest FIFA World Cup in recent memory, domestic football takes precedent once again. Laurent Blanc has had to make do without 11 of his regulars due to international commitments during the tour of Austria but the marquee names are making their way back. Zlatan Ibrahimovic played 45 minutes in the 4-2 defeat to Leipzig which was good to see, bar the result the performance was decent. The likes of Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta, Salvatore Sirigu and Edinson Cavani are also back in training at Camp des Loges. So how well have we prepped for our title defence during this transfer window?
Well, the only summer signing we have made is yet to train with his new teammates. David Luiz along with the skipper Thiago Silva and Maxwell are on an extended break after Brazil made it to the last-four of the World Cup. In what started off as a fairy-tale for the hosts ended up being a nightmare, that worryingly Luiz was at the centre of. The 7-1 humiliation at the hands of eventual winners Germany tarnished a lot of reputations that night, no more so than the centre-back who cost €49.5m. He had a shocker of a game in truth as his discipline went out the window, as it did with the majority of the samba boys. His positional awareness was all over the place, not picking up the German players in the box and leaving far too much space behind. Without Thiago Silva beside him, he looked lost. But, the big draw in bringing Luiz to the club is his understanding with TS and the ability to – hopefully – form a colossal partnership.
It is unfair to judge a player on one game but we know with Luiz we are getting an unorthodox centre back that likes to play from the back and make runs into midfield if the opportunity occurs. He is certainly different to Alex who stood his ground, allowing Silva to be the man to play the ball from out the back. With the big man now at Milan, it is up to Luiz and another of his compatriots, Marquinhos, to jockey it out for a space alongside the captain.
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We have seen a few departures this window and it looked for the entire world that Marquinhos may have been on his way too after being incessantly linked with Barcelona who have been searching for a centre-back due to Carlos Puyol’s departure. It seems as if their interested has wavered as Valencia’s Jeremy Mathieu closes in a on a €20m transfer. But, it was always imperative to build on Marquinhos’ development which has been steady but a working progress all the same. He has the capability to be as good as Thiago Silva, the traits are there. The best education he can get is from the captain and with DL coming in too adding to the comradery, that is only going to help.
As I alluded to, there has been some departures. Alex has gone, as too Jeremy Menez who also joined the Rossoneri. It was always a foregone conclusion that Jezza’s contract was not going to be renewed. The Parisien supporters are left to ponder ‘what if?’ with the enigmatic Frenchman. He threw more sulks than anyone at the club, never really fulfilling the potential his talent deserved. There were glimpses in his three years at the club but nothing substantial. His first year at the Parc was certainly the most successful where he Nene and Javier Pastore (half a season at least) were in terrific form.
Kingsley Coman, a young man with a bright future ahead, has also gone to Italy but with the champions Juventus. I was disappointed by this. He showed promise at the start of last season but never really found any more opportunities forthcoming. In pre-season he was terrific (last year) but like Hervin Ongenda, they were behind the bigger names and never really got a look in. Coman can be a fine player if developed correctly. He has sought an opportunity with a fantastic football club where he can quite easily make a breakthrough. You just have to look at Paul Pogba over there. Adrien Rabiot is another linked with a move to Juve. His rejection of a new contract may see him playing in black and white in the coming weeks but we will have to wait and see.
Another position where we may lose out but also strengthen is at right-back. Christophe Jallet looks set on a move to Olympique Lyonnais for around €3m. The former PSG captain – albeit brief – has found himself labouring behind Gregory Van der Wiel who had a sterling season despite a late set-back with his injury. He was along with Ibra, our best performer in the Champions League. The good news however is that Toulouse’s Serge Aurier could be making his way in with both clubs at an advanced stage in negotiations.
Of course, our FFP penalties have put a spanner in the works and this is the most evident in trying to acquire Angel di Maria from Real Madrid. Reports in France and Spain claim that a deal is close but Les Parisiens will need to sell in order to complete the deal. His Argentine compatriots Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi are the most obvious you would feel to leave. However, Pastore’s agent has again come out and stated the player’s desire to stay. Whereas ‘El Pocho’ is constantly linked with a move back to Italy. If the report from L’Equipe is true that a marquee name will need to leave in order for a deal to be completed, the one of the aforementioned looks most likely.
Paul Collins – Editor at realmadridnews.com – kindly gave us his thoughts on Di Maria. Although he acknowledges that the player has appealing attributes, he would not be so downhearted to see the 26-year-old to leave;
‘Although a lot of Madrid fans don’t want to see him go, I personally don’t think he’s as good as the press are making out here at the moment. Of course, he is very skilful and quick and would be a useful addition to PSG. But, he also has his limitations. Whenever I’ve seen him play live, I’ve found him to be quite frustrating – he wants to take on one too many players and loses possession. For an attacking player, he doesn’t actually score too many goals either, something he needs to improve on. If PSG offer €60m, I’d take the money and let him go’.
So, with the season ever so close, there are still deals to be done – both incoming and out. But, with the stars returning from the World Cup and Zlatan Ibrahimovic overcoming that injury which blinkered the final stretch of last season, there is again much optimism. We do need to strengthen whilst we are at our best. Aurier will be a fantastic signing, a real coup with so many clubs interested. Also the pending acquisition of arguably Los Blancos’ best player last season is a tantalising prospect. Still many questions left unanswered but all will become clearer in the coming weeks. FFP has hit us of course it has, it will be telling in the limited Champions League squad but if we tie up deals for Aurier and di Maria on top of Luiz – who will hopefully mature into a top draw player – we can be relatively happy with the business that has been done.