You can’t have your cake and eat it. Or, to put it in football parlance, you can’t spend obscene amounts of money on some of the hottest footballers on planet earth and not expect a compromise somewhere.
And, as PSG have discovered, the downside of signing the Messis, Neymars and Mbappes of the world is that some of Europe’s most exciting young talent will start to wonder if they’re better off elsewhere.
And, as this rather starry XI shows, sometimes the grass East greener on the other side.
Now one of Europe’s finest goalkeepers, Maignan helped Lille win their first Ligue 1 title in a decade last season – at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain. The irony doesn’t end there either.
His current side AC Milan rose to the top of Serie A with a 1-0 victory over opponents Napoli last weekend. It means Maignan could achieve what PSG’s Gianluca Donnarumma never did – Scudetto glory with the Rossoneri.
As recently as January 2021, Goal.com wrote an article about 18-year-old ‘wonderkid’ Pembele, describing the teenage defender as ‘perhaps the leader of this current generation of academy graduates of PSG”.
A regular first-team role was only a matter of time. It was of course until The Parisians splashed out £60million on Achraf Hakimi six months later.
Pembele has joined Bordeaux on loan, a deal that is expected to be permanent this summer.
Kouassi shot to fame with two goals as an 18-year-old in a thrilling 4-4 draw with Amiens at the start of 2020. It was his ability at the other end of the pitch, however, that made Thomas Tuchel raves about the teenager’s potential, calling him a “great” talent.
But, like so many before him, Kouassi obviously felt there was no obvious path to the PSG first team. He joined Bayern Munich after turning down a new contract.
It always took someone special to succeed the legendary Marcelo at Real Madrid. Mendy, however, is Marcelo’s David Tennant’s Matt Smith; Different, yes, but a brilliant talent, potentially defining for his time.
We could have included Fode Ballo-Touré here. Like Mendy, he now plies his trade with another European giant; AC Milan.
Soumare may have struggled for consistency since joining Leicester City but, like Maignan and another former PSG starlet Jonathan Ikone, he was a key cog in the machine to win Lille’s title in 2021.
Compared to Paul Pogba due to his combination of athleticism and style, Soumare could yet prove to be a knockout move for the £20million Foxes.
Arguably the fittest French midfielder currently playing in Ligue 1 is at Marseille, not the Parc des Princes. Guendouzi has been bombed from Arsenal due to concerns over his attitude rather than his ability. But he set out to prove Mikel Arteta wrong, becoming a leader on and off the pitch under Jorge Sampaoli.
Marseille confirmed last week that Guendouzi had signed a permanent contract at Stade Velodrome.
One of Europe’s most prolific midfielders, the dazzling Nkunku has scored more goals this season (25) than Lionel Messi, Neymar and Mauro Icardi combined.
It seems only a matter of time before Nkunku follows in the footsteps of Timo Werner and Naby Keita and co, leaving Red Bull finishing school to pursue his studies elsewhere.
Talk about showing your former employers what they miss. Coman poured a helping of Salt Bae seasoning into PSG’s gaping wounds two years ago, scoring the winner against the club where he started his career in the 2020 Champions League final.
Joining Bayern Munich after a brief stint at Juventus, Coman has won just about everything worth winning at club level.
Like Nkunku, Diaby is emerging as one of European football’s next attacking superstars in the Bundesliga. In fact, the high-heeled winger has been so impressive at Bayer Leverkusen that reports have it that Newcastle United were told it would take €100m to remove him from the Bay Arena.
Just for context, PSG sold Diaby for just £13.5million.
We could have chosen Odsonne Edouard to lead the line in this very hypothetical XI. But the nod goes to another young striker who came through the ranks at PSG before making a name for himself in the green and white hoops of Celtic.
A year after leaving Paris for Fulham, Dembele now leads the line at Lyon.
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