One of the criticisms directed towards Paris Saint-Germain in recent seasons is that they haven’t given their young players a chance. This criticism only grew louder following the sale of academy graduate and captain, Mamadou Sakho, to Liverpool in 2013 for £18M.

Since Sakho’s departure PSG went through a period of losing some of their best graduates, including two of France’s hottest prospects, Moussa Dembélé and Kingsley Coman. Since making his debut, Adrien Rabiot, had struggled to get regular minutes. This led to numerous reports linking him away from the Parc des Princes. Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola had to go out on loan last season to Villarreal to get regular playing time.

This season under new manager Unai Emery, Areola has been given a chance, Rabiot has established himself as first choice and recent graduated Presnel Kimpembe is forcing his way into the team. The next academy graduate who could be joining them is midfielder Christopher Nkunku.

Nkunku made his professional debut against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on 8 December 2015, replacing Lucas Moura after 87 minutes. However, he had to wait until 3 March 2016 before he making his league debut against Montpellier. The teenager then went on to make several more first team appearances after impressing Laurent Blanc in PSG’s run to the UEFA Youth League final.

The teenager is similar to Blaise Matuidi in that he is quick, a hard worker and with good upper body strength. Like with Marco Verratti, he has an eye for a pass, fantastic vision and able to unlock defences. He is also a versatile midfielder who can play on the left wing, where he cuts inside and stretches play, and he can also operate in central midfield (which is his natural position).

Emery has utilised Nkunku’s versatility whilst Rabiot and Pastore have been sidelined through injury. The youngster has grasped this opportunity and impressed towards the tail end of 2016 and start of 2017. He should continue to get playing time and is seen as the natural successor to Matuidi.


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It’s come to that stage again where one must compile a team that is labelled the European Young Team of the Seaon. For this season’s, only players under, and including, the age of 21 can be submitted. So, just for the record: Paulo Dybala is 22-years-old, please retract that comment before pressing send. Thank you kindly.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
The 17-year-old Italian has played 25 times for AC Milan this season, which is absurd when you think of how much pressure he has on his shoulders guarding the net. At 17, he’s handled it incredibly well and has been known to have cat-like reflexes. Donnarumma has such a long career ahead of him, but the fact he’s breaking into the first-team now can only mean good things for this young goalkeeper.

Right-Back: Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal)
Bellerín has been a special player this season for Arsenal and has consistently stood out; with his lightening quick speed, the right-back has been able to launch counter-attacks efficiently that result in goals. None better to highlight this than the sensational attack against Bayern Munich when Bellerín lost the ball, then out-paced the attacker to retrieve it, run 50 yards down the flank and find a beautiful ball to Mesut Özil to finish it off. Barcelona will be keeping a keen eye on this one.

Centre-Back: Aymeric Laporte (Athletic)
In the summer of last year, Laporte was on the tip of everyone’s tongues as he was permanently talked about a transfer away from Athletic. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea were, reportedly, the interested parties only to be cut short by his €50m buyout clause. That hasn’t swayed the French defender at all, with playing 40 times this season and becoming a mainstay in Athletic’s defence. Laporte’s 21-years-old now and is perhaps thinking it’s time to kick on in his career – there will be many suitors lined up for him if this is the case.

Centre-Back: José Giménez (Atlético Madrid)
The Uruguayan has played 32 times for Atlético this season in what could be a very successful one. Playing in the Champions League and Copa del Rey, Giménez will be enjoying himself as he’s playing in the top competitions this campaign. What’s been a delight to watch is his pure concentration of tacking. His intelligence of knowing when to go to ground and when to stand an attacker up is sublime and not many learn that craft at such a young age. It’s easy to forget that the Atlético defender is only 21-years-old.

Left-Back: José Gayá (Valencia)
Under Gary Neville’s leadership it hasn’t exactly been plain sailing; however, Gayá has been a bright spark in a pretty dull season. The Spanish international has looked ever so comfortable at left-back, and even more so when he’s in the oppositions half. Gayá’s crossing has been sublime, whether that’s into Alcácer or Rodrigo, the left-back seems to always hit the spot.

Centre-Midfielder: Saúl Ñíguez (Atlético Madrid)
Saúl is moulding into the perfect midfielder to sit in-front of your defence. In the way that Eric Dier and Sergio Busquets do it so well for Tottenham and Barcelona, Saúl is now starting to emulate their successes for Atlético. That’s not to say that he can’t be used elsewhere, though, and Diego Simeone has certainly made sure oft that. The Spanish utility player has been used on the right-hand side 8 times, 4 on the left and even once in the centre of defence! In years to come, Saúl should settle down and become a very combative box-to-box midfielder.

Centre-Midfielder: Renato Sanches (Benfica)
Last summer a certain José Mourinho tried, and failed, to sign the Portuguese midfielder for Chelsea. Now, Sanches has reportedly signed a deal with Manchester United for this forthcoming transfer window. He’s been heavily touted as a future world class midfielder, with glimpses of Patrick Vieira and Edgar Davids, Sanches is a highly dominant player in the middle of the park that just oozes pure class and control. He’s only 18-years-old so still has much to learn but what a terrific season he’s had with Benfica; they’ve looked a totally different outfit with Sanches coming in in October.

Left-Midfielder: Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
The Golden Boy that not many knew about before he came to Manchester United in September. For those that did, Martial was playing exceedingly well for Monaco which lured the Red Devils in for his signature. However, this season the Frenchman’s really kicked on and even nailed down a starting position for France. Domestically, Martial has practically carried Man Utd to where they are now – 5th and a FA Cup Semi Final – and has been their best outfield played by some way. Having just turned 20, Martial’s got a very, very bright future ahead of him.

Attacking-Midfielder: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
I’m not sure there’s much I can say that will do this boy justice. To put his rise to fame into perspective – Arsenal fans look away now! – since Jack Wilshere’s injury, Alli’s transferred to Tottenham Hotspur from MK Dons, cemented a starting position in the Premier League, had a call-up from England in which he scored on his debut, and overtaken Wilshere’s goals in the league. Alli’s found the net 10 times already this season and assisted 11 times. That’s unbelievable stats from a midfielder who’s only played in this league for 9 months.

Right-Midfielder: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich)
Currently on-loan from Italian giants Juventus, Coman has impressed on his spell with Bayern Munich. He played a considerable part in knocking out his parent club in the Champions League last month and has contributed 6 goals and 10 assists while in Germany. There are talks of Coman settling in Bayern and wanting to stay there permanently, but we’ll see more of that in the summer. The attacker’s been playing so well that Deschamps, the France coach, has consistently called him up to the first-team. Could he be a late addition the France 2016 Euro squad?

Centre-Forward: Moussa Dembélé (Fulham)
Another Frenchman! France’s depth is quite ridiculous. Dembélé, playing for Fulham in the Championship, has played 43 times for them this season which is a behemoth task for such a young player. The centre forward has scored 16 goals this season in all competitions and assisted 6 times. Dembélé’s most definitely one for the future with his quick feet and killer finishing; he has been known to ‘give the eyes’ to goalkeepers.

About the author – Liam Canning

Liam is a free-lance journalist who has featured on The Mirror, Telegraph, London Evening Standard, Independent, Squawka and FoutFourTwo.

twitter: @OffsideLiam


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Two years ago, nobody knew his name, Kingsley Coman. He left PSG, his former club for Juventus last year and went to Bayern Munich 6 months later to look for something what he had not before: playing time and recognition. The winger was a bright talent, but at 19 years of age was still far too young to have an immediate impact, particularly in what many are referring to as one of the greatest Bayern teams in recent history.

Brought over from Juventus, he has everything fans want to see. He is fast and direct, has brilliant ball control and an eye for goal.  Voted as the World’s best young player after joining Bayern Munich, Coman has adapted brilliantly to his new settings , playing with the maturity of a player well beyond his years and delivering in a big way. Despite cooling off a bit towards the end of the first half of the season, he entered the winter break with four goals and seven assists to his name. Not that bad for a teenager.

The official Bayern website confirmed in August they had a purchase option for Coman, with Italian football expert Tancredi Palmeri reporting on his Twitter account that the option to buy amounted to €20 million, which in today’s world seems small change for a player with such high potential.  Coman will stay until his 21st birthday, and only shortly before that time will Bayern have to decide whether or not to exercise their purchase option.

Coman is much like Robben in that he has blistering pace. He’s not quite at the same level as a dribbler, playmaker or a finisher, but at the same time, it’s important to remember that he’s still very young. Robben wasn’t the player he is now when he was 19. Only a few years from now will we have a true idea of the type of player Coman can be. One area where Coman already has an advantage is his versatility. Robben is almost fixed as a right-winger and struggles to do anything other than run directly at the opposition, whereas Coman is a bit more ambidextrous and has had the tactical flexibility to show up left, right and center and still have a good effect.

It looks to be a question  not of whether he will become a star but when. Still just 19 years of age, Coman looks to have an outstanding future ahead of him and could be a regular for France and Bayern Munich for a long time.

About the author – Damien Sinico

Damien lives in France and has been playing Soccer Manager for 3 years. He is a supporter of Olympique de Marseille and his favourite player is Steve Mandanda. His ambition is to travel the World.


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