PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN YOUTH ACADEMY PLAYERS
With unrivalled access to a goldmine of local talent, Paris Saint-Germain have one of the most prolific academies in world football. Here are reports on their up-and-coming academy players. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.
What is PSG's academy philosophy?
Paris Saint-Germain’s academy is predicated on local talent. In comparison to other elite clubs, they’ve hardly touched other markets (domestic and international) to sign the best young talent.
PSG have unrivalled access to Paris and the wider Île-de-France region, perhaps the hottest beds of talent in the world currently – along with Rio de Janeiro and London.
What is PSG's academy pathway?
Perhaps the biggest criticism of Paris Saint-Germain in the Qatar era is their failure, through incompetence and reluctance, to establish a pathway from academy to first-team.
Because of that, the majority of their home-grown talent leave the club at an early age. Adrien Rabiot & Presnel Kimpembe are the only academy players to become regular first-team starters in the past 10 years.
Who are the best PSG academy products?
PSG’s academy has produced countless high-level players. The best right now is probably Kingsley Coman, but there’s also Christopher Nkunku, Moussa Diaby, Ibrahima Konaté, Mike Maignan, and so on.
Of those still on PSG books, Arnaud Kalimuendo is an interesting prospect. 2006-born Warren Zaire-Emery is the one to watch coming out of their underage teams.
Which competitions does PSG's academy compete in?
Paris Saint-Germain are a competitive force at underage level, but aren’t as dominant as their elite-level peers in other countries. They’re also regulars in the UEFA Youth League but haven’t won it yet, although they did reach the final in 2016 and have a strong chance this season.
PSG have only won the prestigious Coupe Gambardella – French football’s iconic under-19 tournament – once in their history, back in 1991.
Moutanabi Bodiang is certainly one of the most interesting players in this current crop of Paris Saint-Germain academy players.
Captaining the youth teams, the full-back can play on either flank, despite quite clearly being right-footed, and performs well in both positions, charging down the flank in a naturally aggressive fashion.
STYLE OF PLAY
While he plays both flanks, Bodiang’s natural position, as a right-footed player, is likely to end up being at right-back. But the versatility is an added bonus, of course.
But aside from that, from his station at right-back, Bodiang is a hard-working, super quick, aggressive player that is up and down the wing relentlessly for 90 minutes. He lacks as a progressive passer, but he does not lack as a ball-carrier, driving into space with purpose whenever he is given the opportunity.
His willingness to get into the final third is obvious, but his speed and engine ensure he is not neglecting his defensive duties either.
He is also quite good defensively when he is able to defend aggressively and on the front foot, although he needs to improve when forced to defend deep and in the box, where his concentration tends to wane.
Djeidi Gassama is a livewire that fits the mould of an increasingly important role and skillset at high-level clubs: the wide forward.
Mauritanian by birth but French by upbringing after he moved to the country aged ten, Gassama was first spotted by Brest, before he then made the move to join Paris Saint-Germain.
STYLE OF PLAY
Gassama can play on ball, but he is at his explosive best playing predominantly as an off-ball player. He is exceptionally good at finding himself in wide open spaces out on the left, and playing with team-mates with good vision, he can exploit those spaces with his direct running both with and without the ball.
There is a little bit of Monaco-era Kylian Mbappe about him. He can dribble and play with the ball, sure. But he is a devastating penalty area player from the left side of the box, where he can cut onto his favoured right foot.
Sure, he can be a little clunky and loose in possession, and needs to work on his combination play when the game slows down, but he has a frightening package to work with in the right system: especially one with a good creator up front in the mould of Xavi Simons in PSGs UEFA Youth League side.
He looks a little bit small and a bit slight, but Edouard Michut makes up for this in sheer quality. Having already made his debut for the senior team, Michut continues to go from strength to strength with consistently dominant performances for the club’s youth teams.
STYLE OF PLAY
Not just small and slender, Michut does lack a little bit of explosiveness too. The physical side of his game has huge room for improvement, and it will be key to helping him develop hopefully into an aggressive pressing number eight in the mould of Mason Mount.
A decade ago, the Frenchman probably would have blossomed into a more traditional number ten. He is a fantastic short creative passer, he is excellent at receiving in traffic and retaining possession, and he is a player that is constantly scanning as he looks to get on the ball, helping him understand exactly what he needs to do once he has it.
Furthermore, his ability to combine with a striker with quick one-twos is a real highlight: he and Xavi Simons have had an almost telepathic at UEFA Youth League level.
But the sport has changed, and to really maximise his skillset, adding more bite to his defensive game will help propel him into an even higher-level prospect.
Xavi Simons has had the wonderkid label attached to him since before he was even a teenager. That was while he was at Barcelona, before he left to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.
He left as a deep-lying midfielder but has since blossomed at PSG playing regularly as a striker, one that could be described as a ‘false nine’. He’s a great playmaker on the forward line.
STYLE OF PLAY
Simons is a lot of fun. He is a floating forward that drifts across the attack looking to combine with team-mates and disrupting defensive structures with his movement. He has a delightful array of little flicks that help him release PSGs wide players into space.
Above all else, the Dutchman is an immensely clever footballer. Yes, his technical quality is obvious, he can create, he can score, but his overall ability to direct traffic in the final third is perhaps the most impressive thing. Often you will see him pointing to where he needs the ball to be played, or where he needs someone to run – and they are often very helpful in putting his team-mates into the right positions.
There are probably a few question marks as he moves into senior level, especially around what his best position will be in the future. In a more orthodox system, he probably suits a number ten role.
PSG’s academy has produced a number of high-level players throughout the years, but especially in the past 5 or so. Christopher Nkunku and Moussa Diaby both came through their system, as did Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konaté, and Mike Maignan. PSG academy products are present at the highest levels.
El Chadaille Bitshiabu is a standout prospect, not least because of his extraordinary physical profile at 16 years old. The one to watch out for is Warren Zaire-Emery, a 2006-born midfielder that’s extremely advanced for his age.