Paris Saint-Germain have a hole in the floor. And draining out of it are their best young talents.
This week, it emerged that young defensive midfield talent Claudio Gomes is set to snub a professional deal with the club in order join Manchester City.
To leave for City, a club whose spending power is on a par with that of the Parisians, is an extremely worrying development.
This is an issue of which Paris Saint-Germain are acutely aware. At the start of the season, former coach Luis Fernandez returned to the Parc des Princes to oversee the club’s youth policy. His first requirement? To prevent the drain of elite talent from seeping through their finger tips and into the clutches of their European rivals.
So far, his approach is not working.
Gomes is not the only one rumoured to be heading for the exit door. Abdourahmane Barry, who is available to be picked up by foreign clubs at the end of the season, has been linked with moves to Chelsea and Wolfsburg.
They both follow what has seemingly become a growing trend. The highly-rated Dan-Axel Zagadou jumped ship to Dortmund in the summer, along with Jean-Kevin Augustin, who exchanged Paris for Leipzig. Mahamadou Dembele (Salzburg), Mamadou Doucouré (Gladbach) are other youngsters to have flown the nest prematurely, following the likes of Kingsley Coman and Moussa Dembele.
The club’s heavyweight approach to the transfer market has undoubtedly had an impact on their production conveyor belt. Certainly, it is damaging the work done by Luis Fernandez, whose appointment appears almost farcical. By signings players for sky-high figures, it can hardly be denied that this is a major turn-off for youngsters in PSG’s prominent academy. They see the multi-millions spent, and all avenues of progression shut off.
But it is not a closed shop. Players are getting opportunities, shown by the graduates in the current first team squad. Adrien Rabiot, Presnel Kimpembe, Alphonse Areola and Christopher Nkunku can all be classified as home-grown, and their example would suggest players are getting chances.
First-team examples though do not render the talent drain irrelevant or misguided. Plainly, players do not see Paris Saint-Germain as a place to develop.
This has major ramifications, primarily regarding finance. PSG have invested heavily in a huge, new, state-of-the-art training facility in order to develop young talents in Poissy. This will open in 2019. With players continuing to leave, it means that the club are not pocketing returns on their academy investments.
With Financial Fair Play a major issue given their current spending, missing out on players who have the potential to develop to the level of Kingsley Coman is harming the sustainability of the club.
Perhaps this will change over time. At present, PSG are determined to win the Champions League at all costs; youth products are an after-thought. Manchester City’s heavy investment mirrors this, although they set out clear development pathways for the youngsters from the age of 16, and in Pep Guardiola, they have a manager who believes in youth development.
The Mahrez interest perhaps masks their development, especially with Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz waiting in the wings, but with every trophy available, it appears City are taking the ruthless approach to success this term.
It is though very striking that Claudio Gomes would prefer to continue his development at the Etihad. It illustrates that while both clubs have that win at all cost mentality, City are still seen as being a club for growth and development, aided by their own new state-of-the-art facilities
PSG’s ambitions, like City’s, are total. They want to be a fully-fledged, elite football side, and with that comes the desire to have a first-class academy. Barcelona, and La Masia, should be the model.
For the Parisians, that is clearly an area they must improve upon, and one they are actively trying to fix.
But if they don’t find a firmer plug, they will continue to see their academy investments pouring down the drain.