PROFILE | Presnel Kimpembe’s talent isn’t in doubt, but is he a big-game player?

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Presnel Kimpembe’s status as one of France’s most talented defenders is not in question. His error-prone and rash showings are not as frequent as they may seem, but the issue for him is that they come at the worst possible moments.

Paris Saint-Germain’s spectacular implosion against Real Madrid last season, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, saw the Frenchman and his captain at the centre of a defensive collapse. The team eventually stuttered across the line to reclaim the Ligue 1 title, Kimpembe a near-fixture in the side, but the scars of yet another Champions League defeat would linger.

A summer transfer even emerged as a possibility following some rather ambiguous comments on his future and his role within a new-look PSG following the backroom shake-up that followed Kylian Mbappé’s contract extension. Despite reported interest from Chelsea, and his starting spot no longer being a certainty following doubts over his ability to concentrate in big games, the defender did manage to remain at his formative club, determined to stake his claim in Christophe Galter’s back three.

His start to the new season has been truncated by injury, preventing him from properly bouncing back. First, a hamstring problem in early September after a somewhat needless late-game tackle against Brest kept him on the sidelines for a month and a half, before an Achilles issue emerged.

The World Cup could have provided an opportunity to salvage his year, but for another setback on the eve of the tournament, after being named in Didier Deschamps’ initial squad to go to Qatar. With Monaco’s Axel Disasi replacing him, Kimpembe watched from a fairly close distance, given he was undergoing treatment in Doha, as his international teammates came just short of retaining their global title.

A return to full fitness and PSG’s apparent best-ever chance at going all the way in Europe should nevertheless set the stage for a resurgence. As he said himself this summer, at 27, the centre-back is now at a key moment in his career. His obvious talent and unflagging commitment to the club should now see him become central to what’s now a key moment for PSG, too.

Raphaël Jucobin | GFFN

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