Whilst David Beckham’s arrival has had an immediate impact on and off the field, the Englishman is finding it harder to break into coach Carlo Ancelotti’s plans than in his first fortnight at the club.
Beckham has proven his fitness and that he can bring something on the pitch, but the sands of time are still running out for the 37-year-old despite how evergreen he may look from the outside.
Despite making an immediate contribution to life in Paris, the club are noncommittal over a contract extension that would take the former England captain into next season. That raises questions over his long-term future and the knock-on effect his presence is having on current members of the first team vying for a similar position in the side.
Beckham may be worth infinitely more off the pitch, but the likes of Clement Chantome are just as, if not more important on it, now and in the future.
The Frenchman has had to make do with an unfamiliar right-sided midfield role in recent weeks as Ancelotti seeks to accommodate the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star without disturbing Blaise Matuidi or Marco Verratti’s progress in the centre of midfield. With Thiago Motta also available, the PSG midfield is flush with options right now.
Beckham’s technical skills are highly refined, and Chantome, whilst technically blessed (just witness his Beckham-esque assist for Zlatan Ibrahimovic's opening strike in the Coupe de France clash with Marseille), arguably won’t ever reach that level of perfection consistently.
However, he has the edge over Beckham physically and because of that is a better long-term option than the Englishman with one eye on next season already in terms of personnel.
An absence from the first-team picture between now and the end of the season would likely lead him to once again consider his position at the club, something he was doing last summer before electing to stay. PSG can ill-afford that.
Chantome’s presence on the right ahead of Beckham is arguably solely a physical choice, considering that the latter commands a place in the centre of midfield when he is brought on. That leaves the 25-year-old little hope of reaching the field with Ancelotti’s current 4-2-2-2 formation in place unless Matuidi was to suffer injury or suspension.
Ancelotti’s use of Beckham thus far has been sage, preferring to allow the course of matches to dictate his use of the Englishman, which is the way it should be. Beckham has not been overused; in fact, the Italian prefers to concentrate on the development of Matuidi and Verratti than trying to crowbar Beckham into the lineup.
But surely there is only so much of that he can do before he incurs the wrath of the fans, the owners or Goldenballs himself, as it can’t be expected that he will just happily sit on the bench for the remainder of the season.
Chantome’s identity as a graduate of the club’s youth academy is another key reason for his importance.
In a team where only two French internationals started together for the third time this season on Saturday against Nancy, Chantome plays a vital role for the side. Following his call-up to the French national side under Didier Deschamps last year for the friendly with Japan, Chantome is a full international with les Bleus.
For PSG to have a second youth-academy product who's also currently in the first team and making it to the international stage is worth championing. Despite all the money that they are spending on an influx of foreign talent, they have proved that they can generate international talent from their own doorstep too.
Both could arguably play a big role in Brazil next year too if they continue to impress Deschamps domestically. The former Marseille man is trying to form a stronger collective than previous incarnations of les Bleus, basing the team’s strength in their team ethic rather than their individual ability.
Chantome is ideal for that as he is a tremendously gifted player in technical terms and possesses impressive stamina. But crucially, he keeps his feet on the ground whilst others around him at club level are letting theirs wander.
The Sens native has value on and off the pitch, like Beckham, but in a different way.
The Frenchman’s identity is something that PSG’s abundance of money cannot buy, a characterisation of the spirit of the club. The same could be said of Mamadou Sakho, but with Chantome the comparison is more direct because of he and Beckham’s shared position on the field.
If Chantome was to leave PSG, he could be replaced on the pitch. But off it, it would be a huge admission of failure for the club to give up on such a brilliant talent that they have nurtured from a young age before the new money.
It would be another sign of diverging from the path that was laid out by Qatar Sports Investments and Leonardo when they took over at the club almost two years ago.
PSG claimed they wanted “the stars of tomorrow,” including French ones, when the takeover was announced. One of them is right under their noses and has been for some time.
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