Do you know who Paris Saint-Germain’s 18-year-old midfielder Adrien Rabiot is?
If not, you need to remember his name.
Blessed with an immaculate first touch, the 6’3” French youth international has the panache play of Julien Féret, works hard without possession and plays each game with a purpose—unmatched by most of his peers—knowing how precious life can be (via Ben Lyttleton at Sports Illustrated):
Rabiot signed professional terms and the first thing he did was see his father Michel, bed-ridden for the last five years with locked-in syndrome.
“When I told him I was now a professional, I could tell that he was proud of me,” Rabiot told Le Parisien.
22 days after making his UEFA Champions League debut vs. Dinamo Zagreb at the Parc des Princes, the game Zlatan Ibrahimović registered four assists in, Rabiot started for the PSG U-19s against Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad in front of 200 people at the Stade Georges Lefevre.
To his teammate Kingsley Coman, who later broke Nicolas Anelka’s record as PSG’s youngest ever first team debutant, it was just another Next Generation game, but to Rabiot, this was a chance for redemption.
He had moved to City as a 13-year-old, then under the murky ownership of Thaksin Shinawatra, who had let go of the club’s only two French footballers, Sylvain Distin and Ousmane Dabo.
Jim Cassell didn’t field a single French player during the Sky Blues’ triumphant FA Youth Cup final win over Chelsea.
French football writer Jonathan Johnson says Rabiot felt isolated at Eastlands (via Sky Sports): “He left Manchester after only six months finding it hard to adjust to English life.”
Several years on, sporting the No. 10 shirt, Rabiot was the first to embrace Pierre Bourdin, who netted the opening goal in a 2-1 win over City’s EDS.
Let’s rewind back to the Parc des Princes.
You would’ve thought Rabiot aced his audition against Zagreb for more first team appearances.
He channelled his inner Maxime Gonalons in winning back the ball 11 times whilst getting involved in the build-up play by making 52 passes.
Heading into the January transfer window, the prodigious teenager had only featured in another 59 minutes of play after the 4-0 win over Zagreb.
“There are signs that Carlo Ancelotti thinks Verratti is a very naïve player and he probably thinks the same about Rabiot,” stated Johnson in episode 78 of French Football Weekly’s podcast.
“If a Ligue 1 team came in January for Rabiot, Ancelotti would bite their hand off,” added Johnson.
Sure enough, Toulouse successfully negotiated with PSG to take Rabiot on loan with no option to buy.
At the time, the constructive critique of Rabiot centred on his inclination to avoid tackles, just like Pape Abdou Camara, Valenciennes’ 6’3” midfielder, who floats around the pitch.
Writing for In Bed With Maradona, Igor Mladenovic revealed that Rabiot was working on his defence: “His positioning and tactical awareness usually make up for a natural tendency not to enter tackles, one on which he has however put a lot of emphasis in recent months.”
Under Toulouse manager Alain Casanova, Rabiot averaged more tackles per game (3.0) than midfield enforcer Étienne Capoue (2.4).
Rabiot’s best attribute—passing—has been circumspect at times.
It seems that his vision is so expansive that he makes unnecessary passes thus leading to opposing counterattacks, much to the annoyance of Aymen Abdennour and Jonathan Zebina.
Rabiot’s 79.1 passing percentage is acceptable, but if he wants to elevate into a world-class player, he needs to take care of the ball like Clément Chantome, whilst also being a threat to thread the through ball à la Mathieu Valbuena.
This was on show in a dominant display during the 2-0 win over Montpellier, where in the space of 11 minutes Rabiot split open MHSC’s backline with two assists, the mercurial Wissam Ben Yedder scoring both goals.
Rabio’s first assist was an Andrea Pirlo-esque lofted through ball, the second, the result of his improved defence as he intercepted a pass, surged forward and then played in Ben Yedder.
Guess what Rabio’s percentage was that game? 87.
By the way, he completed 92 percent of his tackles for Toulouse, which is substantially better than Marco Verratti (78), Capoue (76), Blaise Matuidi (75) and Josuha Guilavogui (75).
In Clive Tyldesley’s voice, remember the name—Adrien Rabiot.