5 Players PSG Must Target This Summer to Take Them to the Next Level
No matter what happens between now and the end of Paris Saint-Germain’s season, one that could still end with three pieces of domestic and European silverware, the French champions will be aiming to build on a positive first season under Laurent Blanc’s command.
The 48-year-old former France national team coach has fared exceptionally well since taking over from previous incumbent Carlo Ancelotti and has introduced a new, more attractive and dominant style of football at the Parc des Princes.
However, there remains room for improvement.
A second consecutive appearance in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, an improved showing in Ligue 1 and a first domestic cup final appearance under Qatari ownership demonstrates the improvements made on last season’s squad.
But PSG, in keeping with their motto of dreaming bigger, will want to make some changes to the team that has fared so well this campaign. There will also be a number of players who will look to move on this summer that will force the club to bring in some new talent.
Here are five players that PSG must target this summer to take them to the next level.
Who Will Make Way for These Players?
There are a number of players in the current squad that have been linked with a move away from the French capital since the start of the season. In order to bring in some of the talents listed in this piece, some of those disgruntled players will need to be sold by PSG.
French international Jeremy Menez is almost certain to not have his contract renewed and will be looking for a new club this summer. It appears that the club have finally had enough of the temperamental 26-year-old, opening up a space in the squad for a wide player.
One of central defenders Zoumana Camara or Alex will almost certainly not be at the club next season. The veteran Frenchman is the more likely to leave after a series of injury problems but, according to Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia), Alex is thought to be in talks with AC Milan as well as discussing a contract extension with PSG.
Another player looking increasingly likely to exit is Javier Pastore. The Argentine was PSG’s record transfer signing when he first arrived at the club, but he is now a peripheral figure at the club after losing form and confidence over the past 12 months.
One or two other players could be loaned out, such as Adrien Rabiot, Hervin Ongenda and Alphonse Areola (who is already currently on loan at Ligue 2 side RC Lens), but the club are unlikely to sanction the permanent sale of any of their brightest youth academy graduates.
This season has seen PSG’s first choice goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu questioned over the consistency of his performances for the first time since arriving in 2011.
Although in impeccable current form, there have been moments earlier this campaign where the Italian international has struggled and made uncharacteristic mistakes. Looking ahead to take PSG to the next level, a more consistent goalkeeper might be needed.
According to the Guardian's Rob Smyth, the side from the French capital are interested in Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Les Bleus’ captain would represent a step up in quality and consistency, as well as being a current international.
This is in line with PSG’s recent shift in focus towards domestic talent.
PSG’s talented young goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, currently on loan at second tier side RC Lens, should not be forgotten in this debate though.
The FIFA Under-20 World Cup winner is thought to have the makings of a future great and has more of an all-round skill set than Sirigu who is relatively weak when it comes to crosses and claiming the ball aerially.
The temptation to bring Lloris in to challenge the second choice Azzurri stopper could be high, particularly if Spurs do not qualify for the Champions League and the Frenchman is available for a relatively affordable price. However, sticking with Sirigu for now and looking at Areola as his long-term heir might be the better and more worthwhile option for PSG.
Next up on PSG’s potential shopping list should be a right-back after a lack of depth was exposed by injuries to starter Gregory van der Wiel and reserve Christophe Jallet over the course of this season.
The Dutchman is not likely to be sold by PSG after an impressive campaign under Blanc’s tutelage, but his chronic knee problems that have required therapy are an ongoing concern. Jallet, although useful when van der Wiel is unavailable, is simply not good enough defensively or in attack anymore.
A new backup right-back is needed for greater strength in depth, but it is unlikely that PSG will go shopping for a bit-part player. Spurs’ Kyle Walker has been touted as a possible target by Paul Collins of the Daily Mail, but Barcelona’s Daniel Alves would be a more typical target.
Either one would push van der Wiel into the reserve role, something he has not deserved based on this season’s form. So, signing a domestic-based talent such as FC Sochaux-Montbeliard’s Sebastien Corchia or Toulouse’s Serge Aurier to be the Dutch international's backup could prove a smarter move.
While a right-back is only a possible area of improvement for PSG, Blanc will certainly have to find at least one new central defender for next season.
The French champions allowed youth academy product Mamadou Sakho to leave at the start of the campaign, only to see starters Thiago Silva and Alex get injured, pushing 19-year-old Marquinhos and veteran Zoumana Camara to the fore at times with little other cover available.
While the former has proven his ability in his debut season in the French capital, particularly in Europe, the latter is no longer a viable option. With Alex turning 32 this summer, he will now be looked to as the eldest member of the backline, assuming that he stays.
French international Eliaquim Mangala would be a perfect addition to the squad in place of Camara. The 23-year-old would be an ideal partner for Silva, allying brawn to the Brazilian’s brains, while Marquinhos could push for a starting role and Alex would provide the cover.
According to John Cross of the Mirror, PSG have already been in contact with FC Porto about the star who would offer similar qualities to the now departed Sakho but arguably greater potential ability.
Although PSG have been linked with Eden Hazard of Champions League quarter-final opponents Chelsea of late, per Ian Holyman of ESPN FC, Real Sociedad’s recent senior international debutant Antoine Griezmann is perhaps a more realistic replacement for the outgoing Jeremy Menez.
With Ezequiel Lavezzi now firmly re-established in Blanc’s favour after an impressive run of form and Lucas Moura still making key contributions, despite a lack of regular game time, there is still potentially one wide berth up for grabs.
PSG still arguably lack a creative presence in the midfield, but they would be foolish to drastically alter their current winning formula featuring Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti.
This setup also requires all three front men to be scoring goals and Griezmann can make and take chances in equal measure, while also offering the capital club a significant boon in the fact that he is a current French international.
According to Nick Lustig of the Daily Star, PSG are one of four teams chasing the 23-year-old.
Although PSG’s current midfield is brimming with quality, there is still arguably room for additional talent. That is why Juventus’ Paul Pogba will almost certainly be top of the French champions’ shopping list this summer.
The French international has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Serie A in recent seasons and has caught the eye of the capital club’s hierarchy, according to Spanish publication Sport’s latest reports (h/t Football Italia).
Despite signing Yohan Cabaye in January and already possessing Motta, Matuidi and Verratti, as well as youth academy graduate Adrien Rabiot, there is still space for another star name given Blanc’s need for strength in depth.
Pogba would not only be the perfect player to slot into the midfield alongside Matuidi and Verratti, once Motta’s age and injury problems catch up with him (the Italian has enjoyed an unusually healthy season), but he would also enable Blanc to rotate his squad more often than has been possible this season prior to the arrival of Cabaye.