World Football: Thuram Signs With PSG
As reported today by French newspaper L'Equipe, French international and 1998 World Champion Lilian Thuram has signed with Paris Saint Germain.
The deal, which marks free-agent Thuram's departure from Barcelona, is for one year with an option for another.
The deal had been in doubt over the past few days, following Thuram's poor showing for France at Euro 2008, and amidst reports of differences over the his salary. However, this could be a move that is great for both the player and the club.
Thuram has had a long and distinguished career, both internationally and with his clubs. Capped 142 times with France (a record), he was one of the team's leaders when Les Blues won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, and his maturity was a great part in helping France reach the Finals at the 2006 World Cup.
With Juventus he won the Italian championship twice, with Parma he won the Italian Cup, and he's been a mainstay in European cups, having played in one or the other every year since 1995.
However, he's nearing the end of his career, and his past two seasons with Barcelona have been something of a disappointment, only playing in 23 games last season. Since joining Barcelona, they have failed to win the Liga.
And if no one doubts his maturity and strength, his speed has been a major problem throughout his career, and France suffered in Euro 2008 as opposing strikers oftentimes flew by him on the break.
It's unlikely Thuram still has the level to play at a top European club in Spain, Italy or England; so a return to one of the best-known clubs in the French Ligue 1 is the best he could reasonably expect since his contract with Barcelona expired.
For PSG, it's a great first signing of the transfer period. They get a world-famous player who will sell shirts, a mature player who may be captain and show younger players the way. A defender who - by Ligue 1 standards - can compete with any other man at his post.
PSG, who nearly dropped down to the second league last season, are also in dire need of stability and maturity, and that Thuram will surely bring. Paris won't be playing a European Cup next year, so Thuram is only looking at 30-something games to play with a long Christmas recess; and with much-better equipped teams like Lyons and Marseilles gunning for the Ligue 1 title, PSG will be happy if they make the top 4 next season, so expectations aren't unreasonably high.
Thuram's one-year contract means that if he underperforms, he can be cut loose at the end of the campaign. And the one-year options means that, if the veteran surprises, Paris could keep him into 2010 and make him an integral part of their long-term rebuilding plans (Thuram himself has often stated that he feels he can still play three or four years at the top level).
PSG's other signing prospects include Claude Makelele, the Chelsea midfielder who has long anchored the French team playing slightly ahead of Thuram's back four, and Jimmy Briand, the 22-year old striker from Rennes, who would replace longtime Paris favorite Pedro Pauleta, now gone to Spain. Paris have already signed Sammy Traore from Auxerre, and were they to sign Makelele and Briand, there's no telling how well the team (which is coached by Paul Le Guen, formerly of Lyons and Rangers) could perform next season. With a team like PSG, you just never know.
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