After a summer that saw Marco Verratti driving a New York taxi , Ezequiel Lavezzi posing as a sexy fireman and Zlatan launching his own perfume , it was nice to see the Paris Saint-Germain players get back to their day jobs on Friday.
A 1-0 win at Lille , our first opening day triumph since 2010, was secured thanks to a goal from Lucas Moura and despite the sending off of Adrien Rabiot, who picked up two bookings in quick succession in the first half.
I’m actually quite looking forward to this season, not least because we seem to have done some good business in the transfer market. You may remember (though given the frequency of my posts you’ll need a good memory) that I’ve previously been quite scathing of the club’s post-Leonardo recruitment policy, or lack thereof. But this year things seem to have changed, and we actually seem to be addressing needs in the squad, rather than going for a kid-in-a-sweetshop-esque grab of any big name player in the vicinity approach.
Our move for Angel Di Maria has obviously grabbed the headlines, and there were quite a few of those given that the transfer seemed to drag on forever. Previously the most bored I’d been in my life was during the Spielberg film
, but the Di Maria, will he/won’t he/he definitely will tomorrow/or maybe the next day business has now replaced that as the height of tedium.
Now the deal is over the line I’m delighted he’s here. Obviously he didn’t have the best of times at Manchester United, but he wasn’t that bad either and I think he’s more likely to flourish in a settled team environment than he was at Old Trafford, where everything was in a state of flux last year. It’s also been suggested to me several times on Twitter that ADM is happier in a supporting role rather than as the team’s star player which, given the egos in the PSG dressing room, is probably just as well. His ability to play in the midfield three or as part of the front line should be really useful, especially when the Champions League kicks in.
Elsewhere, goalkeeper Kevin Trapp has arrived and taken the number one spot from Salvatore Sirigu. I’ll confess to never having even heard of Trapp before the stories began to emerge about him coming to PSG, but early signs look promising. Personally I wouldn’t have bothered trying to upgrade Sirigu at this point, but Trapp’s seems more comfortable with the ball at his feet than his predecessor, something which Larry White apparently values. Hopefully Trapp will just be keeping the number one spot warm until Alphonse Areola is ready to step up – his loan at Villarreal should be another good step in his development.
Swapping Yohan Cabaye for Benjamin Stambouli is also a surprisingly sensible move. A player of Cabaye’s profile was never going to be happy as back-up to Motta/Matuidi/Verratti, whereas you’d imagine Stambouli will be content to fill in where needed, at least for a bit. He can also play at centre-back, an area where we’re high on quality but short on numbers.
What has motivated this apparent change in policy is unclear. It could purely be down to the lifting of FFP sanctions, or perhaps Blanc and Olivier Letang, who is the nearest thing we have to a sporting director, have been given more power to pick the targets. Certainly it seems doubtful that either of them had much influence on last year’s David Luiz transfer, which had President Nasser’s grubby fingerprints all over it. Whatever the reason, this summer has had a much more purposeful feel about it.
On the outgoings front, it’s a shame Lucas Digne is set to head off to Roma on loan, and I hope we haven’t seen the last of him in a PSG shirt. Maxwell’s consistency is admirable, but he can’t go on forever, and it seems doubtful we’ll acquire a replacement for him who has more potential than Digne.
I would have been happy to see Thiago Motta sent to pastures new, but the club has put the kybosh on that one despite the player stating several times that he wanted to leave. Motta came off the bench at Lille after we’d gone down to ten men and was at his villainous best – locking midfield down with a masterly performance that mixed tough tackling and simple passing with a liberal splash of the dark arts. While his experience is undoubtedly an asset, especially in the aforementioned Champions League, it’s time for new leaders in the team to emerge. Zlatan will probably be off next summer, Maxwell too, and getting rid of Motta would have been a step in the regeneration process. At some point we need to see whether the likes of Rabiot can step up from bit-part player to consistent performer (the early signs aren’t promising on that front), and that’s not going to happen while all the old guard are still hanging around.
It doesn’t take a French football expert to predict that PSG will probably win Ligue 1, but hopefully we can do it in a bit more style than last season, which for long periods felt like a bit of a drag. With the new additions, plus the emergence of the likes of Jean-Kevin Augustin, who impressed during the summer tour to America, the squad has a well-rounded look, and should be capable of making an impact on the Champions League too. Exciting times ahead. Hopefully.