In what has to be one of the most dramatic transfer deadline days in recent history, David Luiz’s surprise move to Chelsea F.C. for a rumored fee of €38 million was the shock of the summer. One man who stands to benefit the most from the Brazilian’s departure though, is 21-year-old Presnel Kimpembe.
Luiz was becoming error-prone and erratic on the pitch since the end of last season and given the fact that Paris Saint-Germain were able to recoup most of the fee they paid to bring him to the Parc des Princes in 2014, the deal made a lot of sense—even if it was last minute. His atrocious performance in the 3-1 loss to A.S. Monaco, which saw him substituted off at the hour mark, was probably the final straw and ultimately sealed his fate.
The decision to sell the charismatic Brazilian without signing a replacement is a bit questionable. However, while Luiz’s departure reduces the size of Unai Emery’s squad, it doesn’t necessarily decline in quality. Serge Aurier has proved he can fill in a center-back and the improvement of Kimpembe has been one of the bright spots so far this season. Not to be forgotten is Marquinhos, who was with the Brazil national team for the Olympics and will return soon to start alongside Thiago Silva as the first choice center-back pairing this season.
Kimpembe, who signed his first professional contract with the club about two seasons ago, has spent most of his time as a fringe player in the team but has vastly improved this season. Due to the absences of Silva and Marquinhos, Kimpembe has been able to play in every game this season and has put in a solid shift each time. The young defender outplayed the veteran Luiz since the start of the season, winning more interceptions and duels than his counterpart this season, the club’s decision to sell the Brazilian certainly signifies the increased level of trust management and Emery have in Kimpembe.
One of the key attributes Kimpembe has displayed so far is his composure, which has been evident since his brief cameo against RC Lens during the 2014-15 season. A stunning attribute for a player with such little experience, it was all the more evident in the game against Monaco as he displayed a much calmer head than the far more experienced Luiz. His ability to pick out a pass and put in a strong tackle has endeared him to PSG supporters. Like many defenders his age though, the Frenchman is still prone to mistakes in his decision-making as well as positioning. He may not be regarded as one of the hottest prospects around but he is a solid player and one who understands his place in the team.
I always wanted to stay. I never wanted to leave and I have been vindicated in my choice. This year, I hope to play between 20 and 25 matches with PSG but that will depend on injuries and my performances.—Presnel Kimpembe on his decision to stay at PSG despite transfer rumors, via Goal France
Emery may well consider Aurier ahead of Kimpembe at center-back for now, particularly for important UEFA Champions League matches due to experience. But, the Ivorian’s commitments at right-back, as well as the club’s decision not to rush a Luiz replacement, mean the under-21 France international will still have a good chance to prove himself when the chance presents itself. The ability of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Thiago Motta to somewhat fill in at center-back may have affected management’s decision to not sign another defender.
If Paris do decide to sign a new player in the next transfer window, Kimpembe’s performances would definitely play a part in deciding the caliber of player the team needs to bring in. If his upward trajectory continues, he could cement a spot in the first team for years to come and the new signing would be for added depth. If not, he could risk returning to a fringe player while a more capable player is brought in.
Joining the likes of the more established Adrien Rabiot and Alphonse Areola, PSG—who are widely regarded for their lavish spending—is gradually seeing the influx of their academy graduates into their first team. It’s refreshing to see the club put such faith in their relatively unproven players. With the likes of Jean-Kevin Augustin also on the rise, the future is bright for Les Rouge et Bleu.
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