Transfer deadline day saw Kylian Mbappé officially join Paris Saint-Germain on a one-year loan (with an option to buy) to round out what was a very exciting transfer window. The Frenchman joins other new signings Neymar Jr., Dani Alves, and Yuri Berchiche to form a new-look squad with UEFA Champions League aspirations.
Now that the window has closed and we’ve all had a chance to catch our breath, here are my picks for the biggest winners from Les Parisiens transfer activity:
It’s fair to say Unai Emery is a very lucky man. Having somehow survived immense criticism last season as PSG struggled and ultimately finished second in Ligue 1, the three-time UEFA Europa League winning manager remains at the helm of the club and is off to a strong start so far.
Last season, there was the feeling that Emery never truly understood the team. His attempt to change PSG’s possession-based style to a faster brand of attacking football did not sit well with the dressing room following a series of poor results either. This saw the manager succumb to the team’s demands to switch back to the style they’re used to.
With several new players officially signed and in training, Emery will certainly feel he has been given a boost in passing his ideas to the team. Neymar and Mbappé in particular, who the team will most likely be aligned to suit, will almost certainly lead to PSG playing a fast attacking style. Both players thrive in that environment and their unquestionable talent should see the team buy into Emery’s preferred style this time around.
All this spending definitely comes with increased pressure for Emery. If he fails to live up to expectations with the money that was spent in the summer, he can have no complaints and will likely be on his way out.
Appointed as the new sporting director at the start of the transfer window, Antero Henrique came to Paris with a lot to prove. However, after you sign Neymar you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who still raises doubts about his ability.
The sporting director role at Paris Saint-Germain has been under close scrutiny by the club’s avid fans–probably more than at most clubs–since the departure of Leonardo Araújo, who first held the position following Qatar Sports Investments taking over the club in 2011. Leonardo’s constant appearance in the spotlight brought more prominence to the role within the club and the quality of the signings he played a part in luring to the French capital won him a lot of fanfare among the supporters. None of those who had take up his role since his departure in 2013 have been accorded similar praise and calls for Leonardo’s return can be heard almost every summer since.
At the moment, Henrique has almost made Leonardo a forgotten name around the Parc des Princes. The completion of high profile signings–some of which he may only have been fortunate to be a part of depending on where you get your transfer rumors–and holding onto Marco Verratti following serious rumors of his departure to FC Barcelona have embellished him in the hearts of the fans. Henrique has done a wonderful job in what some thought would be a quiet transfer window for the club and it will take something catastrophic to tarnish his reputation.
With 49 goals in 50 games across all competitions last season, Edinson Cavani contributed to 46 percent of the team’s combined goal tally. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic departing before the start of last season and few willing to stand up to share the goal scoring burden–Lucas Moura scored the second most goals with 19–the pressure was telling on the Uruguayan as his performances received very close scrutiny when the team failed to deliver.
This year, the signings of Neymar and Mbappé will take a lot of weight off of PSG’s No. 9. This reduced pressure should do Cavani a lot of good and go some way in helping him shake off his big-game jitters. On the reverse, having such enormous talent around him may go on to magnify some of the overlooked errors in his game but as long as he keeps getting goals, a lot of those shouts will be drowned out by the attention focused on his supporting cast.
Aged 34 going on 35, not many would have expected Thiago Motta to be the undisputed starter for PSG in the holding midfield role.
The club’s inability to ultimately sign another defensive midfielder following rumors linking them with players in the position all summer and Adrien Rabiot’s reluctance to play full-time cover in front of the defense means a lot will be expected of Motta again this season. Given his age, there are questions but Motta, whose contract was almost left to run out this summer due to doubts by Henrique, will definitely be glad to still enjoy a high level of importance within the team.