One of the more glamorized stories in football over the past 20 years is Lionel Messi’s quick rise to FC Barcelona at a young age. From his start at La Masia, Messi quickly made his way through the various youth systems and made his senior team debut at 17. Since then, the Argentine’s career has played out like a fairytale as he’s become one of the all-time greats for his club and football in general.
Now, what does that have to do with Paris Saint-Germain?
PSG has a similar teenager who made his way through the club’s youth academy and his name is Adrien Rabiot. Although he first signed his first professional contract in 2012, the 23-year-old has been a part of the club since 2010. Since signing his first professional contract, Rabiot has gone on to make 148 appearances for the club. Like Messi, Rabiot made his league debut as a teenager and aside from a loan spell at Toulouse FC, PSG is the only club he’s ever known.
Back to Messi for a second. The last 14 years in Barcelona have been relatively controversy-free. Sure, maybe he didn’t always pay his taxes, but when it comes to the club, Messi handles his business professionally. Rabiot is the complete opposite. The Frenchman’s time in Paris can best be described as complicated.
The Start of the Headaches
In 2014, contract negotiations between Rabiot and PSG dragged into the final year of his deal. With AS Roma expressing interest in the midfielder at the time, the door was open for Rabiot to leave. Despite the distractions, the two parties were able to come together on a four-year deal. The drama was far from over though.
Fast forward a year later and Arsenal FC begins to show an interest. This coincided with Rabiot disputing with PSG over playing time. After being dropped from the lineup by former manager Laurent Blanc, Rabiot was looking to force his way out.
However, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi remained adamant that the young central midfielder had a future with the club and wasn’t going anywhere. In an interview with France’s Le Figaro, Al-Khelaifi had this to say about Rabiot:
He’s 20-years-old, plays regularly in a big team. He’s come through the youth academy—the club has given him a lot. I’ll never accept that he considers himself more important than the club.
Al-Khelaifi didn’t want to believe the selfish and immature attitude of Rabiot. Even though he threatened to force a transfer away from Paris, Al-Khelaifi remained a big supporter. In the same interview, he would double down on his belief of Rabiot. “He’s a big talent,” Al-Khelaifi added. “My dream is that he might become captain of PSG one day. But, he has to respect the club, the coach, and his teammates.”
Giving into the Demands
Despite contract disputes and wanting a transfer away from the club, Rabiot remained adamant that he loved PSG. In 2016, during a Q&A session on Twitter, Rabiot mentioned how he would like to become the Steven Gerrard of PSG. It appeared as though the club and player would live in harmony together. Unfortunately, the love affair didn’t last long as more demands followed.
— CulturePSG (@CulturePSG) March 16, 2016
Instead of doing what’s best for the squad, neither Rabiot or his agent/mother Veronique saw him as the long-term defensive midfielder for PSG. It isn’t a glamorous position, so Rabiot threw a tantrum whenever he was asked to start in that position. Rabiot desired more minutes as a central midfielder and PSG gave that to him.
During the 2017 summer transfer window, Blaise Matuidi became the casualty of Rabiot’s demands. To give the 23-year-old more playing time, the club needed to sell a starter. So off Matuidi went to Juventus FC. Even after PSG met his demands, it still wasn’t enough for the Frenchman to sign a contract extension.
A Toxic Ending
Although he was left off the France National Team for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Rabiot had his name on the list of reserves. That wasn’t good enough either and he refused what he perceived as a role with the team that was beneath him. This incident lingered over to his club team who made it public that they didn’t fully support Rabiot’s actions.
Fast-forward to the past week or so and PSG is having to deal with another one of Rabiot’s tantrums and this time, it’s the final straw that broke the camel’s back. PSG once again find themselves in a contract dispute with Rabiot. Even though the player is in the last year of his contract and they risk losing him for nothing in the summer, PSG does not appear willing to give in to his demands.
With unreasonable wage demands and several clubs whispering in his ear, PSG must now move on from one of their star players. Once Rabiot’s biggest supporter, Al-Khelaifi’s dream of seeing him captain the club is no longer a possibility. In fact, Paris United reported that the club president wasn’t even present in the final negotiations.
🔴🔵 The meeting concerning #Rabiot took place. Nasser was absent to everyone's surprise. Tuchel slammed the door. Dialogue is broken off.
— Paris United 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@ParisUnitedEN) December 17, 2018
In the upcoming transfer window, PSG will try and offload Rabiot for a fraction of the cost they could get for him just last summer. However, it won’t be easy as clubs could easily wait until after the season and acquire the Frenchman on a free transfer. PSG will have to be convincing if they wish to bring in anything for their diminishing asset. One thing working in their favor is Rabiot’s playing time. He won’t want to sit out until next season so joining a team in January will be his priority.
A few weeks ago, reports out of Amsterdam stated that PSG and AFC Ajax came to an agreement over midfielder Frenkie de Jong for €75 million. The Dutchman would join Paris after the season, but neither side has confirmed the deal. Whether the deal gets done or not, it’s clear PSG are actively looking for a Rabiot replacement. Meanwhile, after Rabiot and PSG failed to agree on a contract extension, Le Parisien reported that a deal was in place for Rabiot to join Barcelona.
PSG : Rabiot est d’accord avec le FC Barcelone https://t.co/xvngnv7MAu
— Le Parisien – PSG (@le_Parisien_PSG) December 18, 2018
Rabiot could’ve been the Gerrard of PSG, but now he departs as one of, if not the most, hated players in recent memory. The fairytale of the youth product leading the senior team to a UEFA Champions League trophy is one that won’t take place in Paris.
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