I make no secret of my love for Presnel Kimpembe. The French center-back is one of my favorite players at Paris Saint-Germain and I often refer to him as “King-pembe” when he has an outstanding performance or puts in one of his meaty challenges.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to use that moniker though. After his FIFA World Cup triumph with France during the summer of 2018, he had a mediocre 2018-19 season due to a nagging groin injury and towards the end of the campaign, he underwent surgery according to the club’s website.
The road to recovery has been long for the 24-year-old. Speaking to PSG TV, Kimpembe said the hardest thing about his recovery was “training all alone at the Camp des Loges.” As we recently saw in a video of Kylian Mbappé’s recovery, players often have to put in long hours in the training facilities without the promise of game time at the end of the week. It can be incredibly frustrating for an athlete to be patient when all they want to do is play football.
“It’s harder than when you train with everyone, when you run with your mates, the time goes faster,” Kimpembe said. “It was also hard when I got back from holidays, because I was convinced I could play.”
Hard work paid off for Kimpembe and we’re starting to see signs of what made him one of the best young center-backs in Europe. Earlier this week, Kimpembe was named to Didier Deschamps’ France national team, an honor that Thomas Tuchel said was well deserved.
Les 23 joueurs sélectionnés par Didier Deschamps pour les 2 matchs de qualifications à l'EURO 2020 ! 🇫🇷 #FiersdetreBleus
Islande🆚France (vendredi 11/10 à 20h45)
France🆚Turquie (lundi 14/10 à 20h45) pic.twitter.com/3oKlP5bJR6
— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) October 3, 2019
“Presnel is ready to play with the national team,” said Tuchel at his pre-match press conference on Friday. “I’m happy he has been called up. He deserves it. He has worked very hard for 10 or 12 weeks, he was very professional to get back to his current level, both physical and mental. I am very happy. His big challenge is to stay at this level.”
Making the France national team squad after groin surgery is no easy task when you look at the players available to Deschamps and Kimpembe should be applauded for his dedication and professionalism.
Against Galatasaray S.K. last Tuesday, we saw what makes Kimpembe special and what separates him from a defender like Thiago Silva. It was a very physical game in Istanbul and Kimpembe was up for the challenge. According to WhoScored.com, he won five aerial duels compared to Silva’s two and was only second to Galatasaray’s Christian Luyindama in tackles. He is an imposing physical force that attacking opponents worry about while Silva is more adept at cutting out passes and keeping the backline organized. Together, they form a feared center-back pairing that has PSG at the top of most defensive statistics.
The most promising part of Kimpembe’s return to form is that he’s going to get better. Barring any setbacks, Kimpembe will only improve and with Marquinhos, Idrissa Gueye, and Marco Verratti in front of him, PSG has finally sorted out the defensive issues that plagued them in recent seasons.
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