In a recent interview with Foot Mercato, former Paris Saint-Germain trainer, Laurent Bonadei, spoke about how Les Parisiens could have won a UEFA Champions League with the amount of talent that’s come through their youth system.
For most PSG supporters, a pet peeve of theirs is how the capital club cannot seemingly hold on to some of the most talented youngsters. Also, working from 2012 to 2016, Bonadei would see some of the best titis and eventually leave for greener pastures elsewhere.
Players such as Mike Maignan, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Presnel Kimpembe, and Moussa Dembélé were under the guidance of Bonadei. However, only Kimpembe and Rabiot would eventually see consistent playing time with PSG’s first team.
Nonetheless, holding on to some of these young talents is a difficult task for the capital club. It’s tough for a young player to break through into a club as big as PSG, so sometimes it’s a no-brainer for them to look elsewhere for playing time to see their career grow.
This piece won’t include the entire interview but will consist of all PSG centric questions and answers. We encourage you to read the full interview here.
FM: What is your best memory during your stay at Paris Saint-Germain (2012-2016)?
LB: In Paris, we were in a real training logic with the possibility of going to get the most out of the players on the logic of results. My best memory is when we win the Alkass tournament (in 2012, Editor’s note) with Mike Maignan, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Presnel Kimpembe, or Moussa Dembélé, we were out of training, it was pleasant.
FM: At that time, when you had all these Parisian titis at your disposal, were you convinced that a great career and great clubs awaited them?
LB: Any trainer will tell you that at 16 or 17 years of age, you cannot predict such futures. But I will tell you anyway. I said at the end of my first year at PSG (in 2012) that this club had the potential to win the Champions League in the next ten years, with a majority of players trained at the club. I said that because I liked what Athletic Bilbao did with Basque players, and in Paris, I only had Parisians. I told myself that we had the means to do something exceptional. I could observe, during the various international tournaments, what was done in the whole world at the high level at 17 years, with the young people of Barça, Ajax, etc … and we were dominating. I was convinced that some would have very great careers.
FM: The majority of these players left PSG to launch their careers at the highest level. Why?
LB: They did not see in the short term, the possibility of having playing time and evolving with the first team. The clubs which recruited them offered it to them. There were such players in the first team … To get past Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Di Maria, and others, it is not easy. I remember, during a technical meeting, we were talking about Kingsley (Coman), who could escape us. We were discussing his future, the place we could give him in Paris. At 17, he was better equipped for the top-level than Presnel (Kimpembe), for example, who had not yet grown. Kingsley was already 4.85 seconds into the 40 meters. We were talking about a ready and made player. And I said that Dembélé and Coman, it was the world’s top 5 of the 1996 generation at the time. In the end, the two left.
FM: How did you experience these departures?
LB: They affected me. It’s a shame, even if in the logic of the club, to win a C1, we can not do that with young people. I had suffered from the departure of Moussa Dembélé at Fulham at the end of my first year. He was a boy whom I appreciated very much, on a human and sporting level. Moussa was the team’s top scorer. It had been hard. He arrived at PSG when he was six years old. I told myself that he could be the Raul of PSG. He loved the club. It’s my worst memory at the club. After, the level of requirement of the first team of PSG is so important that it is difficult for a young person to integrate the pro group. When a youngster arrives with the pros, it is not a finished product. He progresses in contact with these pros, like Presnel (Kimpembe), who progressed alongside Thiago Silva and Marquinhos.
FM: When you see your former players succeeding, what is your feeling?
LB: A lot of fun to see them happy. What is fun to see is when a player succeeds in reproducing at the highest level what he did when he was young. It reminds me of the first matches of Adrien (Rabiot) with the first team. He played a little with the handbrake, with a lot of humility. He quickly gave his balloons. Gradually, he implemented what he knew how to do. I think back to what Chris Waddle said at the time at OM. He said he was doing the same thing he did when he was ten years old on the street. The worst thing that can happen to a young person is to leave the pro group without having managed to convince and not to have played his football.
FM: You are a little behind the nickname Kimpembe. Tell us.
LB: In my 17-year-old group, I had many players born in 1996 and 1995, including Presnel Kimpembe. I didn’t know this name, and it was a bit long to say. His nickname was “Pres,” except that I focused on pressing when I lost the ball. Very quickly, I realized that it would pose a problem; it was also an instruction (press). During a friendly match, the goalkeeper calls out to him and says, “Pres, come back!”. Except we can’t press and come back at the same time (laughs). So at halftime, I talk to players about this little communication problem with Presnel. It makes them laugh. But not Presnel, who didn’t want to change his nickname, because he was very attached to it. The next match, he dislocates the patella. And there, I tell myself that I may have disturbed the player and that I may have been a little far. Finally, when he returned, he said to me, “it will be Presko.” Since then, some people continue to call it that. It’s collective laundry (laughs).
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