‘The Problem Is to Think That Elsewhere, It’s Paradise’ – Leonardo Discusses the Youth Players Who Depart PSG as Teenagers

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo had an in-depth interview with France Bleu Paris, and one of the topics that the discussion touched on is the departure of players from the capital club’s youth system. 

The Brazilian wanted to put to bed the notion that Les Parisiens don’t provide their youth players first-team opportunities. There’s no denying that the capital club spends significant amounts of money on constructing its squad. Nonetheless, they have provided young players chances, as Leonardo states.

“It is not true to say that the youngsters did not have the opportunity on the professional team. We can talk about Rabiot, Kimpembe, Areola, Dagba, and others who have left, such as Nkunku, Diaby, Nsoki. Not to mention Tanguy Kouassi. What is happening today is not just the question of PSG. There is a rule where you must give only three-year contracts to a young person of 16 years. At 19, he was free,” Leonardo said.

“In these times, it is most important for the kids to see if they will turn pro or not. If you play in the first team, a lot of things happen to him. Because today, the French are ready to leave at 16, 17, 18 years old. It is a regulation that is completely detrimental to France. Everyone waits for the contract to end to say, “come here.”

Despite losing youth players, Leonardo does point out English and Spanish teams’ behavior that contact the players. Regardless, PSG’s sporting director does add that this doesn’t absolve the French giants from their mistakes. Leonardo adds that he wants to improve his relations with their youth players to keep them around. 

“The other thing is the teams behaving like this, the German and English teams. They talk to the family; they try to convince them by saying anything when they are only 15 years old. It should be forbidden! All the players who left at 16, 17, or 18, where are they today? If you take stock, honestly, I don’t have the precise figures. Those who succeed represent a low percentage,” Leonardo said.

“Maybe we were wrong too. We must improve our relationship with young players. Today, we have players like Michut, Xavi Simons, El Chadaille, who are very close to the professional team. And they’re going to have the opportunity; that’s something significant. Tanguy Kouassi played with us in the Champions League and spent almost a year at Bayern Munich without playing.”

Finally, Leonardo discusses how youth players who seek greener pastures elsewhere often call the PSG, stating their regrets and wishing they could go back to the capital club. Will these statements reach the next crop of youth players who are eager to leave if they don’t receive significant first-team minutes from the start. 

“It’s not a regret. The problem is to think that elsewhere, it’s paradise. There are other things, compared to the regulation, which is not balanced. It’s like that. We say, “PSG has lost a youngster,” but sometimes I think it is not PSG that loses, but young people who lose PSG. Many young players call back and want to come back,” Leonardo said. 

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Tags Bayern Munich Edouard Michut Leonardo Tanguy Kouassi Xavi Simons