Paris Saint-Germain finished runners-up in last season’s UEFA Champions League and they could potentially win it this year, but if they don’t, it will be because of their defense.
Upfront, PSG can compete with anyone in Europe. They have two of the top five players in the world in Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé. Add Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, and Moise Kean to the mix, and you have an attack that can lead a team to Champions League glory. Don’t believe me? Check out these footy tips supplied by OLBG’s tipsters and they’ll probably tell you the same thing.
In midfield, PSG has one of the most underrated players in the game today in Marco Verratti. Seriously, if this guy played in the Premier League he would be a household name. Leandro Paredes is an Argentina international and has really blossomed this season. Just check out his goal against RC Strasbourg recently and you’ll see the kind of quality he possesses. Idrissa Gueye, Ander Herrera, Rafinha, and Danilo Pereira round out the position and give PSG plenty of options depending on who they face.
The issue is really on defense. Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe star in the backline and you can make the argument that the Brazilian is the best center-back in the world. He’s also a more than serviceable defensive midfielder as we saw during the Thomas Tuchel era. Kimpembe came up through the ranks at PSG and has the club in his heart. We saw last season against Borussia Dortmund what he’s capable of when he completely shut down Erling Haaland as PSG advanced past the Germans en route to the club’s first-ever appearance in the Champions League final.
Outside of those two players, there’s a lot left to be desired. For example, if Marquinhos goes down with an injury, which happened recently, who replaces him? Right now, it’s Pereira who is more of a natural defensive midfielder! There are no other options unless Mauricio Pochettino wants to bring on an academy player, which is not going to happen.
At right-back, Alessandro Florenzi has been the regular starter but he’s on loan from AS Roma. His future is very much in question and while he’s shown flashes of what we need at that position, he’s not consistent enough for me. Behind him, PSG must rely on Colin Dagba and Thilo Kehrer in case of injury or suspension. All of these players are decent, but PSG isn’t a club satisfied with being average and this is a vital position especially in the modern game. A world-class right-back in today’s game has to be fearless going forward and possess enough physical ability to track back and cover the space they left behind. Few are able to do it, but PSG must find someone who can.
It doesn’t get much better at left-back. Juan Bernat recently signed an extension but he’s been out most of the season with a serious knee injury. Abdou Diallo has stepped up in his absence and performed beyond expectations, but who knows if his form will last into the future. Behind him, there’s Layvin Kurzawa and Mitchel Bakker, both of whom are decent backups and fine players to start in a Ligue 1 or domestic cup match, but again, not players you really want to start in the knockout stage of the Champions League if you can help it.
In my opinion, PSG is a quality center-back, left-back, and right-back away from being the best team in the world. So, who should PSG sign to solve their defensive woes? Let’s take a look:
Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid is on an expiring contract and I think he’s a player PSG should be interested in to sure up the center-back position. It will be tough to pry a club legend like Ramos away from Los Blancos, but people also didn’t think PSG could sign Neymar from Barcelona either. With all of the speculation about Mbappé going to Madrid, what a coup it would be if Les Parisiens could extend Mbappé’s contract and take Ramos from their European rivals! At this stage of his career, I think he would accept playing behind Marquinhos and Kimpembe in the Champions League as long as he saw plenty of action in Ligue 1.
At right-back, there are several options. Ricardo Pereira of Leicester City FC is a player that has been linked with PSG in the past. He’s familiar with Ligue 1 and speaks highly of the club and league. Youcef Atal of OGC Nice is another player I rate highly and has been linked to PSG in the past. However, both of these players are coming off fairly significant injuries. If I were to look beyond those two options, a player like Kevin Mbabu of VfL Wolfsburg comes to mind due to his versatility. I would even consider bringing back Serge Aurier who is currently at Tottenham Hotspur. I think he would be an upgrade over who PSG has now and he’s already familiar with how Pochettino likes to play. With Periscope officially shut down, I could see this move potentially working out.
Left-back is interesting because Juan Bernat could be the solution if he’s able to return from injury and regain his previous form. If not, there are a couple of options worth exploring, such as Theo Hernández of AC Milan, José Gayà of Valencia CF, and Ajax’s Nicolás Tagliafico. One of the biggest mistakes was allowing Lucas Digne to depart in 2015. He has really blossomed at Everton FC and would slot in nicely at PSG.
Money will be an issue for PSG this summer as it will be for most clubs around Europe. Leonardo, PSG’s sporting director, wants to resign Neymar and Mbappé and that won’t come cheap if they’re even able to pull it off at all. If there are any funds available, PSG must address its defensive issues to have any real shot at next season’s Champions League title.