Kylian Mbappe's impending arrival alters balance of PSG's starting XI
Key players with certain key skills to match will likely have to make way to accommodate Frenchman.
Among the issues football’s governing bodies sought to curb when they introduced Financial Fair Play (FFP) guidelines on acceptable ratios of clubs spending compared to income was what is often known in the game as "overbooking".
If the big, most ambitious clubs keep hiring too many of the best footballers, the argument goes, the danger is they simply stockpile them, thwart individual careers, and stifle healthy competition.
Paris Saint-Germain last month put the biggest transfer fee ever paid – some €222 million (Dh960m), for Neymar – on their balance sheet. They have found a way to postpone spending almost as much again on Kylian Mbappe, the 18-year-old from Monaco, by agreeing a deal with the player and the club which will see him move to the French capital on loan, with a view to a permanent deal, to be settled in the next accounting year in case of FFP problems.
Even as the final details were being worked out, the issue of overbooking in the luxury seats of the PSG jumbo jet seemed especially pressing.
Monaco, with the itchy-footed Mbappe on the bench all night, thrashed Marseille 6-1 on Sunday. So the Ligue 1 champions hardly needed their prodigy, with Radamel Falcao hitting two goals before half time. But the PSG who intend to wrest back the title and break the glass ceiling in Europe that has kept them from featuring in an Uefa Champions League final, were hardly crying out for a new goalscorer, either.
They racked up their fourth successive win, 3-0 against third-placed Saint-Etienne. Edinson Cavani, who scored 35 Ligue goals last season, netted his fourth and fifth of the campaign.
Highlights from PSG's win over Saint-Etienne
Ian Hawkey on the rise of Monaco
Mbappe has not been seduced by PSG on the understanding he will be starting regularly on the bench. But where does PSG manager Unai Emery, a manager who has his dogmas about balance in his teams, fit in Mbappe, whose eventual sale price has been set at €180m by Monaco?
Cavani will not be moving from the central point of the attack. Neymar’s presence is, naturally, a given. In the 4-3-3 that Emery favours, Mbappe might effectively occupy the right side of the front trio, with Neymar on the left. Mbappe has the pace for it, and the skill on the ball.
Last season, he mostly worked as one of a front two in Monaco’s 4-4-2, a foil to Falcao or the unselfish Valere Germain. Mbappe, whose 29 Ligue 1 games included 12 as a substitute, ended up with 15 goals, one for every 100 minutes he was on the field, and he set up 11 more for a high-scoring Monaco. In the Champions League, he scored six times in six knockout ties as his club roared to the semi-finals, where Juventus defeated them.
But where does Mbappe’s arrival leave the last young prodigy to have arrived in Paris?
Julian Draxler, 23, only joined PSG in January, at €36m from Wolfsburg, and he has just spent the first part of his summer captaining Germany to first place at the Confederations Cup. And what role now for Angel di Maria, who, since joining for over €55m from Manchester United, has been PSG’s best supplier of passes to Cavani, and, before that, to the club’s former figurehead, Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
What use now, with Mbappe on the payroll for the exceptional speed of the Brazilian winger Lucas Moura? Or for playmaker Javier Pastore, who since he became, at close to €40m, the first headline signing funded by PSG’s Qatari owners in 2011, has watched a series of attacking superstars erode his hold on a first-team place. Pastore, called up by Argentina this week, has a World Cup spot to try to earn over the next nine months.
From our correspondents:
Andy Mitten: Neymar's move to PSG a blow to Barca's status
Richard Jolly: Neymar could redraw map with move to PSG
Expect PSG to usher at least one of their international forwards – Goncalo Guedes, the Portugal winger who cost €30m from Benfica in January, and the marginalised maverick Hatem ben Arfa are also in the queue – towards the exit over the coming days.
But Emery still has a selection headache about the balance of his team. The front six positions are overbooked, and he will want to keep the midfield, from whose number Blaise Matuidi has been sold to Juventus, gritty as well as glitzy, which means a rugged partner like Adrian Rabiot or the veteran Thiago Motta for Marco Verratti.
So here is how PSG might look, a fearful sight for those defending against them, and a daunting one for the likes of Pastore.
Areola; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Layvin Kurzawa; Di Maria, Rabiot, Verratti; Mbappe, Cavani, Neymar.
Updated: August 28, 2017 05:11 PM