Le50 2017 – Presnel Kimpembe
Despite PSG’s focus on big name players and multi-million Euro deals, they are still capable of producing some great young talent. Whilst many don’t get the opportunities they deserve before eventually being shipped on without troubling the first team, centre back Presnel Kimpembe looks to be one the Parisians are rightfully keen to retain.
Born in a small town an hour north of Paris to parents of Congolese and Haitian background, Kimpembe played for local side AS Eragny before being spotted by PSG scouts and joining the capital club at the age of 10. After turning out for the CFA side, Kimpembe made his first team debut in October 2014, his only appearance that season. He made a handful more appearances during the 2015/16 campaign and impressed during each opportunity he was given. It was the subsequent season where Kimpembe really announced himself to a wider audience.
Kimpembe was drafted in as back-up to first choice centre back pairing Marquinhos and Thiago Silva with Unai Emery showing great confidence in the youngster by not recruiting a new defender once David Luiz was sold back to Chelsea. In the early part of the season, Kimpembe saw a decent amount of game time with Marquinhos on a delayed return post the Olympics and Thiago Silva out through injury. For those watching PSG during those games, they would have been hard pressed to identify the rookie in the team as Kimpembe looked completely at ease.
It’s that composure which really sets Kimpembe apart from the other excellent young defenders around France. Be it in the league, the cups or European competition, Kimpembe never seems to let the occasion get to him. One of many stand-out appearances last season was in PSG’s 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League. Replacing the injured Silva, PSG’s defence, if anything, looked even more solid. The debacle of the return leg, after Thiago Silva had been brought back in at Kimpembe’s expense, only added to the youngster’s credit.
Along with superb levels of calmness, Kimpembe is quick, athletic and wise on the ball. With his strong physique and good turn of speed, he can and has played at left back but it is at centre back where he will continue to play the majority of his football. Unlike a number of other modern defenders who seem to want to dribble the ball out of defence, Kimpembe prefers playing the simple, effective pass, be it short or long; yet another attribute synonymous with his cool head. For someone so young he can read the game incredibly well and there are some who believe he warrants a more permanent starting position in the PSG defence.
In terms of weaknesses, the one real area which Kimpembe needs to improve is his aerial dominance. At only 6 foot, he’s perhaps a little on the shorter side compared to other leading defenders so will need to work on ensuring he makes up for that lack of height if he is to truly dominate. Something that will come with age, Kimpembe will also need to learn to lose any fear of taking charge. As it looks like he’s being groomed to eventually take over from Thiago Silva, he’ll have big shoes to fill in terms of barking orders.
With increased playing time for PSG and now having been called up for the national team by coach Didier Deschamps during the last few international breaks, interest from other clubs has grown. Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and most recently Inter Milan have all made enquiries regarding the player’s availability. However each time, those approaches have been met by a firm refusal from PSG. In fact the club demonstrated their desire to retain the player as he signed a new five year deal back in late 2016. Things continue to be on the rise for Kimpembe, his salary included after that new deal, and the arguments for his inclusion in the PSG starting XI will only get louder. The onus will therefore be on PSG to give the player the minutes he deserves.