'It should be forbidden!' - PSG left fuming as academy Bundesliga exodus set to continue

Christopher Nkunku RB Leipzig Tanguy Nianzou Bayern Munich GFX
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The Ligue 1 heavyweights are frustrated at losing their best young talent but opportunities for progression are limited at Parc des Princes

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo declared war on Premier League and Bundesliga clubs last week for poaching PSG’s young players.

Bayern Munich came in for particular criticism as the Brazilian cited the case of Tanguy Nianzou, who featured regularly for PSG last term only to depart on a free transfer to join up with the side who defeated the Parisians in August’s Champions League final, courtesy of a goal by one of their own academy graduates in Kingsley Coman. 

Since moving to Germany, Nianzou, who was known as Kouassi in France, has played only 21 minutes, albeit largely because of physical problems.

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Referencing German and English clubs specifically, Leonardo told France Bleu: "They talk to the families of the young players, they try to convince them by making grand promises when they are only 15. It should be forbidden!”

Brexit has essentially solved the issue of Premier League clubs taking on players so young, but the problems presented by Bundesliga sides remain.

PSG have certainly lost a plethora of players to Germany, with Dan-Axel Zagadou (Borussia Dortmund), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen) and Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig) three of their other more notable names to make the move in recent years.

“The problem is that they think elsewhere it is paradise,” Leonardo said. "We say: ‘PSG have lost a youngster' but sometimes I think that it’s not PSG that loses, but the young people who lose PSG. There are many young players who want to come back.”

In truth, first-team opportunities for PSG's current academy players are still limited. Diaby, Nkunku and Nianzou had a few chances in Paris, but none had guarantees of continued involvement, even after bright displays in the first team.

Leonardo PSG quote GFX

The problem young players have in making an impression at Parc des Princes was highlighted during Wednesday’s Ligue 1 encounter with Bordeaux.

PSG went into that game without seven first-team regulars but only two academy players even saw the pitch. One of those, Presnel Kimpembe, is now 25 and made his debut over six years ago.

This is precisely why so many French youngsters are drawn to Bundesliga clubs, according to Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc.

"We are actively approached by families and their advisers from France because they often see better permeability and greater potential for developing the talents that are with us," he told Bild.

Indeed, Kimpembe is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to young players making a career for themselves at PSG.

Little wonder, then, that Mitchel Bakker stormed out of the warm-down after the Ligue 1 fixture against Dijon last Sunday, having seen Abdou Diallo, a centre-half, picked ahead of him at left-back.

While that situation was rapidly patched up, it only served to highlight the frustration felt by former youth-team stars.

As even Leonardo has admitted, “We have to improve our relationship with our young players."

What won't be helping Leonardo's mood is seeing Lille top of the Ligue 1 table with a team featuring four PSG graduates in Mike Maignan, Boubakary Soumare, Jonathan Ikone and Timothy Weah. 

That the former AC Milan midfielder realises that PSG have their own issues to resolve is clearly a positive, but actions speak louder than words. The club needs to remove as many obstacles as possible on the path to the first team.

Mitchel Bakker Kylian Mbappe PSG GFX

However, even if some of Leonardo’s complaints about Bundesliga clubs have been derided by some critics, he was right on one score.

“What is happening today is not only a question of PSG,” he argued. “There is a rule: you can only give a contract of three years to a young player who is 16. At 19, he is free.

"That's a regulation that is completely detrimental to France because everyone just waits for the contract to finish before saying: 'Come here!'"

In the post-pandemic years, when financial reality bites around the world and transfer fees become unaffordable, it is easy to see snapping up young free agents becoming a standard means of recruitment.

That is certainly alarming for many French clubs that rely on the production of young talent to succeed both in a sporting and financial sense.

Eduardo Camavinga is a case in point at Rennes.

The 18-year-old’s contract is up in 2022, leaving the Breton club vulnerable to selling as early as this summer if the prodigious midfielder cannot be talked into extending his deal. 

With the likes of Real Madrid and several top Premier League clubs hovering, that will be no easy task.

Obviously, Leonardo would be well advised to get his own house in order before pointing fingers at others but he did make an important point about the movement of young players in the game today and his anger is unlikely to subside any time soon.

Indeed, Bild is now reporting that PSG's 17-year-old centre-back Soumaila Coulibaly will join Dortmund in the summer.

Expect more shots to be fired in Leonardo's war on the Bundesliga.