No Neymar, Mbappe or Cavani! How Stoke reject Choupo-Moting became PSG's saviour

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The Parisians have three superstar forwards unavailable through injury, so Thomas Tuchel has turned to a player whose career was in tatters a year ago

On May 5, 2018, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting watched on from the stands as his Stoke City side were relegated from the Premier League.

Now, incredibly, the German-born Cameroon international is set to become the main striker at European giants Paris Saint-Germain – albeit temporarily – with star attackers Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani all sidelined for one reason or another.

Choupo-Moting started his senior football journey with home-town club Hamburg in the Bundesliga, eventually making his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in the 2007-08 season opener against Hannover.

The academy product struggled to make the grade in Martin Jol's team and was released in the summer of 2011. However, he was signed on a free transfer by Mainz, who boasted a young, highly rated up-and-coming German coach by the name of Thomas Tuchel.

Still only 22, Choupo-Moting showed his first signs of carving out a successful top-flight career for himself, netting 10 Bundesliga goals in his debut season at the Opel Arena. While he couldn't repeat the feat the following campaign because of injury, he again hit 10 goals in 2013-14 to help Mainz secure Europa League qualification.

Choupo-Moting's steady development caught the eye of Schalke, who signed him on a free transfer to play behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, as the Gelsenkirchen outfit looked to close the gap to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund after a third-placed finish the season before.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting FC Schalke 04 21102014

But the partnership between Choupo-Moting and Huntelaar failed to click, with both scoring just nine league goals apiece as Schalke finished in sixth position.

Things only got worse from there. Choupo-Moting managed just nine more Bundesliga goals over the next two campaigns.

After unsurprisingly failing to agree terms on a new deal with Schalke, Choupo-Moting once again became a free agent, and, in 2017, Stoke City took a chance on the forward.

The early signs were promising. In a scintillating performance on only his third start for the Potters, Choupo-Moting scored both goals in his side's 2-2 draw with Jose Mourinho's Manchester United.

However, his goal contributions dried up as the team's results began to drop off and by the time he was struck down by injury with seven league games to play, Stoke were already hurtling towards relegation.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting Stoke 2017-18

Even when he returned to full fitness, he was frozen out of the first team. Indeed, he was left out of the matchday squad for Stoke's first five matches in the Championship.

His career appeared to be in tatters. However, on deadline day during the 2018 summer window, the surprise transfer dropped – Choupo-Moting had been signed by French champions PSG.

On the surface, it was one of the most surprising moves in football history. However, while everyone else had seemingly given up on Choupo-Moting, Tuchel hadn't.

Choupo-Moting had played the best football of his career under Tuchel at Mainz, so when the former Borussia Dortmund boss took over at the Parc des Princes, he decided to re-sign his former charge.

"We've been looking for a few weeks for cover for Cavani," Tuchel explained on the day Choupo-Moting arrived in Paris. "The opportunity [to provide cover] has arrived through Eric, who is a top-level player and one that can always make an instant impact when he comes off the bench."

Hardly surprising, then, that Choupo-Moting was used primarily as a substitute last season. He made only 13 starts in all competitions but he contributed three goals and ended the season as a Ligue 1 champion and French Super Cup winner 

The role of 'impact sub' beckoned again this season, even with Neymar ruled out of the start of the 2019-20 campaign through injury.

However, Choupo-Moting became a whole lot more important in the space of 52 minutes, as Cavani and Mbappe were both struck down by muscle injuries in PSG's third Ligue 1 outing of the season, against Toulouse.

With the game scoreless, Choupo-Moting was introduced in place of Cavani and took advantage of a fortuitous deflection to execute a 180-degree spin through the Toulouse defence before breaking the deadlock with a stinging left-footed drive off the post.

Choupo-Moting went on to net again, clinically drilling Angel di Maria's pull-back into the net, as PSG ultimately romped to a 4-0 win.

It was the first time Choupo-Moting had scored more than once in a game since his stellar showing against United two years ago.

Tuchel, unsurprisingly, couldn't have been prouder, not only of Choupo-Moting's goals, but also his professionalism.

"He never lost confidence," the PSG coach enthused. "Since the start of the season, he has given it everything. For an attacker, it's important to score goals. He deserves it."

With Mbappe and Cavani now in line to miss PSG's next four matches in all competitions, including their Champions League opener, and Neymar still pushing for a transfer, Choupo-Moting will be trusted by Tuchel to lead the line.

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It's a story of incredible perseverance on Choupo-Moting's part, to become the main man at one of the world's biggest clubs after being discarded by a Championship club less than 12 months ago.

His generally unremarkable playing career has been revived through a bond built with a former coach eight seasons ago.

Consequently, a 30-year-old veteran who has never fetched a single cent in transfer fees in 12 years of senior football has suddenly become priceless to one of the world's richest clubs.

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