Adil Aouchiche: Equalling Platini just the start for PSG's teen star

Adil Aouchiche NxGnGoal

At the age of just 17 years and 46 days, Adil Aouchiche stepped out with the rest of his Paris Saint-Germain team-mates as they took on newly-promoted Metz in Ligue 1. Never before had a younger player started for the Ligue 1 champions, with huge things expected of a midfielder who is still to sign his first professional contract.

Aouchiche played 65 minutes of that 2-0 win in late August and, while he is yet to reappear in Thomas Tuchel's first team, he trains every day with the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Marco Verratti as he waits for his next chance. It is unlikely to be his final appearance of the season despite the added depth now within Les Parisiens' squad.

Born in the French capital to a family of Algerian descent, Aouchiche joined the PSG academy in 2014 having spent his early years with amateur clubs Mitry Mory and Tremblay. He impressed immediately, though he did spend almost a whole season on the sidelines around the age of 14 due to a number of injuries that coincided with a growth spurt.

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Fortunately it did not affect him overly, and the following season he shone.

"At that time, he was coming out of a difficult season with several injuries related to his growth," his Under-15s coach Said Aigoun recalls when speaking to Goal. "Adil wondered if he would finally be able to show his true self. He had a big year, scoring 29 goals from midfield.

"He understood that it was necessary to have the attitude of a professional. It's something he already had, we did not have to force it on him because he has an education that was based on respect and a willingness to work while still having his own character. He respects instructions and always gives the best of himself. He possesses a good balance between the desire to play well, to be unselfish and to win with his team-mates."

Despite all that, there was no doubt that Aouchiche was the star attraction for France at the U17 European Championship in Ireland during the summer of 2019. Despite playing as a central midfielder, he scored nine goals in just four matches, including a hat-trick against Sweden in the group stage and four against Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.

His haul saw him equal Michel Platini's record for the most goals in a single UEFA international tournament, with the legendary France attacking midfielder netting on nine occasions as he captained his country to their first major trophy at Euro 84. Comparisons were understandably immediately drawn, though Aouchiche tends to play in a more withdrawn role before driving into attacking areas.

Adil Aouchiche PSG GFX

Those performances came off the back of a year playing with PSG's U19 squad under the tutelage of former Champions League-winning midfielder Thiago Motta. Despite playing against players who were three years his senior, he again put in some eye-catching performances, including in the UEFA Youth League when coming up against some of Europe's best and brightest.

"The year with Thiago has been instructive on the tactical aspect, his position and the demands of the coach," Laurent Huard, who briefly coached Aouchiche at U17 level before it was clear he was outclassing his opponents, told Goal. "With us, he worked on the collective and competitive aspect: he was made to look for solutions and understand that everything was not a given. He has now tried to bridge the age gap, despite some difficulties and passages on the bench."

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Aouchiche continues to represent the PSG youth sides, but there is an understanding that, by the end of the campaign, he will become far more of a fixture among Tuchel's matchday squads. Some impressive turns in pre-season were a precursor to his competitive debut, and he is now learning from some of the very best players on the planet.

"He looks a lot at his team-mates and uses them as an example for himself," says Huard. "He wants all the time to be half an hour early in training. He tries to be punctual and give himself the best chance to earn more opportunities. But he also knows that he still has work to do, both physically and tactically."

Aouchiche himself told Goal about how much he is enjoying his new surroundings in the aftermath of a France U18s match earlier this season, saying: "It is a great experience. I'm having the best time, I've had some playing time and it was super rewarding."

PSG's pursuit of greatness has rarely allowed for players quite as inexperienced as Aouchiche to make an impact at first-team level, but there is a recognition that, in the teenager, the club have a real gem whom they must continue to nurture, particularly as they look to tie him down to a contract in the coming months.

For now he can just continue to live out a childhood dream while learning from superstars of the modern game. If half their talent rubs off on him then the arrival of the world's next great goalscoring midfielder may not be far away.