After Lille’s fairy-tale season which culminated on the final matchday of the 2020-21 season, Ligue 1 returns to action for its 84th season after a mouth-watering 83rd chapter.
Paris Saint-Germain, the nine-time winners, and three-time defending champions were dethroned last season, in which they saw a change in the managerial seat. Mauricio Pochettino, whose contract is now extended until June 2023, replaced Thomas Tuchel after the German had fallen out with the club’s management over the running of the club and the recognition that he received as the manager.
Paris Saint-Germain is delighted to announce Mauricio Pochettino and his staff are now contracted to the club from the capital until 30 June 2023. ✍️🔴🔵 https://t.co/daOhYRpEh9
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) July 23, 2021
Under the Argentine, the club challenged Lille for the league until the very end but were not able to pip Les Dogues for the top spot. Even in the Champions League, it was heartbreak for the Parisiens as they crashed out in the semi-finals but one silver lining for the last season would be their triumph in the domestic cup competitions as they went on to lift the Coupe de France and the French Super Cup, after defeating Monaco and Marseille, respectively in the finals.
⚽🅰️ @KMbappe scored and set up @MauroIcardi to help @PSG_English to the @coupedefrance 🏆
— Ligue1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) May 20, 2021
In order to take back that top spot from Lille in the league, and win that elusive Champions League title, PSG’s strategy has been aggressive but smart in the transfer as they bought in some high-profile names such as Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Georginio Wijnaldum on free deals but spent heavily on the transfer of Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan for a reported deal of nearly €70 million including add-ons.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) July 14, 2021
But they would have to balance those signings out with some sales and open space for any other potential arrivals in the later of the transfer window and FootTheBall is here to look at three players PSG can sell to achieve those objectives.
He might have moved only last summer from Barcelona to PSG, but Rafael Alcântara do Nascimento or Rafinha, can be categorised as deadwood in the squad just after one season. The Brazilian who had featured for Celta Vigo on loan from the Blaugrana had moved to the French capital in 2020 that surprised not only the pundits and fans around the world but even the fans of the club, who were astonished at the signing.
Rafinha has gone down the pecking order at PSG, who are likely to sell him this summer. (Image Courtesy: UEFA / Website)
While he managed to find some minutes, primarily in the league due to the various injuries to his midfield partners, he was mainly used as a rotational player but is now set to receive even less than what he did in the previous. This is due to the arrival of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool on a free transfer and potentially Paul Pogba from Manchester United.
Proud! It's a very special day for me and my family. Really looking forward to this new journey with this great club 🔴🔵
🇫🇷 Fier! C'est un jour très spécial pour moi et ma famille. Excité par cette nouvelle aventure avec ce grand club🔴🔵#AllezParis #WeAreParis #ICICESTPARIS pic.twitter.com/mwo2K8MWW4
— Gini Wijnaldum (@GWijnaldum) July 22, 2021
If the superstar midfielder leaves the Red Devils and joins the Parisien club, let alone Rafinha, it will be difficult for players such as Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira, and Idrissa Gueye to get the minutes they would want.Also, with the arrival of Sergio Ramos, we might see the return of Marquinhos into the midfield or Pochettino changing the system into a back-three, leaving with only two central midfielder spots.
PSG are reportedly close to agreeing personal terms with Paul Pogba
— utdreport (@utdreport) July 20, 2021
With interest increasing from Turkey for the services of the Brazilian, it is the best time for PSG to sell him and for Rafinha too as he can prolong his professional career for another three to four years.
Along with Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe is seen as the true heir to the two greats of the 21st century, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, and both of the youngsters have their futures in somewhat of a dilemma going into the 2021-22 season.
Kylian Mbappe celebrating after scoring 100 Ligue 1 goals. (Image Courtesy: Ligue 1 / Website)
While PSG are getting a new world-class starting eleven and a strong bench ready to fight on two fronts, the contractual situation with the youngster is their main obstacle before the start of the new campaign. Mbappe has entered into the final year of his contract and is near certain to leave the French capital and follow his idol, Ronaldo and join his dream club, Real Madrid when the time arrives.
🚨🌕| Mbappé informed Pochettino in the final weeks of last season that he would NOT renew his contract. His idea remains the same: Not renewing and waiting for PSG to call Real Madrid. 🇫🇷 @jfelixdiaz #rmalive
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) July 23, 2021
It is an open secret that even Los Blancos have admired the Frenchman over the years and are ready to make him their newest Galactico, but the question remains: Will it be this summer or the next? Many of the Spanish clubs are facing financial issues due to the coronavirus pandemic but Florentino Perez had made sure that his club are stable enough to spend money if necessary.
It has become a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’, the president of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez will sanction the deal for Mbappe. (Image Courtesy: Managing Madrid / Website)
PSG will more likely want their star attacker to sign a new deal this year but the unwillingness of Mbappe to put pen to paper might force them to sell him this summer rather than facing the risk of losing him for free in the next. While Real Madrid’s cash reserves depend on their outgoings, specifically that of Raphael Varane, whose potential transfer to Manchester United is in advanced stages, PSG will have to sell for something, around €100 million in order to recoup some of their initial investment on Mbappe, nearly €180 million, the amount they spent for his arrival from Monaco.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
He might still have an important role to play at the club after the potential departure of Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid, but it is visible that Julian Draxler needs to move away from the capital club and look at having regular game time rather than the erratic minutes that he gets in Paris.
Julian Draxler, in action for PSG in the league. (Image Courtesy: PSG / Website)
A product from the esteemed youth system of Schalke, Draxler arrived as an exciting talent at PSG after spending 18 months with Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, for whom the Paris club had to fight many clubs such as Arsenal, but the German hasn’t had the expected impact that he had shown at Schalke and Wolfsburg.
Draxler is a player that thrives on being the star player of a team that lets him do whatever he feels like, and he cannot be that kind at PSG, with the likes of Neymar and Mbappe being around. He says in his own words that he has had to change his game while being at the clubs which has quite clearly affected him in a negative way.
✍️ @PSG_English is delighted to announce that Julian Draxler has signed a three-year contract extension until 30 June 2024! 🔴🔵 #Draxler2024 https://t.co/CyDDJQ1qAM
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) May 17, 2021
One caveat, however, would be that PSG look at Draxler as being an important squad member and that was evident with his contract extension until 2024. And although this will affect his outgoing this summer, clubs such as AC Milan, who are in need of a creative force after the departure of Hakan Calhanoglu will keep an eye on the 27-year-old until the end of the transfer window.
With the signings that the club have made and more potential transfers incoming, PSG will have to sell for both reasons, first to balance the books and secondly, not to have a large squad filled with players who tend to have minimal minutes. And for that, they will need to clear out a whole lot of players from a squad that has nine goalkeepers and a host of midfielders and that will certainly take some time.