Lucas Digne 20 Defender PSG France
2013 has been…
Brazilian full back Maxwell, trusted friend of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the only obvious chink in the Swede’s suit of hyper-aloofness armour, signed a new Paris Saint-Germain contract early in 2012. In theory, that deal keeps him at the Parc des Princes until January 2015, when he will be 34 years old, but Les Rouge-et-Bleu won’t need to worry about replacing him. He could easily have been usurped by then thanks to a signing made this summer.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc has kept faith with Maxwell but has an able deputy waiting in the wings, and 20-year-old Lucas Digne is smart enough to know what’s good for him. A level head on the shoulders of an exceptional prospect, Digne’s aware that his move to the capital from Lille was a sign of bigger things to come even if he doesn’t play a great deal of first team football in his first campaign.
Digne is growing into the archetypal modern left back, a blend of defensive awareness and unrestricted attacking intent. His final half-season at Lille demonstrated that Digne is extremely ambitious going forward, so much so that he’s no stranger to the offside flag. He plays a simple game: hug the touchline, offer an out-ball on the diagonal or from the inside out, and look for a give-and-go.
Without the ball he is disciplined – a characteristic that minimizes risk when in possession too – and well positioned, a no-nonsense but intelligent player whose style is perfect for teams who dominate the ball. In essence, he’s a winger who drops in and defends adequately when required.
Meaux-born Digne does nothing to cover up his love of getting forward and providing a cross – with varying results – and hit the scoring charts in April. His first Ligue 1 goal for LOSC, a penalty against Lorient to make it 3-0 in a 5-0 win that was done and dusted long before half time, was far from emphatic. But Digne made sure we all knew what he could do with a stunning equalising goal against Bastia a fortnight later, a moving, rising left-footed drive into the top corner that left Mickael Landreau grasping air.
Digne’s brief at Lille was to play high up the field and offer width on the left, meaning that there were long spells of matches when he wasn’t exactly in the thick of the action. Nevertheless, he was named in Joey Barton’s Ligue 1 Team of the Season – seriously – and, more importantly, had attracted attention from London, Liverpool and Paris, where Eric Abidal’s exit soon paved the way for a big money switch.
After a €15m move, Digne made his Ligue 1 debut for PSG against Bordeaux in September, covering for Maxwell after the Brazilian had been on international duty. He played against Valenciennes later that month, and stepped in for Maxwell again after Brazil’s October friendlies, playing his first game for PSG at home against Bastia, a predictably comfortable victory capped off by a penalty won by the young full back.
He made his Under-21 debut for France earlier this year and also represented France at the Under-20 World Cup this year. They returned from Turkey triumphant, trophy in tow, and with players of Digne’s mindset (“I do not care for now,” he said while focusing his attentions on the tournament even as PSG circled for his signature) who can be surprised.
Digne’s played for France at every level between Under-16 and Under-21 and the first team is undoubtedly in his future. His time will come for Les Bleus and for his club team too. They paid good money for him, and pay him good money, and it’s easy to see why.
"Superb season at Lille, the move to PSG may have cost him a place in the France team for now, but he is starting to show his obvious class at PSG. Will be France's long-term left-back." Andrew Gibney, French Football Weekly
"Paris Saint-Germain are yet to concede in Ligue 1 when Lucas Digne has played - five games, five wins and five clean sheets." - Opta
C+ Biding his time after taking a big opportunity, but a nailed-on success