19 Midfielder Paris Saint Germain France
2014 has been...
Imagine it. You’re 19 years of age, baby-faced and bursting with the short-lived vigour of youth. You’re playing for the biggest local football club, which also happens to be one of the biggest and richest in Europe. You get playing time, here and there, but it’s obvious that biding your time is the smart move to lay the groundwork for a very successful career.
So why, Adrien Rabiot of Paris Saint-Germain, would you be agitated and unsettled?
Rabiot was born in the suburbs of Paris and played his youth football for Creteil, Alfortville and Pau, as well as Manchester City, before heading for PSG and flourishing into a first team squad player by way of a successful loan spell at fellow Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse.
Rabiot’s mother Veronique is his agent and is frequently questioned by observers because of her son’s decision-making off the pitch. Rabiot stood out by a mile for PSG’s Under-17 side and has a reputation and attitude that reflect that. He’s constantly the subject of speculation and doesn’t shy away from causing a stir.
When PSG signed Lucas Digne from Lille – older than Rabiot and by then in the reckoning for the senior France team – Rabiot rejected a contract offer reportedly on the grounds that Digne was earning more. Adrien and Veronique have, throughout this year, allowed speculation to thrive in a manner that paints the teenager as an entitled brat when the truth is he should be patient, even grateful.
What a shame all that nonsense is, because Rabiot in full flow is remarkable. Dominantly left-footed, he plays dead centre of midfield and operates largely within the width of the 18-yard box and in between those penalty areas, very often around the centre spot itself. He has all the makings of a top class passer, the long-term replacement for Marco Verratti in terms of both style and efficiency.
His passing range is delightful, from the short pass that keeps PSG moving to the killer pass in behind from deep. On most occasions he executes both brilliantly. He finds space and shows for the ball well when PSG have possession, and boasts a decent first touch (in large part because he tends to find a good spot and therefore receives the simplest passes) and a willingness to get back and tackle, though not always with adequate technique.
His vision marks him out as more of a playmaker than a destroyer and his ability to play with Verratti suggests that there’s room in that PSG midfield for more than one of those. He takes more risks than Verratti, both with his inventive passes and in possession under pressure. Sometimes the feet just can’t keep up with the brain.
Rabiot’s not a dribbler. He attacks spaces aggressively before looking to offload the ball to a more threatening player. He ploughs that central furrow and lets his excellent technique shine for the betterment of his team. At his best, the kid’s an absolute joy.
But Rabiot, for all the talk and fuss, isn’t yet the finished article. Some games seem to pass him by, not least in the blue of France. Consistency and maturity aren’t demands that are often made of 19-year-olds, but, if Rabiot wants to talk the talk, he’s going to have to do some serious walkin’.
That means adding some goals, which won’t be easy for a player who isn’t a natural finisher. It means performing consistently and, very possibly, stepping into Verratti’s shoes alongside Thiago Motta when the younger of PSG’s Italian pair inevitably moves on. He might take a few more risks than a player who yields Verratti’s statistics, but they’re often risks worth taking.
Most importantly, Rabiot’s immediate future finally looks secure. After Laurent Blanc had said in September that he would be sold in January, Rabiot surprised the media by signing a new five-year contract in October. It’s vital that this is the end of the unsettled chapter of Rabiot’s development. He won’t get a better opportunity to shine than the one coming his way in the next two years.
With that in mind, he needs to calm down and start listening to better advice. Comments about how, “it is difficult to accelerate professionally at PSG” must be placed firmly in the past, and reported interest from Chelsea, Arsenal, Roma, Manchester United and the like must be forgotten.
A player of Rabiot’s heightened sense of self is undoubtedly keen to make strides on the international scene. France’s Under-16s, Under-17s, Under-18s, Under-19s, Under-20s and Under-21s have all made use of him in the last five years. At the time of writing he’s played six times for the Under-21s since his debut in August 2013. Full caps should be inevitable; if he doesn’t get a stack of them, he’ll only have himself to blame.
Domestically, Rabiot simply needs to maintain his focus and take his chances. If he does, he’s good enough to get into the team more regularly and keep his ego, his mother and his wallet happy. He must keep going with the France Under-21s, too, in preparation for an international career of note. It’s all within his range.
If he fulfils his vast potential he’ll have been worth the wait and the irritation for PSG. Rabiot should mature into quite a player, and, with Verratti expected by many to be the big-money sale on PSG’s horizon, he could be just the player they need.
"Attitude problems between him and his mother has stopped his progression. This could be the downfall of his young career. More question marks than answers." - Andrew Gibney
"In his league career with Paris Saint-Germain, Adrien Rabiot has retained a passing accuracy of 90%." - OptaJoe
C- Wind your neck in and be brilliant.
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