21 Defender Paris Saint Germain France
2014 has been...
A predictable continuation of the rise of Lucas Digne. The 21-year-old Frenchman secured his move into the star-studded environs of Paris Saint-Germain in July 2013 and has never for a moment looked out of place there or anywhere else in his fledgling career. He made his France Under-16 debut in 2008 and has played for his country at every under-age level since then.
This year he took the final step. Didier Deschamps gave Digne his senior international debut off the bench in a friendly win over the Netherlands in March and he’s been rattling his way through the caps ever since. He was included in Deschamps’ World Cup squad for the competition in Brazil in the summer and played 90 minutes against Ecuador.
Even before his debut it seemed clear that Digne was a young man poised for two prime football roles. For France, he’s the heir to Patrice Evra at left back. At club level he will undoubtedly be the long-term replacement for Maxwell, who said back in February that Digne reminds him of a younger version of another famous PSG left back: Maxwell.
Overcoming two stalwarts like these will take a good deal of time and Digne’s mental approach to the challenge couldn’t put him in a better position. Since moving to Paris he’s been patient and unswervingly professional in his actions and his words, and has openly expressed his willingness to bide his time.
Digne joined PSG from Lille for a fair old chunk o’ change last July and has needed every bit of his level-headed and smart strategy. 15 Ligue 1 starts in 2013/14 wasn’t bad going but expensive youngsters aren’t always so willing to kick back and take the wise route.
Laurent Blanc, PSG’s head coach, seems willing to ease Digne further towards his obvious destiny this term. He’s starting league games more frequently and is being built up, match by match, into a player for PSG’s medium-term. A gambling man might fancy his chances of forcing Blanc’s hand and making himself indispensable before the end of even that timescale.
Digne, competition with more senior players or not, is excellent. He handled the move from Lille seamlessly, never once missing a beat. He’s a flying left back, his starting position slightly deeper at PSG than at Lille because PSG’s wide forwards work the channel ahead of him. Nevertheless, he overlaps with good pace at every opportunity. Like any good modern full back he loves getting forward. He loves it more than most, and he’s lethal when he gets there.
Digne’s crossing is his most dangerous and most endearing attribute. His left foot is an extraordinary weapon with which he whips in the most gorgeous deliveries of the kind that the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani will come to adore. He has a thumping shot as well and he’ll score lots more screamers in his career.
His short passing game is efficient and competent, and helps him get up the field through exchanges with his team-mates. By and large, he stays wide just as he did with Lille. He’s always available as an out-ball, causing huge problems for the opposition just by his positioning and the fact that he crosses so well.
Of course, there’s no getting around the fact that a left back, even now, is required to defend. He’s quite solid defensively, good at preventing crosses when he’s holding his position well. But he can get sucked forwards towards the ball a little too easily, which betrays an eagerness and slight naïveté that will be smoothed out with experience.
But Digne is, essentially, an attack-first full back. With centre backs that pull wide when their team have the ball, and a midfield corps that variously boasts the deep-lying skills of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot, that’s exactly the kind of full back PSG need.
With a Ligue 1 title and an Under-20 World Cup winner’s medal to his name already, Digne’s success to date has been impressive. Next up for the boy from Meaux is to take up his ordained place as first choice for club and country, and he will do exactly that. On top of all the football ability, Digne is a young man with his head screwed on. He has the intelligence and the streetwise wherewithal to progress accordingly.
At a club with the resources of Paris Saint-Germain there are enormous expectations of the players collectively as well as individually, and Digne needs to be a part of a PSG side that makes a bigger mark on the Champions League in the coming years. But, in amongst all the big money signings, his €15m signing from Lille on a five-year contract might have been one of the most astute captures in Europe in the last two years.
"Was a great addition to France's World Cup squad. Wonderful left-foot, great attitude and will be PSG and Les Bleus left-back for a long time." - Andrew Gibney
"PSG have lost just two of the 21 Ligue 1 appearances that Digne has made for the club; winning 14." - OptaJoe
B A household name in the making.
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