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Jul 31, 2014

Bahebeck back in PSG's plans

ESPN FC's Frank Leboeuf indicates he likes the enthusiasm of David Luiz, but should feature as a central midfielder as opposed to a central defender.

After returning to the club this summer following a largely unproductive loan spell at relegated Ligue 1 outfit Valenciennes last season, Paris Saint-Germain's Jean-Christophe Bahebeck did not appear to have much of a future in the French capital.

The 21-year-old French youth international had spent the 2012-13 campaign on loan with another relegated club, ESTAC Troyes, faring slightly better than he did with Valenciennes, but neither spell seemed to particular impressed the French champions, so a departure looked likely when PSG first reported back for pre-season training.

But after an excellent pre-season -- including six goals and a handful of assists in five matches -- Bahebeck could be on the verge of securing his immediate future at Parc des Princes. If he does, then he will finally be given a chance to fulfil his impressive potential.

Since he burst onto the scene in 2011, aged just 16 and in the pre-Qatar Sports Investments' ownership days when PSG were under the leadership of popular coach and former player Antoine Kombouare, Bahebeck was heralded as one of the brightest gems ever produced by the capital club's prolific youth academy. A serial goal scorer at youth level, the versatile attacking talent was expected to go on and play a significant role in the club's future, despite his young age.

Born in the Parisien suburb of Saint-Denis, Bahebeck has been with PSG since he was a young boy.

A handful of goals early on in Bahebeck's career maintained that early momentum. However, once Kombouare departed, his development was stunted and it quickly became evident that he would need to develop elsewhere as Les Parisiens started to buy what seemed to be every talent that they laid their eyes on.

At Troyes, he made 27 appearances at the Stade de l'Aube, scoring three times in the league and laying on two more, but was unable to prevent Jean-Marc Furlan's attractive but limited side from slipping to an immediate return to Ligue 2.

Meanwhile, the France Under-21 man appeared to stagnate at Valenciennes and only managed two goals and a solitary assist in 19 appearances and endured a second successive relegation.

It was because of his lack of contribution for Ariel Jacobs' outfit that many PSG supporters assumed that his time in the capital was over. However, his impressive showings so far since returning -- admittedly only in pre-season -- have created hope that he might yet be able to impose himself in Laurent Blanc's plans for the coming season.

Bahebeck has shown occasional glimpses of his quality and was part of the 2013 French Under-20 FIFA World Cup-winning squad. Most recently, he scored twice in the final of this summer's Toulon Tournament. While France went down 5-2 to Brazil, his second goal -- one of four strikes which saw him finish as the tournament's top scorer -- was particularly impressive.

- FC TV: Leboeuf on David Luiz
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So there is vast potential there. Bahebeck's two goals and two assists in PSG's 6-2 friendly win over Kitchee in Hong Kong on Tuesday may have gone largely unnoticed -- mainly thanks to the fact that star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored three and also chipped in with a handful of assists - but, overall, his steady performances have made him the stand out performer for the French champions in pre-season.

Of course he faces serious competition for a place in the Ligue 1 titleholders' starting XI, but Bahebeck's versatility might work in his favour. He is capable of playing in any of the attacking positions, particularly out wide -- where PSG are currently weak -- and has an eye for goal. Being thrust back into a more competitive environment, as part of a squad infinitely stronger that the one in which he last featured two seasons' ago, he could still thrive in the French capital.

Bahebeck does not boast the same pedigree as Angel Di Maria but his addition to the PSG squad could still provide a useful boon, particularly if the French giants are unsuccessful in their bid to lure the Argentine to the Parc des Princes.

Jonathan Johnson

Based in Paris, Jonathan Johnson is a freelance football journalist and the voice of PSG TV. He writes for ESPN, Bleacher Report and French Football Weekly. You can find him on Twitter @Jon_LeGossip.

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