PSG's youth strategy must learn from Coman's rise at Juventus
In the final minute of last Saturday's UEFA Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona, the Italian giants introduced 18-year-old Frenchman Kingsley Coman to give the teenager a taste of his first major cup final.
Almost 12 months ago, the versatile attacking talent had been warming the substitutes' bench at the Parc des Princes. Many times he was not even included in Paris Saint-Germain's match-day squads, yet last weekend he was featuring in European club football's most prestigious cup game.
Coman's debut season in Italy was not exactly a roaring success on paper; he featured 16 times across all competitions, scored once and provided two assists. However, almost 500 minutes of first-team football in Turin is comfortably more than he was receiving in Paris before last summer's move and -- realistically -- more than he probably would have got in the campaign just finished had he stayed.
However, a late cameo in the Champions League final alone does not justify Coman's decision to leave the French capital for northern Italy. The fact that he has been involved in the starting XI on multiple occasions and got to feature -- albeit fleetingly -- in a game of such magnitude will surely give the Bianconeri man a sense of vindication over his decision to quit PSG.
Undoubtedly, a number of Coman's former teammates and friends from the Ligue 1 giants' youth academy were watching him attempt to help Juventus claw back a late equaliser. Some, if not most, of those current PSG youngsters were probably asking themselves the same question too; whether they need to take a similar risk in the near future in order to make the breakthrough at a senior level, with chances at a premium in Paris.
Coman's is a cautionary tale for Les Parisiens; a reminder not to take their wonderfully talented youth academy starlets for granted. If this summer's early action is anything to go by, the capital club's ability to learn from their past mistakes is going to be tested sooner rather than later.
France is renowned for producing talented young footballers prodigiously and the country's youth teams are regularly among the best in the world game. The proof of this particular pudding is in the eating too; the French have taken part in two youth tournaments in the past six weeks and won both.
The under-17s secured their second UEFA European Championship crown and the under-20s bagged an impressive 12th Toulon tournament title as recently as last weekend, the day after Coman was trotting onto the Olympiastadion pitch in Berlin for Juventus.
Had he not been involved in the Champions League final, the Frenchman probably would have been a part of Ludovic Batelli's triumphant side. Instead, it was some of Coman's former teammates and fellow homegrown PSG gems that helped to secure both international successes.
Les Parisiens boasted four members of the French under-17 side that won the Euro title and Odsonne Edouard, a talented 17-year-old striker, scored eight goals en route to the title. Defenders Alec Georgen and Mamadou Doucoure, as well as versatile attacker Nanitamo Jonathan Ikone, were the other representatives. Doucoure scored once, while Ikone bagged three goals.
Those PSG players scored all but just two of Les Bleuets' 15 total goals. Although the Ligue 1 champions' contribution towards Toulon success was not quite as telling as it was in the under-17 European Championship, the French capital outfit's representatives still played a significant role.
Romain Habran caught the eye with a stunning long-range missile of a strike against the Netherlands in the final group stage match. He scored one more, assisted another and then got himself sent off in the space of 10 crazy second half minutes of a feisty 3-1 final win over Morocco.
The 20-year-old spent the recent season on loan at Ligue 2 side FC Sochaux-Montbeliard and featured regularly. Habran might not be far from being a realistic option for PSG coach Laurent Blanc, while Presnel Kimpembe -- who has already made his senior debut -- and Jordan Diakiese were also part of France's Toulon squad.
On top of those in youth tournament action this summer, PSG already possess highly rated attacking talent Jean-Kevin Augustin -- who signed is first professional contract with the club through to 2018 back in February.
Another youth academy graduate, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, was under-used last season, while excellent young goalkeeper Alphonse Areola spent a second season out on loan. The prodigiously gifted and frustratingly precocious 20-year-old midfielder, Adrien Rabiot, is the only youth academy graduate currently featuring on a regular basis in Blanc's starting XI.
In the current situation under PSG's ambitious Qatari owners though, it is not as easy for a coach to promote from within -- as it was when the likes of celebrated youth products Mamadou Sakho and Clement Chantome burst through the ranks. However, this summer has already proved that PSG are still creating plenty of fantastic young talent, even if it is more difficult for these gifted youngsters to work their way to the top. What the club must do now is recognise the achievements of some of these teenagers -- particularly the prolific Edouard -- and actively look to fast-track them into the first team squad.
It is unlikely that all of PSG's young talents will make the grade, but the French champions wanted to keep hold of Coman and failed to convince him of their intentions to develop him into a future homegrown star.
Les Parisiens have a chance to atone for that error in judgement by identifying the top talents ahead of time and convincing the likes of Edouard, Augustin, Habran and Kimpembe that they can realise their potential at Parc des Princes -- and then help them accomplish that.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.