In PSG's preseason, Jean-Kevin Augustin's form can't be ignored
Paris Saint-Germain's lengthy pursuit of Angel Di Maria seemingly edged closer to its conclusion over the weekend and the French media is now anxiously awaiting official word on the potential acquisition of the Manchester United man.
Since the end of an immensely successful season for PSG, rumours have linked the Argentina international with the move that he was expected to make last summer before ultimately opting to move to Old Trafford instead.
Now it appears only a matter of time before that finally becomes reality.
However, while many are concentrating on Di Maria's potential arrival over the French champions' preseason preparations in the International Champions Cup (ICC) in the U.S. at present, there has also been a big development on the pitch over the past few weeks.
Jean-Kevin Augustin, an 18-year-old attacker who signed his first professional contract with Les Parisiens back in February of this year, has been the undoubted revelation of the capital club's North American tour so far. The youngster is benefiting from the distraction that the Di Maria saga is providing.
Augustin has started all four of PSG's preseason warm-up matches so far and the teenage sensation has impressed in every one, most recently the 1-1 draw against Chelsea in Charlotte on Saturday that ended in a penalty shootout loss for Laurent Blanc's men.
He might not have scored against the Blues, but Augustin -- along with Lucas Moura -- was arguably the French giants' most impressive performer at the Bank of America Stadium.
It was the Frenchman's exquisite movement on the edge of the Chelsea box that threw Gary Cahill and enabled him to squeeze off a shot that hit the post and was then tucked away by Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the opening goal of the game.
Augustin did not just catch the eye because of that one moment though. For the 65 minutes that he was on the pitch, he was a real handful for Jose Mourinho's men. His raw power and pace took the Premier League champions' back line by surprise and he looked a constant threat in front of goal.
Despite his tender age, Augustin already has five goals from his four appearances this preseason and three of those five have come in the ICC.
In the 3-2 win over SL Benfica in Toronto, he scored the opening goal before assisting Lucas Digne for the winner, adding to the brace he managed in a 3-0 win over Wiener Sportklub in Austria in the team's first friendly clash. Then, against Fiorentina in New Jersey, the prodigiously talented youngster bagged himself a goal in each half as PSG eased to a 4-2 win over the Italians.
Augustin has already done enough to prove that the club were right to sign him to professional terms earlier this year and the youth academy talent has handed Blanc a real dilemma by performing this well.
With UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) limitations on PSG now lessened, the Ligue 1 champions are allowed to name a 25-man squad in the Champions League once again after it was taken down to 21 last season.
Because of this, homegrown talent is more important than ever for the manager and he will need the club's best young players in order to make the squad as strong as possible. However, Augustin has already shown that he is too good a prospect to simply make up the numbers this campaign and risk stunting his development.
If he stays in Paris this season, there is a chance that he gets a bit of European experience and the odd run-out as a substitute in league and domestic cups games. That will not be a regular occurrence though and a loan move to get regular games should now be his priority.
Fellow youth academy graduate Jean-Christophe Bahebeck should serve as a precautionary tale for Augustin. The 22-year-old enjoyed a similarly impressive preseason last summer, yet that still was not enough to earn him the chances he deserved to prove himself in Blanc's starting XI when he was in form and others were not.
Augustin is four years younger than Bahebeck, but already on the verge of having more of an impact on the first team than his elder teammate.
The temptation to stay and continue to enjoy his current rising status as a squad player will undoubtedly be great, but there will also be Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 teams who have sat up and taken notice of the teenager's displays in the U.S.
If Augustin stays this season, there is a chance that he misses a golden opportunity to take a big step in his development at such a young age.
He has already proved that he is ready physically to compete as a member of the PSG starting XI, but now he needs to develop mentally and the best way for him to do that would be by going on loan to a team that can guarantee him a regular starting role.
If Augustin can go on loan to another Ligue 1 side or a Ligue 2 outfit pushing for promotion to the top division and impress in the way he has done in North America this summer, then it would enhance his long-term chances of breaking into the PSG starting XI more than staying at Parc des Princes this season would.
Should Augustin seize the chance that his excellent preseason form has made possible and go on loan, a productive spell away from Paris could put him on course to become a bona-fide homegrown future starter in PSG's star-studded side.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.