Jonathan Ikone contract a positive for PSG's academy policy
Paris Saint-Germain announced on Saturday that after drawn-out contract talks, talented youth academy graduate Jonathan Ikone has signed on professional terms with the club -- ending speculation that he will join Juventus.
Since the departure of now Bayern Munich and France international Kingsley Coman for Turin back in the summer of 2014, the Ligue 1 champions' policy when it comes to their homegrown youngsters has been under intense scrutiny.
Juventus were keen to raid PSG again for a promising young gem, but this time Les Parisiens have been able to fend off the attentions of the Italian champions and kept ahold of one of their brightest potential stars.
The French capital outfit have done what they could and managed to persuade the 18-year-old Ikone, who was one of the stars of the reserves' run to the UEFA Youth League final in the season just finished, that he will get the necessary chances to further his career in Paris. Now they must prove it.
With current coach Laurent Blanc's replacement by Sevilla's Unai Emery seemingly imminent -- the three-time consecutive UEFA Europa League winners have confirmed that the Spanish tactician has indicated his desire to move away from Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan -- PSG's young gems could finally be given a fair number of chances to impress and develop.
Ikone, a versatile attack-minded midfielder, is the latest in a line of current young talents to have pledged their future to the Ligue 1 giants. Odsonne Edouard, Alec Georgen, Lorenzo Callegari and Remy Descamps have all recently put pen to paper on professional contracts too.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was delighted with the teenager from Bondy's decision and stressed the importance of the youth academy to the capital club's future plans.
"We are very proud to sign Jonathan to his first professional contract," said the 42-year-old Qatari in the official statement announcing the deal. "Jonathan is a midfielder with a big future. His signature is another example of the importance the youth academy holds for the club and just how much the club is counting on these young academy graduates."
If nothing else, the move guarantees that PSG will get a substantial transfer fee if they do eventually sell Ikone. However, now that they have tied him down for the next three years, it would be a huge waste not to give him the chance to develop into a homegrown senior star.
It is not all good news. Despite succeeding in securing the immediate futures of Ikone, Edouard, Georgen, Callegari and Descamps, it looks increasingly likely that prodigiously gifted defender and youth level captain Mamadou Doucoure will be leaving for German Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach for nothing.
Although keeping Ikone is a big boost, Doucoure is arguably the outstanding talent in the current youth ranks and the gem who should have been prioritised above almost everyone else. The 18-year-old defender admittedly faces greater competition in his position than Ikone, but with a versatile centre-back needed -- Doucoure can also play at left-back -- his departure comes at a less than ideal time.
What PSG need to get right now is the timing of their offers of professional terms to their most promising players. Too often, the proposal of a senior contract comes too late and the youngsters have already been listening to attractive offers from teams who can give them the matches they require to develop.
After that, the French giants need to make a point of rewarding those who sign professionally with first team action -- keeping their word to the players, but also making the most of the fact that they have committed their futures to the club.
The timing of loans will also be key moving forward. Jean-Kevin Augustin, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku all need loans this coming season, while Augustin and Kimpembe arguably should have been sent out temporarily in the campaign just gone.
Ikone, Edouard, Georgen, Callegari and Descamps are all at that point and PSG should look at the lack of progress made by the likes of Augustin last term and give their young prospects a greater chance of development by sending them to a Ligue 2 or lower level Ligue 1 side.
Regardless, the fact that Les Parisiens are starting to keep hold of some of these youngsters is positive news. The capital outfit now just need to work out what they want to do with them and use them for more than just decoration.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.