Marquinhos to get PSG chance with Unai Emery right to sell David Luiz
After David Luiz completed his surprise transfer deadline day return to Chelsea from Paris Saint-Germain, the French champions must now move on from the Brazil international.
Allowing Luiz to return to Stamford Bridge after two seasons in Paris for around £35 million did come out of the blue but the decision to sell the 29-year-old makes sense.
However, the choice to wait until at least January to sign a replacement is a risk from PSG. With Luiz now gone, captain Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe are the only natural central defenders in Les Parisiens' senior squad at present.
Serge Aurier, Thiago Motta and Grzegorz Krychowiak can all fill in in the middle if needed but there is an argument to suggest that Unai Emery is a bit short in defence for the moment.
Although Luiz leaving does not deprive PSG of a top defender -- the South American was average at best in that role and better in defensive midfield -- his departure does mean that the squad is lacking a bit of experience and leadership -- two things the former Benfica star could not be faulted for.
However, with Luiz's departure comes an opportunity for Marquinhos to cement his starting role at Parc des Princes. The Brazil international arguably should have been picked ahead of his elder compatriot last season but Laurent Blanc's preference for the more senior figure blocked his path.
Emery's arrival changes that and the Spaniard is reported to have told Luiz back in July that he was no longer considered a guaranteed member of the starting XI, with Marquinhos his preferred option alongside Silva.
The 22-year-old made it clear last campaign that he was desperate to secure a place in the starting lineup or consider his future but Blanc's departure and the appointment of Emery assuaged the former Roma and Corinthians man's concerns.
At least until January, Kimpembe will now be his main competitor for a starting role. Although the PSG youth academy graduate has been impressive so far this term with a series of mature showings, Marquinhos will be ahead of him in the pecking order and rightly so.
The capital club's No. 5 has already proved that he is ready to be considered one of the two main starting central defenders over the past few seasons with commanding displays both domestically and in Europe. If anything, the decision to sell Luiz makes PSG stronger in defence.
There will be no temptation to play the error-prone Brazilian and the team will push the self-destruct button far less often without him on the pitch -- his inexplicable foul to gift AS Monaco their second goal in last weekend's 3-1 defeat was a perfect example of that happening.
To be fair to him, Luiz's time in the French capital was not a complete disaster; there were some high points too. The frizzy-haired defender's opening goal in a 3-2 home group stage win over Barcelona and his header to equalise at Stamford Bridge as PSG knocked Chelsea out in the round of 16 in the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League will both live long in the memory. The nostalgia stops there, though.
The bottom line is that the Ligue 1 champions are stronger on the pitch without Luiz and that is where it matters. A back four consisting of Silva, Marquinhos, Serge Aurier or Thomas Meunier and Layvin Kurzawa or Maxwell, although mostly attack-minded, will be far more sound than it was with the now Chelsea man in it.
A popular early candidate to replace Luiz in Paris is Marquinhos' Olympic gold medal-winning central defensive partner from Sao Paulo, Rodrigo Caio. The pair were solid together in Rio De Janeiro and shipped just one goal in the six matches they played -- in the final against an impressive German side.
If Caio does land at Parc des Princes in January or next summer, then he will be expected to form a strong central defensive pairing with Marquinhos, who is being groomed to take over from the injury-prone Silva as they defensive lynchpin of the side.
For now, Emery will have to hope that neither Silva nor Marquinhos suffer any injuries between now and the winter break -- particularly the skipper who is only just returning after a hip problem.
If PSG can reach January with no new injury concerns in defence, they can consider the possibility of recruiting Caio or another central defender then. They can also assess the situation in attack and see if there is need for another striker to provide Edinson Cavani with competition.
One thing is for sure after Luiz's departure, though, Marquinhos' time has arrived.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.