Areola could establish himself as PSG's permanent keeper in Marseille clash
Since breaking into Unai Emery's starting XI for the 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw at home against Arsenal, Alphonse Areola has been immovable in the Paris Saint-Germain goal.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper has kept four clean sheets from eight appearances across competitions and has also made a number of crucial saves to bail out a defence that's still finding its feet under Emery.
Areola's form with PSG this season has been so impressive that France coach Didier Deschamps called him up to both of his squads since Les Bleus fell short in the UEFA Euro 2016 final on home soil this summer.
Legendary Juventus and Italy national team goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been hugely impressed by Les Parisiens' No. 16. The evergreen 38-year-old recently told Perform Group that "the coming years are very important" for one of the capital club's youth academy treasures.
"After a year on loan with Villarreal and Europa League football, he returned to PSG," Buffon added. "Today, he is physically imposing and assured with a big presence. He will become an important goalkeeper."
Although Areola has not yet made his senior international debut, his career trajectory so far suggests that it is only a matter of time before he starts breathing down the neck of captain and Tottenham Hotspur keeper Hugo Lloris.
Back in the summer of 2013, Areola moved on loan to Ligue 2 side RC Lens and impressed as his side earned promotion to Le Championnat under former PSG coach and legendary ex-player Antoine Kombouare.
The plan was for Areola to remain at Stade Bollaert-Delelis for some valuable Ligue 1 experience, but Lens' crippling financial problems under Hafiz Mammadov's ownership made that logical idea impossible.
A graduate of the prestigious Clairefontaine, Areola still managed to play in the top flight in the 2014-15 season, as SC Bastia stepped in and snapped up the talented custodian for the campaign.
Once again, Areola caught the eye as the Corsicans finished in 12th place and went all the way to the Coupe de la Ligue final, where he came up against his parent club. Although he was on the end of a 4-0 thrashing, the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup winner still managed a positive display.
After Bastia, Villarreal CF and UEFA Europa League football came calling and the player moved abroad for the first time. While in Spain, he earned glowing reviews for his displays with Villarreal and coach Emery -- then with Sevilla -- obviously paid attention.
Areola is now enjoying a deserved run in the starting XI and his consistency suggests substitute Kevin Trapp will not dislodge him anytime soon. Areola had to be patient, though, as it was Trapp who was given the No. 1 role at the start of the season.
Trapp performed reasonably well in his first five competitive appearances of the campaign, but only kept two clean sheets in that time and his role in conceding an unnecessary late equaliser in the 1-1 home draw against AS Saint-Etienne was the cue for his talented positional adversary to face Arsenal.
Since then, Trapp has stood no chance of getting back into Emery's starting XI ahead of Areola because of the latter's consistency and calming influence on the PSG defence.
After speaking with Gerald Ehrmann, the goalkeeper coach at Trapp's formative club Kaiserslautern, Bild in Germany are even suggesting the former Eintracht Frankfurt man is considering a loan move away from Parc des Princes as early as January if he does not get another look.
"I am in regular contact with Kevin," Ehrmann revealed. "If this continues, then he must change clubs. That would be logical. At his age, he needs to play. It would be sad if Kevin was happy in this situation."
"Kevin is ambitious; he has proved he has international quality. He went to France because of the Champions League. He needs to come out of this situation stronger."
Trapp might be ambitious, but he probably did not bank on coming up against Areola for a place in the starting XI so soon. He also probably did not envisage only playing under former coach Laurent Blanc -- a big fan of his ability to use his feet for more than just goal kicks -- for one solitary term.
Olympique de Marseille are the visitors to Parc des Princes on Sunday in France's leading club fixture, Le Classique, and it will be Areola's first taste of the rivalry he grew up enthralled by on the pitch.
The pressure will be on, with PSG still trying to correct a slow start to life under Emery, while Rudi Garcia now leads Marseille after his appointment as coach earlier this week.
Areola has thrived in the limelight so far, but the pressure created when these two fierce rivals meet can create silly mistakes on the pitch from even the most experienced of figures. If this happens on Sunday, then Trapp will be ready to step back in and prove himself to Emery.
Should Areola play a starring role again, though, then it could go a long way towards establishing him as PSG's permanent starting goalkeeper under the Basque tactician.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.