Diarra's signing makes sense for PSG, but it comes three weeks too late
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain have completed the signing of free agent Lassana Diarra on an 18-month contract and coach Unai Emery finally gets the reinforcement he has been asking sporting director Antero Henrique for since the start of the January transfer window.
The France international will wear the No. 19 shirt with his hometown club and is motivated the get started after ending his contract with Al Jazira Club by mutual consent last month.
Speaking with PSG's official website shortly after putting pen to paper, Diarra declared his happiness at coming home to Paris.
"I am very happy to have signed for my hometown club," the 32-year-old told PSG's official website. "PSG represents a lot to me and with the international dimension the club has taken on in recent seasons, it is every player's dream to play here. I am lucky enough to make this dream come true, to know what it feels like to play at Parc des Princes wearing red and blue.
"I intend to do everything I can, bring all my experience and show all of my desire to play, to prove that the club has made the right choice in showing their confidence in me."
Diarra mentioned his experience and that is going to be crucial in the coming weeks and months as he beds in with his new teammates and Emery gets to grips with finally having a natural alternative to the ageing and injury-prone Thiago Motta.
The former Real Madrid, Arsenal and Chelsea man, who also played for and captained bitter rivals Marseille, has seen plenty over the course of his career and he must now bring that to fore with PSG entering a critical phase of their season -- something Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi acknowledged.
"We are delighted to welcome Lassana -- a quality footballer -- to PSG," the Qatari supremo told PSG.fr. "His vast experience, both of foreign leagues and international football with the France national team, gives our coaching staff another option as we enter a very exciting second half of the season.
"I know that Lassana is very ambitious -- like everyone here. Our fans at Parc des Princes really love players that hail from the Paris region. I know they will give him a warm welcome and the strength to help our team reach its objectives."
On paper, the move makes a lot of sense.
Emery now finally has a natural alternative to Motta in deep-lying midfield, which means less of Adrien Rabiot and Giovani Lo Celso stepping into a role that suits neither very well. Diarra is a known quantity, arrives at relatively low cost and on a short-term contract, so there is little for PSG to lose in this as Emery made it clear multiple times that he wanted a defensive midfielder.
The Spaniard now has his man and Les Parisiens' squad looks well stocked, which raises the question: why has it taken so long to get this move done?
Perhaps it has something to do with Motta's latest injury, which was only supposed to keep him out for a week or so but is now pushing a month. Whatever the reason, as much as it still makes sense for PSG, it looked more of a no-brainer when Emery had time to build up both Motta and Diarra's fitness ahead of Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 -- a match that will arguably be a bridge too far for Rabiot or Lo Celso in the deep-lying role.
With just Montpellier, Lille and Toulouse in Ligue 1, as well as Rennes in the Coupe de la Ligue, to come between now and Real, there is not going to be enough time to get both back to speed -- if Motta is even ready at all.
Diarra is a better bet at this time but he has not played in a couple of months and the difference between European football and the United Arab Emirates' Pro-League is significant. Can Emery work the Le Havre youth academy graduate back up to the required level to face Real or should he keep his new recruit as a backup to Motta and hope that the creaking Italian returns quickly and holds up once back on the pitch?
Either way, it is not ideal and strengthens the argument that while Diarra's signing makes sense, it made greater sense at the start of January and not at the end.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.