Despite letting David Luiz leave on Deadline Day weekend last summer, PSG had no issues replacing the fro’d Brazilian. After his breakout 2016/17 season, Presnel Kimpembe is not just another bench option from the academy; he won’t be satisfied until he’s an emblem of Paris Saint-Germain.
On August 13, 1995, a star was born in the Beaumont-sur-Oise in the val-d’Oise department. Raised by a Congolese father and a Haitian mother, Presnel joined nearby AS Eragny at the age of seven before moving on to the prestigious PSG academy a year later. Since then, his rise was nothing less than meteoric. He excelled at every level of the academy before settling into a sort of buffer role between the u19 squad and the first team from 2013 until last season, where he cemented his spot as a real first-team contender.
At the end of the 2015/16 season, Presnel Kimpembe wasn’t exactly a hot topic. He was young and talented, but he didn’t feature often and couldn’t compare with the world-class defenders already on demand at Paris Saint-Germain. His few appearances in cup games and occasional Ligue 1 games were no less than decent, but not stellar.
Having grown up in the suburbs of Paris, he was one of the lucky few to be picked up by the Paris Saint-Germain academy early on and was one of the even luckier ones to rise through its ranks, all the way to the first team.
His pre-season was like any other, where he got additional playing time for the sake of playing. That is, until David Luiz was sold. On deadline day 2016, David Luiz returned to Chelsea, leaving Presnel Kimpembe as the only senior centre-back aside from the Brazilian duo of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos.
The stage was suddenly set. He would probably never get another chance like this to prove himself again, which is exactly what he did.
With the first choice Brazilian duo underperforming in Ligue 1, not able to cope with the absence of their ex-partner, Kimpembe’s growingly more periodic appearances were a breath of fresh air, a remarkably solid addition to defence especially considering his age. His composure in passing was second-to-none in defence and he had managed to master the art of defensive positioning without anyone realising it.
As the team stuttered, Kimpembe did nothing but improve. He kept fighting to make a first team spot his, as he battled past small injuries and the hardships of adapting to the first team. His form, much like the one of fellow academy graduate Adrien Rabiot, was prone to receiving praise from the press, but he could still not secure that starting spot.
His defining moment finally came when he replaced the injured Thiago Silva to start his first ever Champions League match against European royalty FC Barcelona. With the game already predicted to be a major headache for Les Parisiens, the loss of their captain and veteran centre-back Thiago Silva only made matters worth, as nobody truly had faith in Kimpembe. Everyone, apparently, except himself.
His performance was more than just exceptional, outclassing his partner in crime Marquinhos and sending MSN back to Catalonia with their heads hung after a parade of tackles, blocks and interceptions that muffled Barcelona’s otherwise masterful attack. Even though this had been an uncharacteristically bad Barcelona, Kimpembe’s sheer dedication and hunger was lauded by fans and pundits alike.
He may have gained a few extra Ligue 1 starts from it but he was overlooked in favour of the captain for the return leg of the champions league fixture, and and we all know how that went.
His season was exemplary; he went from a talent to a man to a marauder in a matter of months, setting in stone his intention to play for the first team, full stop. His composure on the ball is a breath of fresh air not just for Paris, but for football in general. His hunger in tackles and speed to get to players is exceptional and his overall sense of humility and humbleness is what makes him one of the most promising players going into this 2017-18 season.
By: Louis Jacques/@Positionista