With Zlatan Ibrahimovic departing the Parc des Princes, the Ligue 1 champions are pondering solutions that will allow them to replace their former Swedish superstar
The season is over and Paris Saint-Germain are ready to chase a number of transfer targets to strengthen their side. If a number of big names are guaranteed to leave, there is little chance of other changes, as PSG do not want to revolutionise the squad.
With the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Laurent Blanc has announced his desire to have “a collective focus” in order to open a new chapter for the club. It will all be done with little touches, while the Ligue 1 champions will look, in particular, for youngsters with great potential.
No signings have been officially concluded prior to the opening of the transfer window on June 9, but PSG are already making progress as they look to add reinforcements. Giovanni Lo Celso, a midfielder at Rosario, will sign for the club in the weeks to follow. The Argentine side will need to officially sell him before July 1 if they are to loan him back for a subsequent six months.
Lo Celso, 20, is not expected to arrive in Paris this summer. Rosario have announced that they want to keep the player until at least December 31, 2016, so he is unlikely to make his PSG debut before January.
Ibrahimovic will depart on a Bosman deal, though his destination is not yet known, and Gregory van der Wiel will be released.
For the first time since QSI took over the club, PSG have allowed an influential member of their squad to leave. Aside from the departures of Ibrahimovic and Van der Wiel at the end of their respective contracts, goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu can depart. Under contract until 2018, the Italian hopes to find a club where he can earn a regular starting berth and play Champions League football – not easy given the strength of goalkeeping in Europe.
Fellow stopper Alphonse Areola will return from a loan spell at Villarreal, but competition from Kevin Trapp and the likely contract extension of Nicolas Douchez may see him seek a fourth successive loan.
Thiago Motta will stay at PSG for one last season before his contract expires next summer.
There will be little movement otherwise. Only Lucas, who refused an offer from Manchester United last January, seems to have significant questions over his future. For Cavani, Rabiot and Javier Pastore, the exit door is firmly shut.
Year six of QSI’s PSG project will begin in July. It will be the first time in four years that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not carry the standard of the capital club. The Swede was a star who made the club a talking point in every corner of the world. In Indonesia, Malaysia and even Mexico, Ibra was the player who carried the PSG brand. Aside from his qualities on the field, he brought a marketable dimension off it.
Now PSG face a challenge of maintaining their status in the wake of the striker’s departure. Among their current squad, only David Luiz has significant marketing potential that can be exploited. Indeed, the Parisians would like to have seen Marco Verratti – currently injured – go to Euro 2016 and continue his rise to greatness under the eyes of the world.
This void means that there is an important new criteria that PSG will assess when making their summer moves, and they will look to Europe’s biggest clubs for a solution. In a sporting and marketing context, Neymar would be the ideal solution, but the Barcelona star is ready to extend his contract until 2021 at Camp Nou.
For Blanc, the transfer market will be concentrated upon finding a great No.9 to challenge Edinson Cavani for a place at the head of the attack, a left winger, to replace the Uruguayan out wide, and a player to support Lucas Moura. Two signings are anticipated in midfield. A defensive player is also expected to sign in order to allow Thiago Motta more rest, while a young, technical, box-to-box player is on the shopping list. And in defence the club will tinker with its full-backs, while browsing for promising youngsters.
Lassana Diarra is a major target for the Parisians. The midfielder has a morale clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club each summer until the end of his contract in June 2019. Negotiations between the player’s agent and PSG have already been going on for several months, but the wage demands of the former Arsenal man may see him make a return to England. If that happens, PSG are ready to put their confidence in Adrien Rabiot and sign a more attacking player, such as N’Golo Kante.
Of course, PSG are exploring numerous options to replace Ibrahimovic in attack. If Mauro Icardi is someone much appreciated at the Parc des Princes, there is interest, too, in Alexandre Lacazette, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain. But in each of these cases, PSG are up against stiff competition. This is where the club must show that they are a truly great side.
On the left wing, Alexis Sanchez has long been followed by scouts, yet the Arsenal ace will sign a new contract with the Emirates side this summer. Julian Weigl was contacted, but he was quick to reject a move. If Marco Reus and Eden Hazard are on the shortlist currently, those cases seem a little onerous for PSG, who are keeping money aside to try to tempt Neymar to sign in 2017.
Aside from those players that PSG want to strengthen the starting XI, the club is also looking to make moves to echo the arrival of Verratti from Pescara in 2012. Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht), Dusan Vlahovic (Partizan Belgrade), Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Jeremy Toljan (Hoffenheim) are being tracked.
HOW THE TEAM WILL LOOK
Blanc is a disciple of the 4-3-3 formation and is not about to change his system next season. The bulk of the squad will remain the same, although there are likely to be one or perhaps even two alterations in the forward three.