the Mbappé evidence, the Zaire-Emery revelation, the Vitinha confirmation… The four strong men of PSG’s 12th coronation

To achieve a third championship title in a row, the Luis Enrique version of PSG was able to rely on several strong men to build its campaign.

France Télévisions – Sports Editorial



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Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé celebrate a goal, May 3, 2024. (MAXPPP)

PSG won a twelfth national title on Sunday April 28, after Monaco’s defeat in Lyon (3-2). A coronation whose outcome was in little doubt, as Paris did not have an opponent of the caliber of Lens last year to challenge the crown. For his first year on the Parisian bench, Luis Enrique quickly took stock of his bloated squad, and was able to highlight players whose talent had difficulty blossoming under Christophe Galtier last year.

Mbappé, the essential

If there was only one captain to remember, it would obviously be Kylian Mbappé. For his last season with Paris, the Bondynois will have been serious and consistent until the end: with a new double against Lorient on Wednesday, he has 26 goals in 28 championship matches on the evening of the coronation. If his defensive commitment is still not impeccable, his raw talent will have been enough to put PSG in orbit, with 0.96 goals per match. “He always behaved admirably”praised Luis Enrique on April 2.

A dependence on his star such that PSG’s second scorer is a… midfielder, Vitinha, who has seven goals, or 19 fewer than the French international. Kylian Mbappé will have three games left to equal his record of 33 goals in a season established in 2018-2019, before offering himself the ultimate challenge: starting with a victory in the Champions League, the first in the club’s history.

One thing is certain: the striker will leave the French championship with a record 6th top scorer title, and in 7th place among the best scorers in history (190 goals in 245 matches on Wednesday evening), in just nine seasons.

Zaire-Emery, the express revelation

It’s hard to imagine that he celebrated his 18th birthday on March 8. The youngest player and scorer in PSG history, Warren Zaire-Emery exploded this season, when he was not yet an adult. The Parisian titi, trained at the club, has progressed through the stages at high speed to the point of already being one of Luis Enrique’s main men.

As proof: he is the fifth most used player under the age of 20 in Europe since April 2023, according to the Football Observatory (CIES). And got even the President of the Republic talking. “He is a promise and a feat”, exclaimed Emmanuel Macron in the show “C à vous”, on France 5, on December 20.

Even if he experienced a drop in physical fitness at the start of 2024, the defensive midfielder was the unexpected ray of sunshine for a Parisian midfield without Marco Verratti, who left for Qatar last summer. A tireless raker, he balanced the Parisian game, allowing Vitinha to project himself more. If Paris has densified an environment often overwhelmed in previous seasons, it is largely thanks to him, now linked to the capital club until June 2029.

Vitinha, the unexpected captain

This is undoubtedly the most unexpected progression of this season for PSG. Arriving in the summer of 2022, Vitinha left the previous year with promises but also questions about his ability to be an indisputable starter. This season has swept away everything: the Portuguese has been the basic man in the middle, as capable of raking in front of the defense as of projecting himself in support of the attacking trio. His seven goals in the league also confirm his offensive progress, an essential element in a midfielder with little forward momentum.

A sign of his growing importance: he is the second most used player this season by Luis Enrique before the first leg against Dortmund (3,200 minutes), only ahead of Kylian Mbappé (3,509 minutes), of which the former FC Porto player had said on RMC shortly after his transfer: “He has an incredible level, which inspires me. I will do everything to reach that level”. His rest against the Merlus on Wednesday confirmed that the Spanish technician wants to preserve a few executives before Dortmund (Hakimi, Marquinhos and Barcola were also rested), and the Portuguese is more than ever part of it.

Dembélé, the detonator

Unlike Vitinha, he was expected at the next level this season, and he ended up taking it. Criticized for his chronic ineffectiveness and his timidity to strike, Ousmane Dembélé finally unlocked his counter at the best time: two goals against Barcelona, ​​then a double against Lorient on Wednesday, all in less than three weeks. “He is creating very important things and it is true that he is going through a very good period”, rejoiced Luis Enrique, Friday April 26.

But if the former Rennais has kept the confidence of the Asturian this season (2nd most used attacker), it is through his ability to constantly harass the opposing full-backs and open gaps for others. His association with Mbappé unlocked some poorly started matches for PSG, and he was sometimes even the only one to be dangerous. His three meager goals in the championship are offset by his status as the best passer in the championship (eight assists), one unit ahead of his teammate Kylian Mbappé and Brestois Romain Del Castillo.

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