Adrien Rabiot: PSG's diamond in the rough

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Adrien Rabiot
PA PhotosAdrien Rabiot: PSG young hope

PSG may have the money to throw around at megastars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic but they are also making a concerted effort to utilise their French contingent. Youngsters like Adrien Rabiot, Clement Chantome and Mamadou Sakho in particular have already featured heavily this season and for France's recent World Cup qualifiers, PSG were the best-represented team domestically.

Since his appointment, coach Carlo Ancelotti has implemented a policy of favouring French talent where possible in an effort to retain some of the club's identity which detractors including Michel Platini have accused the new regime of overlooking. Some of PSG's more hardened fans have also championed the causes of some of the club's youth products and 17-year-old Rabiot is the latest from a long conveyor belt of talent.

Perhaps not as technically gifted as Chantome or brutally strong like Sakho, it took longer for Rabiot's talent to be recognised. But he is now enjoying the fruits of a long, laboured development after suffering a number of setbacks that have altered his playing style. It would appear that his inability to make an impact during an ill-fated spell at Manchester City earlier in his career in particular, has spurred him on to succeed.

It is ironic though that PSG, another cash-rich club owned by foreign investors have snapped up a young talent like Rabiot and are now bleeding him into their first team whilst around him the club are spending money like it is going out of fashion. In fact, president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has made bold claims that the club will have spent "in excess of €500 million" by 2016.

PSG were once guilty of overlooking their youth academy during their golden era of the mid 1990's. They lost out on a generation of talented youngsters like Thierry Henry, Patrice Evra and more recently Hatem Ben Arfa and Moussa Sissoko, but the capital club learned their lesson and have now placed added emphasis on youth in recent years.

Now with an ear to the ground when it comes to youth recruitment, Man City's loss is PSG's gain and the club snapped up Rabiot as a vulnerable youngster hurting after his disappointment in England. The gamble has paid off so far. Despite still only being 17, Rabiot is making a name for himself as part of Ancelotti's star studded XI.

Who is Adrien Rabiot?

Rabiot was discovered playing for US Creteil Lusitanos in the suburbs of Paris after being deemed not good enough for the famed Clairefontaine academy which has produced the bulk of France's footballing talent since the 1990's. Rabiot's passing, awareness and composure was recognised by Manchester City who offered him a place in their youth academy

Having signed a long-term deal with the club in 2005 before they were taken over by their own moneymen from the United Arab Emirates, Rabiot was part of a strong formation programme at Eastlands but found it difficult to make an impression. In fact, he left Manchester after only six months finding it hard to adjust to English life and struggling to communicate with his teammates and coaching staff.

After returning to France Rabiot was scouted by PSG, his childhood club and that of his now terminally ill father Michel, who incorporated him into their youth setup. Rising through the ranks quickly, Rabiot made his breakthrough at under-19 level thanks to sheer determination. Popular amongst his teammates and the club's coaching staff, he got his chance in the first team this summer during pre-season and seized it with both hands.

At the tender age of just 17, Rabiot's waif-like physique is similar to that of Javier Pastore, the gifted Argentine playmaker at the heart of the Parc des Princes midfield. His height makes him a threat in the air but he often shies away from physical confrontation. Instead, Rabiot's positioning and excellent control of the ball keep him out of danger and away from conflict.

A holding midfielder now, but also capable of playing out wide, Rabiot is competition for new arrival Marco Verratti for the deep-lying playmaker role made fashionable by Andrea Pirlo. For now there is only one midfield berth available but in the future, it could be a formidable pairing.

Having started the capital club's prestigious pre-season friendly with Spanish giants Barcelona, Rabiot has featured twice in PSG's opening four Ligue 1 fixtures. A late substitute in the recent 2-1 win over Lille, the 17-year old started in the 0-0 draw with Bordeaux in week three.

Played in a more advanced role against les Girondins, Ancelotti recognises the youngster's playmaking qualities and has attempted to move him further up the pitch. Given his tendency to avoid physical confrontation, a role in the attacking third will suit Rabiot who can now learn from Nene, Pastore, Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi, some of Europe's most proficient creators.

ESPN Conversations