With questions hanging over the future of three of Paris Saint-Germain‘s biggest stars, it is likely they will need to sign a new top-level option in attack this summer.
Angel Di Maria‘s contract expires in June and, although PSG have signalled their intentions to renew it, the Argentina international turned 33 in February and is not a long-term solution. Doubts remain regarding star striker Kylian Mbappe, with his contract up in 2022 and having expressed a desire to play for Real Madrid “one day.” And then there is Neymar, whose injury worries persist — the 29-year-old has started just 16, 15 and nine (this season) Ligue 1 matches for PSG over the past three years.
Even if PSG manage to extend any of the above to new terms — with sources telling ESPN that Neymar has already agreed to a four-year deal — the French giants will still want to bring in a forward, preferably one who can play in a variety of positions, in order to land the elusive Champions League trophy.
Sources told ESPN that the club have shown an interest in signing Barcelona legend Lionel Messi when his contract expires in the summer, yet the 33-year-old’s future remains unclear in the wake of the presidential election and his financial expectations — presuming he wishes to retain something near his current wages — are hard to meet, even for PSG.
So who could one of the richest clubs in the world target instead? In the current climate it will be tough to pull off, but here are five alternatives who could fit well in Paris.
The Egypt international is one of only around half a dozen Liverpool players who have properly turned up amid a disappointing Premier League season. Despite the team’s attacking patterns becoming largely unrecognisable, as the joyful interplay between the forwards from previous years has often been absent as they’ve lost their last six games at Anfield, Salah has nevertheless contributed with his fair share. He has registered 17 league goals and he’s still the most creative player at Anfield; this season he still averages 1.47 chances per game, against 1.65 from his sensational previous campaign.
PSG’s hopes of landing Salah will be helped if Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League this season, while there have been rumours of disquiet with manager Jurgen Klopp and the club may decide to cash in on a high-earning player who turns 29 in the summer before his contract (which ends in 2023) starts running down. Either way, the potential signing of Salah would provide the PSG frontline with a more consistent left-footed option than Pablo Sarabia and obviously add another world-class star to the squad, but he wouldn’t come cheap.
After a slow start to the season, possibly affected by the long-awaited €120m transfer to Manchester United that never materialised, Sancho is hitting the same peaks of form that catapulted him into the top echelon of attacking midfielders/wide forwards in Europe last campaign. Since the turn of the year, the England winger has found the net on eight occasions while setting his teammates up for another seven.
As the signals coming from the Manchester United camp indicate that a renewed pursuit for the 20-year-old might not be a given, other European powerhouses could begin to explore a possible transfer. Sancho’s directness and incisiveness in the last third, mixed with his ability to perform comfortably on either side, make him a feasible target. Dortmund are currently trailing the Champions League spot by four points and missing out on that competition, along with the growing financial hit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, could make the exit of Sancho inevitable this summer.
Under normal circumstances a forward like Martinez would have been untouchable, perhaps even for the likes of PSG, but with the pandemic still at large and Inter’s owners, the Chinese conglomerate Suning, having already closed the door on one of their football operations in China, nothing can be ruled out.
Martinez, who came to the fore while playing for Racing Club de Avellaneda in Argentina as a teenager, has been in devastating form for Inter this season. Linking well with Romelu Lukaku up front, the Argentina international has scored 13 goals, often assisting — or being assisted by — the Belgian.
With his intensity, sense of opportunism, natural ability and competitive edge to his game, Martinez is a forward of the Luis Suarez or Carlos Tevez ilk. Always on the move and excellent at holding off challenges, he is also capable of playing on the left-hand side of the attack, from where he can cut infield on his favoured right foot. Useful in the pressing game, he’s also willing to help track back.
Pound-for-pound one of the top three players in Ligue 1 over the past couple of seasons, Depay is an attractive proposition for several European giants due to him being available as a free agent in the summer. Depay wasted little time getting over his failed (though somewhat underrated) Manchester United stint as he quickly became a key player for Lyon upon joining the club in January 2017.
Though Barcelona and Juventus are reported to be the frontrunners in the chase for the Dutch forward, it would surprise nobody if PSG were keeping close tabs. Mainly a wide player in the Premier League, Depay has predominantly been fielded as a “false No. 9” for Lyon — often dropping deep to perform playmaking duties or opening up space for the wingers. His versatility, along with amazing technical qualities and the ability to create danger with every touch of the ball, indicate that the Lyon captain belongs at the very top of the game.
While a potential move between the two French rivals wouldn’t go down well with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, PSG would doubtless rejoice at depriving their rivals of their star player.
Although Oyarzabal lacks the stellar appeal of the other four, he would be a sound signing — especially if PSG end up following many of their domestic and European rivals by taking a more prudent line in the transfer market. While in that scenario harnessing talent and resale value are paramount, in Mauricio Pochettino, PSG now have a coach who has never shied away from developing talents.
A stand-out at youth level, Oyarzabal has already amassed nearly 200 league appearances for Real Sociedad and even grabbed a recent starting spot for the senior Spain side. An intelligent off the ball runner with an excellent left foot (though also capable with his right), the 23-year-old Basque forward can operate on either wing and is particularly useful when allowed to drift into central areas to slide through passes to runners from midfield (he registers an impressive 35 key passes this season). Ten goals and six league assists this campaign suggest he could be on the verge of a real breakthrough.