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Adrien Rabiot is slowly but surely growing into one of Europe’s most coveted central midfielders.
He has been linked with moves to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the past, the local boy has won his place in Paris Saint-Germain’s midfield and along with Kylian Mbappé, could be the face of the club for years to come.
As the Parisian giants continue to strive for European greatness, there is a downside to building a team through spending big: their youth players often get neglected, leaving the club in search of minutes on the pitch.
Yacine Adli is the latest member of PSG’s academy attracting interest from across the pond, with Arsenal and Manchester City keen to lure him to England. Barcelona and Bayern Munich have also made their intentions known and the French side have a fight on their hands to keep him in the capital.
Arsenal are reportedly the frontrunners for Adli's signature and with the player said to have turned down a lucrative contract offer from PSG, it looks as though the deal will happen.
Who is Yacine Adli?
Born just south of the 13th arrondissement, Adli is a local kid and was part of the club’s exciting Under-19 team playing in the UEFA Youth League last season.
Aware of his obvious talent, PSG brought him into the first-team fold, having him train with Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Mbappé, perhaps hoping to convince the 17-year-old to stay in Paris.
“Yes. I have trained a bit with them in the past. They are the best players in the world,” he admitted.
Standing 6ft tall, it’s easy to forget Adli is still so young when you realise he’s playing with kids older than him, but holding them off or using his languid style to breeze past beyond them, you can’t help but be impressed.
The comparisons with Rabiot will come, not just because of his floppy hair, but the way he carries himself on the pitch. Playing in a similar role, both have the ability to spread the ball around with ease.
“He has the talent to go all the way,” said France Under-17 coach Lionel Rouxel. “He is a good boy, got the game and the mentality. He can do what many others can’t do.”
What are Adli’s strengths?
Adli isn’t a flashy, ‘look at me' type of midfielder. For the most part what he does is simple and routine, but he does it well.
He keeps the ball moving, doesn’t hold onto possession when he doesn’t need to and is clearly PSG’s metronome.
Calm and composed, he rarely looks rushed on the ball. One of his biggest strengths is his range of passing. Not only able to spread the ball flank to flank, he has the vision to pick a pass over the top.
Above, playing against Honduras at the Under-17 World Cup, he waits for the forward to initiate his run before picking him out with a perfectly weighted pass.
When he plays for the Under-19s you can see the older players coping better against him, but in his own age range he’s the boss and is often, just like with this goal, a step ahead of everyone else.
Not just a pass-master, the 17-year-old has shown quick feet too. When he drifts out wide he’s not the fastest but has the acceleration to create separation and the footwork to drift past opponents.
As he earns more minutes and grows stronger, he will become more effective with the ball.
This season in his seven UEFA Youth League appearances, he averaged 43.25 passes per 90, completing 83 per cent. Showing his all-round ability, he completed two dribbles per 90 while making 2.9 interceptions.
Adli may not go on to be a match-winner any time soon, but he looks very capable of being a dependable rock in the middle of the park.
What are Adli’s weaknesses?
It’s premature to dissect the 17-year-old’s game, but when the top clubs begin looking, weaknesses need to be addressed.
Too often in the Youth League he gives the ball away under pressure, or he does well to get away from the press before gifting possession to the opposition with a loose or lazy pass.
Due to his position, he will be compared to Claudio Gomes, his France and PSG team-mate who is reportedly close to agreeing a move to Manchester City in the summer.
Again, the French club won’t be able to claim a fee, with the teenager also without a professional contract.
Gomes is the sort of talent who instantly stands out from the crowd.
Dynamic, quick and aggressive, Gomes is hungry to close down – similar to Chelsea's N’Golo Kanté – making 5.5 interceptions per 90. But, like Adli, he completes more than 84 per cent of his 42 passes.
Not interested in running past players – although he has the speed in his locker – he’ll get his head up and pick a pass.
While Adli impresses, Gomes looks special. They make a pretty good duo.
What does the future hold for Adli?
PSG have shown themselves to be very poor at keeping their young talent. Kingsley Coman was allowed to leave on a free in 2014 in the last four years it's continued to be an issue.
Dan-Axel Zagadou joined Borussia Dortmund last summer, another Manchester City transfer target, Boubakary Soumaré, left for Lille and Gomes is set to join Pep Guardiola’s revolution in the summer.
At some point they have to stop the rot, and with Adli very highly-rated, the Parisians must do everything to keep him at the club, or they may as well hand over the keys to their youth set-up.
Adli has the potential to push into their senior squad at some point down the line, for a club already close to losing their identity as a French side, a midfield with the teenager next to Rabiot is a hope they must cling to.