Just like against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 home and away, Paris Saint-Germain came undone at the hands of a former player this Sunday. Arnaud Kalimuendo scored Stade Rennais' second goal in a 2-0 Ligue 1 victory at Parc des Princes to serve as the latest example of youth academy produce harming the capital club and it is just the latest in a growing line of examples against Les Parisiens.
Kingsley Coman set Bayern on their way to their 3-0 aggregate success over PSG with former cult favorite Eric Maxim Choupo Moting adding further insult to injury as the Germans triumphed with more French representation in their ranks than the Championnat leaders themselves. It is a lesson that PSG need to learn to avoid further talent leaving the club and later coming back to haunt them -- more often than not on the European stage.
Warren Zaire Emery is the latest gem off the academy production line and although he was put in the shade here by a clinical Kalimuendo as well as the sublime pairing of Desire Doue and Lesley Ugochukwu, he is destined to be a future star. This situation with the 21-year-old striker was always on the cards given how sharp he looked during preseason after two loans spells with RC Lens -- who he shone for in Ligue 1 -- and the fact that he was sold anyway because he was one of few PSG players clubs were prepared to pay for last summer.
Kalimuendo's replacement Hugo Ekitike has struggled after joining from Stade de Reims on an initial loan with a buy obligation conditioned to Champions League qualification -- as evidenced by the fact that he only came on after 56 minutes and looked as devoid of confidence as ever. Things are more acute than ever now, though, with Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos' contracts running out and another summer makeover needed with an already bloated wage bill to trim.
Zaire Emery is not the only bright spot for PSG in an otherwise bleak season with the emergence of El Chadaille Bitshiabu and Timothee Pembele also notable which is to Christophe Galtier's credit and predecessor Mauricio Pochettino was largely averse to fielding youth. The prodigiously gifted 17-year-old midfielder has adapted well to senior professional soccer and is expected to be a significant part of any rebuild along with senior academy product Presnel Kimpembe and Parisian superstar Kylian Mbappe.
This sort of limp showing in defeat against Rennes underlined why PSG would be right to move forward with quality from within their own academy than buying in more star power moving forward. Despite boasting Mbappe, Messi, Ramos, and Neymar, Champions League success is more elusive than ever yet the only solution seems to be getting more star heavy with each passing year to no real avail.
Club academy produce such as Adrien Rabiot (Juventus and France), Christopher Nkunku (joining Chelsea from RB Leipzig and also a France international), Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen and France), Mike Maignan (AC Milan and France), Alphonse Areola (West Ham United and France), Jonathan Ikone (Fiorentina and France), Tim Weah (Lille OSC and the USMNT), and Xavi Simons (PSV Eindhoven and the Netherlands) are excelling elsewhere -- notably internationally.
There is an increasingly convincing argument that had PSG focused on the young talents that have passed through the club even since Mbappe's 2017 arrival then they might now already be contenders, or at least making serious inroads. The French superstar has been part of this failed star-studded quest for continental glory, yet at least he is regularly the team's best player and remains the poster boy for not just the Paris region but the whole of France.
Since the Bayern setback there has been increased recognition that something more substantial than last summer's semi overhaul is required and it could be the youth academy which ultimately points the way forward. With an impressive campus under construction in nearby Poissy which will further aid the production of fantastic young talent, all of the ingredients are there to put such a blueprint into place now.
It just needs a concerted effort by PSG from leadership to the supporters to place its collective faith in quality young players from closer to home than continuing to chase some of the biggest names in the game. That the likes of Messi and Ramos -- two of the game's true serial winners -- have buckled under the weight of expectation at Parc des Princes is extremely telling of just how much pressure has built up since Qatari ownership arrived in 2011.
Mbappe, Kimpembe, Zaire Emery, Bitshiabu, Pembele and Paris-born Nordi Mukiele should be part of any summer rebuild regardless of head coach and with a number of quality players hailing from the capital region available this summer, things might finally change. Rabiot will be a free agent and remains one of the best players to have come from the academy while Eintracht Frankfurt's Evan Ndicka and Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro emerged locally before heading to Germany and are also on expiring contracts.
It might feel like the ceiling is falling in on PSG right now after a seventh defeat of 2023 -- two of those being to Rennes -- but those still concerned by the soccer goings-on at Parc des Princes should also see this as an opportunity. The ownership needs to wake up after almost 10 years of minimal progress on the continental scene at substantial cost and realize that the solution has been under their noses the entire time.
There is no guarantee that this happens. In fact, if anything, recent history suggests that none of us should hold our breath.