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FEATURE | Blaise Matuidi – the closest thing the Qatari project had to a French emblem

Looking back at now Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi’s six seasons under a PSG shirt, I find myself struggling to distinguish a particular one of them, as they were each performed with the same desire and motivation from the ex-Saint-Etienne player.

Matuidi was part of the Qatari’s first batch of summer signings back in 2011. That batch included players that are names of the past aside from Maxwell, Thiago Motta and Javier Pastore: Alex Costa, Milan Bisevac, Kevin Gameiro, Diego Lugano, Jérémy Ménez, Salvatore Sirigu, Mohamed Sissoko. Some of those players are downright average ot have seen their career take a nosedive and won’t be remembered fondly by the PSG faithful (Lugano is a contender for worst ever PSG centre-back while Ménez plays at Antalyaspor which tells its own story) but the €10m paid by PSG to Saint-Étienne 6 years ago for Blaise Matuidi looks to be worth every penny today (especially given the obscene sums PSG have to fork out to do their current transfer market).

Not a ridiculous sum for a no-nonsense player. Matuidi wasn’t a first-teamer from the off (he was 8th most used player in 2011/12) but that changed very quickly. In his second campaign, he appeared in the most games and the following two he came second in that ranking behind Sirigu in 2013/14 and Cavani in 2014/15.

Those three seasons were Matuidi’s best years. Not only was he everywhere in the middle of the park but he excelled at making forward runs from the left-hand side of a 3-man midfield. He certainly was not bought for his goals back in 2011 but he had added so much to his game that he reached un-droppable status for 3 years. Not bad for player who was bought just to start the PSG revolution.

Had Matuidi overstayed his welcome though? His last 2 seasons lacked the same vigour and effectiveness as the aforementioned three but it is hard to beat yourself when you’re in the form of your life. This column believes that PSG could have done the classy thing and given Matuidi more of a squad role making cameo appearances à la Giggs & Scholes under the last few seasons of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. Alas, it was not to be. PSG spent a fortune on the world’s 3rd-best player and needed to sell to free a squad number (no other PSG player past his peak would fetch a €20m transfer sum, which is testament to the Frenchman.

Now, let’s talk about his legacy. As said above, Matuidi is a no-nonsense player who gives the impression he has not two but three lungs next to his heart. His performances gave social media the chance to baptize the Matuidisme, a superior type of human being capable of running much longer and with much more stamina than your average world class player. PSG may have taken Neymar from Barcelona but they are giving to Juventus a seemingly more threatening opponent for Champions’ League glory given their easy win in the quarter-finals against the Catalans in 2016/17 (3-0; 0-0), a midfielder who won’t stop running until he gets the ball and will be a threat going forward.

One can understand why PSG sold Matuidi but let’s just hope this sale won’t come as sour grapes in a couple of months when/if they meet Juventus.

Watch this space then.

 



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