What do Kingsley Coman, Kylian Mbappe Karim Benzema, Adrien Rabiot and Hatem Ben Arfa all have in common?
They all earned a Ligue 1 winners medal before their 19th birthday. There’s another on that list that isn’t quite such a household name (yet)... Édouard Michut.
When one of the most-trusted sports journalists in the world sees fit to tweet a transfer rumour, you’d better believe it’s because that player is held in high enough regard to be newsworthy.
Fabrizio Romano put a story into the ‘Twittersphere’ Monday morning stating that Sunderland were holding talks with PSG over a potential transfer for the France U-19 international - but for those who are not self-confessed Football Manager nerds, who is Édouard Michut?
An attacking central midfielder, Michut can best be described as a “hole” player, preferring to play in the spaces between opposition defensive lines. At 17 years old, he was dubbed “the new Veratti” and had Barcelona, Manchester City and Juventus all offering the youngster his first professional contract. PSG persuaded him to stay, and immediately brought him in to train with the first team.
In February 2021 Michut was handed the first senior appearance of his career. It might have only been a tokenistic single minute in a 4-0 victory over Dijon, but it was a nod from Pochettino that he was in his thoughts, and a reward for the potential shown in “keeping up with the big boys” in training.
He would wait nearly a full year for the next chance to shine in Ligue 1, coming off the bench for Ander Herrera to provide an assist for the equaliser in a 1-1 draw away at Lyon. With that, he became the youngest player to contribute to a PSG goal since a certain Mr Mbappe.
So what sort of player are Sunderland looking to acquire?
Well, Michut is a very agile, highly technical, advanced midfielder. Able to use both feet, he is capable of receiving the ball in tight spaces and has the confidence to ask for it. He possesses an incredible knack of finding space on a football pitch, either to identify a pass or to drive into carrying the ball.
The French youngster, as with any player not yet passed their 21st birthday, is not without a lot of developing and growing up to do. Whilst tenacious and committed, he is not yet one to be relied heavily on when out of possession. Call it youthful exuberance or inexperience, Michut has been described as tenacious, but at times AWOL defensively. Look at his red card after coming on as a substitute against Angers - you see a player who was very unlucky in his treatment by the referee, rather than an aggressive or reckless one, so it would be incredibly unfair to form any judgement of his character or defensive capability based on this incident.
Whilst it is most certainly exciting to be linked with some of the world’s brightest young prospects, there will undoubtedly be a reason why PSG are considering the cash-in value for Michut rather than the prospect of nurturing a new French superstar.
Whilst the talent is undoubted, Christopher Galtier is seemingly unwilling to move past the youngster’s outburst over the summer where, having not been selected as part of PSG’s pre-season squad touring Japan, Michut was put in the youth setup and as an apparent act of defiance, was a no show for a meeting with the club’s Football Advisor the same week. Michut was immediately called into another meeting, where after some “electric moments”, he was made to sign a pledge to come to order.
It would seem that all parties are now at an impasse, with Galtier on record as being “uncompromising” when it came to attitudes and behaviours of his squad, and with the 19-year old vocal in his discontent at lack of playing time having had a small taste of it in the last season.
Dennis Cirkin… Jack Clarke… Patrick Roberts… Jewison Bennette… Édouard Michut? Should it happen, his arrival on Wearside would further evidence Sunderland’s current recruitment policy of taking highly regarded, young players with a lot of potential who just need a place to belong and to grow.
He wouldn’t be swapping Parc de Princes for the Stadium of Light for more U-23 action, or to sit on our bench, however - he could do that whilst picking up more Ligue 1 honours in Paris.
With Romano suggesting that it is a permanent deal in the offing and Celtic reportedly interested to the tune of circa €6m, Alex Neil would likely have to give some assurances of playing time; and there lies a broader question of what that means for the likes of Pritchard, Embleton, Neil or anyone else that can play in the advanced midfield role.
It’s a sure sign as to the upward trajectory the club are on, being competitive in the Championship and competing with Champions League clubs for multi-million Euro teenage prospects… and whilst Michut has to come an enormously long way to match the feats of his peers in that list of teenage Ligue 1 medallists, the “Future of PSG” as he was labelled once by the Parisian media, may well just be able to start that journey at the Stadium of Light.