Ligue 1: PSG winger Barcola emerging as a key player in Luis Enrique’s side, eyes Les Blues debut

Mbappé rescued PSG with the first goal against Sociedad in the Champions League, but it was Barcola and right winger Ousmane Dembélé who did most of the damage from the flanks.

Published : Feb 15, 2024 20:29 IST , PARIS - 3 MINS READ

PSG’s Bradley Barcola celebrates scoring in the Champions League
PSG’s Bradley Barcola celebrates scoring in the Champions League | Photo Credit: REUTERS

PSG’s Bradley Barcola celebrates scoring in the Champions League | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Bradley Barcola receives a pass near the halfway line and as he attacks a defender his next touch appears far too heavy and the ball gets away.

The touch is deliberately heavy to draw in the right back. So Barcola can then flick the ball past him in a flash and use his electric pace to sprint away down the left.

This is becoming a familiar sight at Paris Saint-Germain, where the 21-year-old winger is making a name for himself after an expensive move from Lyon in the offseason.

Barcola scored in this way in the Champions League on Wednesday, when PSG beat Real Sociedad 2-0 in the first leg of the round of 16. He has two goals and two assists in his past five games, and seeks more when runaway French league leader PSG travels to Nantes on Saturday.

Most of the chat at PSG usually revolves around Kylian Mbappé. Either for his goals, or whether he’ll stay.

Although Mbappé rescued PSG from a tight spot again with the first goal against Sociedad, it was Barcola and right winger Ousmane Dembélé who did most of the damage from the flanks in the second half.

Coach Luis Enrique finally seems to have found the right balance up front with Barcola and Dembélé — both extremely fast — roaming either side of the equally quick Mbappé in a 4-3-3 formation.

Paying the price are Spain international Marco Asensio, a three-time winner of the Champions League with Real Madrid, and Randal Kolo Muani, PSG’s third most expensive signing at 95 million euros ($102 million).

They’re on the bench.

Asensio came on for Barcola with 20 minutes left against Sociedad while Kolo Muani replaced Dembélé for a mere 10 minutes.

When PSG sold Neymar to Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal and lost Lionel Messi to Inter Miami, the attack was rapidly depleted and Enrique had to recruit fast.

Dembélé arrived from Barcelona, Enrique’s former club, and Kolo Muani forced a move from German side Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer transfer window.

Kolo Muani did well for runner-up France at the 2022 World Cup, while fellow France international Dembélé enjoyed one of his best seasons at Barca. Their arrivals were not surprising, while Asensio joined to cover playmaker Marco Verratti’s departure to Qatari side Al-Arabi.

But Barcola’s move from Lyon surprised many observers.

The deal was worth 50 million euros despite Barcola playing only one full season for Lyon, where he netted seven goals in 31 games. A product of Lyon’s renowned youth academy, Barcola played 47 games overall for the club and delivered 10 assists. Decent enough statistics for a young player, but nothing sensational.

Enrique, however, saw something in Barcola that tied with his vision of how he wants PSG to play; unbalancing opponents by sucking them into midfield and then exposing them with speed off both wings.

Barcola is fitting into that role well.

Another keen eye on his form could belong to Didier Deschamps, the France coach. France plays Germany and Chile in friendlies next month ahead of the European Championship. If Barcola’s form continues, his debut for Les Bleus could come soon.

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