Football Features

Former PSG academy products who left to succeed elsewhere, from Coman to Evra

By CJ Smith

Published: 9:00, 13 February 2024

Since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took over PSG in 2011, the club have gone on a mammoth spending spree and achieved untold domestic success.

The Parisians have won nine league titles during that time, spending an entire government budget on the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi (in wages) to become the undoubted kings of French football.

Like any club that heavily relies on outside investment, though, PSG’s academy products have often found themselves frozen out by the first-team manager’s need to find immediate success. Think of PSG as the French Chelsea during much of the 21st century.

Most recently, Xavi Simons departed the French capital and has since gone on to shine at PSV and, now, RB Leipzig, while also breaking into the Dutch national team. Tanguy Nianzou and Arnaud Kalimuendo are other academy departures in recent years that may come back to bite them.

But if you look further back, PSG’s academy has been producing and selling (or parting with in some way or another) these sorts of talents for years, with each one going on to have various levels of success throughout their careers. We’ve taken a look at 14 of them.

1. Kingsley Coman

  • Age: 27
  • Current club: Bayern Munich

There’s probably no better place to start than with Kingsley Coman, arguably the most high-profile PSG academy product still playing the game. A talent so highly regarded he won five top-flight titles with three different clubs before turning 21.

Coman made just four appearances for the PSG first team before heading off to Italian giants Juventus in 2014. The flying winger never quite fit in with the Old Lady, but a two-year loan move to Bayern Munich between 2015-2017 proved fruitful, and he earned a permanent move to the German Goliath.

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2. Matteo Guendouzi

  • Age: 24
  • Current club: Lazio (on loan from Marseille)

When Matteo Guendouzi rocked up at the Emirates at the start of the 2018/19 season, many thought the shaggy-haired midfielder was one for the future and wouldn’t get much of a look-in for the Arsenal first team.

However, that would not prove the case. Guendouzi featured heavily in his first two seasons, showing an admirable level of commitment and guile to secure a first-team spot. But that wouldn’t last. His “attitude and general conduct” were questioned by members of the Arsenal staff and he eventually returned to his homeland permanently in 2022 with Marseille following a loan spell.

Despite his past indiscretions and perceptions about his behaviour, Guendouzi shone back in France, and as a result, was named in Didier Deschamps’ squad for Qatar 2022. He started the nation’s final Group D match against Tunisia to make his World Cup bow.

Guendouzi initially joined the PSG academy in 2005 at just six years old, remaining there until 2014 before moving to Lorient. It was with Les Merlus where the then teenager caught the eye, making 30 senior appearances and playing with the grace and swagger of a seasoned pro.

Guendouzi is now on loan at Italian giants Lazio for the 2023/24 season.

3. Moussa Dembele

  • Age: 27
  • Current club: Al-Ettifaq

Moussa Dembele spent eight years in the PSG academy between 2004 and 2012 but decided on a move to England at the tender age of 16. Dembele turned a number of heads during his time with Fulham between 2013-2016, with a host of European giants queuing up to take a look at him.

In the end, he spent the next two seasons being pretty much the best striker in Scotland with Celtic before moving back to France with Lyon, where he passed the 20-goal mark in his first two seasons before joining Atletico Madrid on loan and returning with a similar propensity to stick the ball in the back of the net. Last year, Dembele joined the line of European stars jetting off to Saudi Arabia, where he now bangs in the goals for Al-Ettifaq.

4. Adrien Rabiot

  • Age: 28
  • Current club: Juventus

After several seasons spent locked in bitter contract disputes that played out publicly, Rabiot finally left PSG for Juventus on a free transfer.

Rabiot actually enjoyed an extensive senior career with Paris’ preeminent club after breaking through the academy. Lesser known is the fact the French midfield was actually also a part of Manchester City’s youth set-up for a brief spell in 2008.

5. Odsonne Edouard

Age: 26

Current club: Crystal Palace

Dembele isn’t the only goal machine Celtic can thank PSG for. The Bhoys’ SFWA Player of the Year recipient in 2019/20 scored 88 goals in 179 games after joining them permanently from PSG in 2018. Those Glasgow exploits have since taken him to the Premier League, where Crystal Palace couriered a considerable fee to Parkhead for his services.

Edouard was never given a single game by PSG in Ligue 1. His only experience in that competition came during a loan stint with Toulouse in 2016/17.

6. Youssouf Mulumbu

  • Age: 37
  • Current club: Retired

Youssouf Mulumbu spent two years in the PSG youth ranks from 2004-2006, making 15 first-team appearances for the Parisians.

When it became clear the Congolese midfielder wasn’t going to make the grade in Paris, a loan move to Amiens followed, before Mulumbu moved to England with West Brom. He spent seven years with the Baggies and making 211 appearances as a reliable, combative presence in the middle of the park.

After a short spell with Norwich City, Mulumbu spent time in Scotland with Kilmarnock and Celtic, before finishing up at Saint-Eloi Lupopo in DR Congo.

7. Mamadou Sakho

  • Age: 33
  • Current club: Free agent

Mamadou Sakho’s began with PSG when he joined their youth team as a 12-year-old in 2002. He made over 200 appearances for the first team and even became captain before the influx of money from QSI began restricting his opportunities at the Parc Des Princes, resulting in a move to Liverpool in 2013. Now 33, Sakho most recently turned out for Montpellier following five seasons at Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace, but is now a free agent.

8. Christopher Nkunku

  • Age: 26
  • Current club: Chelsea

Nkunku racked up over 70 appearances for PSG and looked to be making significant inroads in the starting XI, but the wellspring of midfield talent in front of him meant that consistent playing time was hard to come by, and he ultimately swapped one newly mega-rich club for another.

At the start of the 2019/20 season, RB Leipzig swooped for Nkunku and he quickly became a mainstay, proving the creative catalyst in the club’s march to a first Champions League semi-final, where the Saxony club met, you guessed it, PSG. His form has been such that he has since earned a move to Chelsea and broken into the France team.

9. Yacine Adli

  • Age: 23
  • Current club: Milan

Yacine Adli reportedly turned down a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2018, instead choosing to remain with PSG until January. The then 18-year-old failed to make a single first-team appearance for the Parisians before making a £4m move to Bordeaux, where his form was such that Italian giants Milan signed him in 2022.

On snubbing Arsenal, he said: “I don’t regret anything. Even if I didn’t play once over the past six months in Paris, I’m glad I chose them.

“I was around great players every day. I progressed, but that’s in the past. Now, I’m focused on Bordeaux.”

10. David N’Gog

  • Age: 34
  • Current club: Retired

After graduating from the PSG academy, the French forward scored just three goals in 25 appearances for the first team before heading off to Liverpool.

Much of his time with the Reds was spent playing second-fiddle to Fernando Torres and he managed only 19 goals in 94 appearances. The 34-year-old mirrored his Liverpool form following a move to Bolton, scoring 16 goals in 91 games.

Spells with Swansea City, Stade de Reims, Panionios and Ross County followed before N’Gog rocked up at Budapest Honved in Hungary, and then FK Zalgiris in the Lithuanian top flight, before announcing his retirement from football in June 2020.

He returned to the field in 2022, rejoining Panionios, but has once again retired.

11. Gabriel Obertan

  • Age: 34
  • Current club: Charlotte Independence

Gabriel Obertan spent just over a year in the PSG academy between 2003-2004, although he is most fondly remembered for being one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst signings after the Frenchman moved to Old Trafford from Bordeaux in 2009.

Obertan made 28 mainly anonymous appearances for the Red Devils before leaving for Newcastle United in 2011. A nomadic career has seen the 34-year-old turn out in Russia and Bulgaria, with a short spell with Wigan Athletic sandwiched in-between, before he surfaced at Turkish Super Lig side Erzurumspor — and now America with Charlotte Independence.

12. Patrice Evra

  • Age: 42
  • Current club: Retired

Patrice Evra’s career will be best remembered for his eight-year spell with Manchester United, where he won five Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League.

Evra, an 81-time France international, also turned out for Juventus, Marseille and West Ham, as well as gaining a taste for raw chicken in the meantime in a series of bizarre social media posts.

With all of this success, combat and culinary experimentation, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Evra came through the PSG youth ranks in 1997-1998.

13. Nicolas Anelka

Age: 44

Current club: Retired

You could make a strong case for Nicolas Anelka being the most high-profile graduate of the PSG academy in the modern era.

He left the Parisians for Arsenal in 1997 and went on to turn out for Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man City, Fenerbahce, Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Shanghai Shenhua, Juventus, West Brom and Mumbai City, with another spell at PSG for good measure.

Anelka scored 210 goals at club level before retiring in 2015, with 14 goals in 50 caps for France, and won a number of league and European titles, as well as the Uefa European Championships in 2000.

14. Mike Maignan

Age: 28

Current club: Milan

Mike Maignan has gone on to establish himself as one of the finest shot-stoppers in Europe, first gaining prominence as an immovable force at Lille, where he helped the club clinch the Ligue 1 title in 2020/21, before replicating that feat for Milan in 2021/22. His dexterity and flexibility have been such that he has started to appear frequently for France, and has taken over the mantle from Hugo Lloris.

He came through the PSG academy, but didn’t make an appearance for the club before moving to Lille in 2015.