Paris Saint-Germain are moving into the final stages of their preseason festivities this week. Victory over Manchester United meant they were crowned winners of the International Champions Cup and now move on to Montreal where they will take on Olympique Lyonnais in the Trophée des Champions – the annual Ligue 1 curtain raiser.
Saturday’s showpiece game in Canada could also be the last time we see Lucas Digne in a PSG shirt. The 22-year-old France international has been linked with a move to Liverpool this summer, and a move would make perfect sense as the Merseyside club only have one natural left-back in their squad in Alberto Moreno, given that Jose Enrique is set for an exit.
Teenger Joe Gomez, a new signing from Charlton Athletic, has been touted as a possible option in that position, but given the chance to sign a player with experience in the Champions League and on the international stage, Liverpool would be naïve not to explore the opportunity.
Just as the Parisian club began their training camp in North America, Digne was clear with his coach Laurent Blanc, he wanted a move.
“First, it is he who very clearly asked to leave,” said the former France boss.
“For now, he is with us, he is very professional, he trains very well and has prepared excellently. He has shown the results in friendlies.
“This is firstly a very good thing for him and possibly for us, should he stay with us this season.”
Digne played the last 45 minutes in PSG’s 2-0 win over Manchester United on Wednesday and as Blanc suggests, the player isn’t looking to become the next Raheem Sterling by forcing a move. He has remained professional, aware that it would take the right offer to let him leave the French capital.
The Meaux-born defender made the move from Lille to PSG in the summer of 2013 for a fee believed to be around €15 million, but has had to play second-fiddle to Brazilian full-back Maxwell in both seasons at the club.
While at Lille, instantly it was clear Digne had something special. The then 17-year-old was handed set-piece duty while playing for the second-team in France’s fourth division and it wouldn’t be long until he was called up for his Ligue 1 debut.
He made his first-team bow in 2012 in the 3-0 home win over Saint-Etienne and would go on to make 16 appearances that season. In his short time in the Lille side he impressed with his stunning left-foot, his ability to deliver early crosses in the box and his desire to charge up and down the flank in Lille’s cavalier fast-paced attack. However, he also showed great defensive positioning and strength beyond his seemingly small frame.
In his second season, he established himself as Lille’s starting left-back, making 33 appearances in the league while also playing a key-part in their Champions League campaign. It was Digne that opened the scoring in the crucial second leg of the play-off tie against FC Copenhagen, a game that Lille won 2-0 after losing 1-0 in Denmark to reach the group stages.
That was enough to draw the attention of PSG, and after winning the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, Digne was whisked away to the capital. In a young international side that included Paul Pogba, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Kurt Zouma, Digne was just as integral to the success of Les Espoirs and it was no surprise to see him named in Didier Deschamps 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil a mere 12 months later.
Unfortunately, that was Digne at the highest point of his career so far, and sadly it has been going steadily downhill since last summer.
Last season he played 15 Ligue 1 games for PSG, all but one was from the start, but it was very telling that he only featured for four minutes of their Champions League campaign. Blanc had made it very clear that Maxwell was still the No. 1 left-back, and there are few that will argue with that decision.
For the past two seasons, the former Ajax and Barcelona man has been in contention as one of the best left-backs in France. Although Digne has done well in his fleeting appearances, his absence is more due to Maxwell’s form than his own ineptitude.
Digne is still a strong runner, with an engine that will get him up and down the field with ease. Although he is willing to get forward at every opportunity, he always makes sure he is a defender first and foremost.
The player’s agent – former Middlesbrough striker Mikkel Beck – recently denied that any fee had been agreed with Liverpool, or that PSG had given permission to take to his client, but there is no smoke without fire.
Digne is looking to leave Paris this summer in order to save his career and regain his place in the France squad before the 2016 European Championships in his home country. Liverpool offers him an outlet, and a style of football that would suit the very exciting full-back.
There is no guarantee that Liverpool will make a move for Digne this summer, but there is little doubt he would be a fantastic option for Brendan Rodgers in the campaign ahead.
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