Clément Chantôme: stay or go?

One could excuse Paris Saint-Germain’s own Clément Chantôme for wanting to find football elsewhere this season. Though he has not whispered a word of doing so, expressions of a desire to find consistent first-team football a different club, be it in another country or in the same division, may be discovered in his employer’s transfer dealings over pre-season. The Parisiens added Italy internationals Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti to their ranks, alongside Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko. That said, the amount of (central) midfielders at the club, in the senior squad, has now grown to nine – including youth products Adrien Rabiot and Neeskens Kebano by Carlo Ancelotti.

And despite having expressed a lack of intention in leaving, those comments made by the Frenchman were some time ago. In January, he was linked with Barclays Premier League club Fulham, as Martin Jol was reportedly looking to strengthen the centre of the park as the now-departed Danny Murphy leaves a gap that requires filling. Now, a few weeks into the pre-season, Lille Métropole and Olympique Lyonnais have been said to be courting him.

But in the light of a cooled down saga between Arsenal and Yann M’Vila, it’s worth nothing that, at one point, Arsène Wenger expressed his own interest and admiration of Chantôme. In 2008. And at that time, PSG were sitting daintily above the relegation zone by two points. Olympique Lyonnais led title chasers AS Nancy Lorraine by double that. Is Wenger still interested? Probably not. But should things sour between the Gunners and Stade Rennais, as they play hardball with the suitors for arguably one of the most talented midfielders to play for the side since Jérôme Leroy, ‘The King of Assists’, the 24-year-old wouldn’t be such a terrible option.

Germany, Italy and potentially Spain all have clubs that may be willing to put in a transfer bid, however it all comes back to clubs nationally – Rémi Garde’s revitalisation project at Stade de Gerland has won a majority of critics who believed that Les Gones were on the slide.  Under Claude Puel in 2009-10, a string of complacency and poor results saw the club drop outside of the top six twice across five months and eventually finish as runners-up. And then into the following season Lyon failed break into the top six until December, and not rising higher than third place as the league season drew to a close, declaring ‘Olympique’ rivals Marseille the champions. After Puel’s contract was terminated by chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, Garde would enter his first-ever managerial role in football. A move for their other adversary may raise a few eyebrows and possibly vex some tempers, but also help take off the burning light laid on Yoann Gourcuff. His €25million price tag is still yet to be exemplified.

Those are all options. Decent ones, too. But it also requires Paris Saint-Germain to actually want to sell the man central to all of this talk. Carlo Ancelotti, similar to Mathieu Bodmer’s situation, has also spoken positively about Chantôme. He isn’t set on allowing them to leave, but nevertheless acknowledges the necessity of competitive football in order for him to remain a player in Paris. In the very likely event that either of the new signings – Thiago Motta or Marco Verratti – were to be injured or suspended for a considerable amount of time, reliance or rather relief that there is a strong and suitable backup available to either one of them leaves many to rest easy.

After all the youth product has been part of the senior squad since 2007 (ish). With the 2010-11 being potentially his best-ever season in a PSG shirt to-date, the following year became a bigger challenge, even more so with the competition for places. During the 2010-11 campaign, he made 44 appearances in all competitions for the club, including a brief campaign in the UEFA Europa League ended by Portuguese giants SL Benfica. In 2011-12, he appeared less than half of those times, again in the UEFA Europa League, but bowing out a round earlier than the last at the group stages.

Now one must believe either one of two options: (1) he leaves the club to go elsewhere, potentially benefiting from first-team football, a different environment, team mates and a new challenge. At 24, he has another few more years before he reaches his peak level, enabling some of his best years and recovering from what some would describe as a ‘disappointing season’ for him in the last. Furthermore, he can push for the France national team. Les Bleus were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of UEFA Euro 2012 by eventual winners Spain, and now prepare ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil under former Marseille boss Didier Deschamps. Chantôme has never been capped by the national team before, but the chances of pulling on the national kit look bleak if there is a repetition of last year.

Or (2) he stays at PSG and fights for a place. Ancelotti has only been at the helm for just over half a year and has already taken notice of Bodmer’s issues as a diluted prospect of making a consistent bid for a spot in central midfield. As mentioned prior, odds are that Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, or any of the other central midfielders for that matter, will be injured or suspended and, thus, leaves a space open for him. Indeed, he himself is prone to little niggles and tears himself, as his track record of sitting on the sideline proves, but these have usually been treated well and encouraged more appearances on the field.

For me, both options are irrespective of his desires to play. Whilst still a talented, hard-working and valuable asset to Paris Saint-Germain, a repeat of last season could be just the thing the five-foot-ten combatant on his way. Alternatively, the likes Rabiot and Neeskens Kebano could also be a signal for him to buckle down and work hard. The nine central midfielders may be there for a reason, to experiment, to rotate, interchange and inject variety. Experience for the young ones too as they make their way up in football. What would be a waste for me, however, is to see this young man on the bench, week in and week out.

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