Who is PSG's €37 million signing Thilo Kehrer?
It's rare for Paris Saint-Germain to splash the cash on a defender. It's the area in the squad that most needed attention. So, the club decided to pay Schalke 04 €37 million (£33m) for Thilo Kehrer. The 21-year-old boasts world-class potential and now a great platform to reach it.
Marquinhos (24) and World Cup winner Presnel Kimpembe (23) are both established centre-backs with youth on their side. That's ideal considering captain Thiago Silva turns 34 this year.
Only Silva and compatriot David Luiz cost PSG more as defenders. Kehrer is capped 33 times by Germany across various age-groups through the German U21 squad.
Is he good enough?
The short answer is yes. Keherer's a quality defender with the versatility to play across the backline.
A right-footed centre-back, he can play either fullback position and equally well in defensive midfield, Kehrer seized upon his chance with Schalke after they signed him as a 16-year-old from Stuttgart. Biding his time in the youth ranks, the 2016/17 campaign became his breakthrough season. He made 25 appearances across all competitions for die Konigsbaluen.
Last term, he made 28 in the Bundesliga alone, with the Royal Blues finishing second to [who else] Bayern. Kehrer was a mainstay in the team even though Domenico Tedesco didn't need to rotate without European football in the cards. Schalke agreed terms over a contract extension before PSG's surprise bid. The interest from top clubs was already evident. Schalke's board probably assumed an extension would drive up the price enough to keep suitors at bay for at least for another season. Such details tend not to discourage PSG.
Barcelona were reportedly interested, too, but lost out. Fro PSG, it's a shrewd deal that's gone under the radar but signals their intent.
Is it the right decision, right now?
Having captained Germany's U21s, a side that featured Leon Goretzka (Bayern) and Max Meyer (Crystal Palace), it's clear to see why he's so highly-rated.
He averaged three tackles, 3.4 clearances, 1.3 interceptions and a respectable 83% pass completion rate in Germany's top-flight last season. Despite earning a reputation for his tough-tackling style, he maintains a high level of discipline and consistency.
With that in mind, every player has their price. If Schalke viewed €35 million as a deterrent, his impressive play should have warned them the price needed to be dearer.
His potential and current skill level both warrant the deal. Thomas Tuchel has a young core within his high-priced squad. Marquinhos, Kimpembe, and Kylian Mbappe are all under 25. Neymar and Thomas Meunier are 26. Les Rouge-et-Bleu won't need to test Financial Fair Play in the near future.
Kehrer's flaws, passing consistency, winning aerial battles and the occasional youthful impulse, will iron out as he plays alongside better teammates. Tuchel will hold him to a higher standard. Against tougher opposition, he'll emphasise a less adventurous, stay at home mentality.
This move, albeit more expensive, recalls Bayern's deal to sign Joshua Kimmich from Stuttgart three years ago. Both players are versatile talents. The pair followed similar trajectories. Joining the league champions helped Kimmich boost his reputation. Will signing with the Ligue 1 champions do the same for Kehrer?
Given the team dynamic and current pecking order, he won't be an immediate regular but should provide fierce competition, looking to shine whenever given opportunities. When those come, we'll know.