Paris Saint-Germain’s Warren Zaire-Emery is the name on everybody’s lips at present and the 17-year-old is now a full France international as his meteoric rise continued with a debut vs. Gibraltar on Saturday. The midfielder’s stunning showing in a 3-0 UEFA Champions League win over Milan last month put Zaire-Emery’s name up in lights for the European soccer community to take note of.
However, if you regularly follow PSG’s games, he will have popped up on your radar as early as last season — notably against Bayern Munich in Europe — as a rare bright spot in a bleak campaign. After a first full term on the fringes of the French champions’ starting XI, making substitute appearances or playing out of position, Zaire-Emery is now a fixture in Luis Enrique’s midfield.
The boy from Montreuil’s call-up by Didier Deschamps for the November international fixtures was logical given his impressive season so far in Paris but equally unsurprising given his quality of play. Now Zaire-Emery has a senior international debut goal to add to his list of achievements and not even being substituted through injury while scoring will be able to take away from his historic moment in Nice. France won the match against Gibraltar 14-0 for their biggest win ever.
The PSG youth academy graduate has two goals and five assists to his name across both Ligue 1 and the Champions League and is playing with the consistency of someone far older and more experienced than he is. A scorer of eye-catching strikes such as his stunning recent effort in a 3-2 Championnat win away at Stade Brestois 29, he also provides goals for his teammates in growing quantity.
Milan is the obvious example with two top-quality assists for teammates Kylian Mbappe and Lee Kang In but Zaire-Emery’s also contributed against Newcastle United, Stade Rennais and RC Lens. Aiding him in his rapid rise is a staggering level of maturity which is perfectly illustrated by the fact that he was immediately France’s under-21 captain when called up by Thierry Henry is September.
Zaire-Emery only needed two more months to earn his fast-tracking into the senior setup for UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece with Germany next summer now on the horizon. He might end up missing out on the trip to Athens due to the ankle injury he picked up at Allianz Riviera, but there is no doubt that he is now well and truly in contention for a place in Deschamps’ Euro squad.
That Zaire-Emery has a somewhat old head on young shoulders is rare enough but to possess that despite the poisonous environment surrounding PSG in recent years is nothing short of remarkable. It is easy to forget that he does not even turn 18 until next March and may well be playing his first two major soccer tournaments next summer with the Euros and the Olympic Games in Paris.
His versatility acquired under Christophe Galtier through playing in a variety of different positions and roles — often wide – has enabled him to thrive under Luis Enrique’s possession-based tutelage. However, it is arguably his low center of gravity and subsequently incredible balance as well as his poise which catches the eye immediately when watching him in action with PSG.
Zaire Emery appears to glide across the field yet is extremely difficult to knock off the ball or to the ground as evidenced against Milan when he teed up Mbappe’s opening goal. Deschamps was pessimistic on the ankle injury during France’s 12-0 thrashing of Gibraltar, but it is PSG who will truly be sweating over Zaire-Emery’s recovery given how important he has already become for the Ligue 1 leaders.