Good things come to those who wait for. Poached from Lyon for €50 million including bonus, at the very end of the summer transfer window, Bradley Barcola arrived in Paris on tiptoe. Quickly used by Luis Enrique, who is said to have ardently desired his arrival, the 21-year-old winger was directly thrown into the mix. Often a substitute, sometimes a starter, he nevertheless took the time to demonstrate his qualities. Speed, yes. Dribbling too. But little impact and even fewer decisive gestures. No goals and zero assists after his first eight outings under his new colors, he who had shone with his efficiency with OL last season (7 goals, 10 assists).
And there was this match against Newcastle (1-1) in the Champions League. Barcola had multiplied the differences and... the failures in front of the English goal. In Ligue 1, this is not necessarily prohibitive. In C1, it’s paid in cash. And it shows all the more. The criticisms were harsh. On RMC, Daniel Riolo, for example, described him as a “lamb”, saying that he was simply not yet mature enough to play in the Rouge et Bleu in this kind of situation.
Water has flowed under the bridges since then. In his last eight L1 matches, Barcola is to be credited with two assists and two goals, the first of which was in Lens (2-0 victory) last Sunday, during the 18th day. And this on a service from Kylian Mbappé. “When I leave like that, I know Kylian is going to put it behind my back. I directly raised my head to see where (Brice Samba) was and I took the plunge,” he explained on Amazon Prime Video. The two arrows are indeed better and better while Luis Enrique now regularly aligns Barcola on the left and Mbappé, in the axis. The latter is getting better and better at it. Randal Kolo Muani and Gonçalo Ramos are waiting for their turn on their bench. Perhaps they will have their chance this Saturday, in Orléans, in the round of 16 of the Coupe de France.
Also read: Henry on Mbappé at the 2024 Olympics: “Between wanting and being able there is a difference”
In the meantime, the Mbappé/Dembélé/Barcola trio has visibly settled into the mind of the Spanish technician, who however took care not to bury Kolo Muani and Barcola. Not publicly. “They are two very high-level attackers,” he assured at a press conference, saying he was “very happy” with their level. Not enough to use it regularly... “RKM” has only started one of the last seven Ligue 1 matches. This is even more worrying for the former Benfica star, who only played one minute over the last five league matches. Mitigating circumstance ? A virus that made the Portuguese “lose weight”. “But he has been well for several weeks,” promises Luis Enrique. And added, regarding the two players: “I hope they represent the present and the future of the club”. To see, knowing that some sources are already talking about a potential departure of Ramos…
The misfortune of some making the happiness of others, it is therefore Bradley Barcola who takes advantage of the bad luck of his two comrades in the Parisian attack. The native of Lyon has started the last six matches, in all competitions, with the exception of the trip against the amateurs of Revel (9-0 victory) in the Cup. Above all, we feel him growing in power, more confident, more at ease, more sure of himself. “I have more and more confidence from the coach and teammates, I can only be more comfortable,” he said after Lens, he who had also made a “D pass” during the Champions Trophy .
And added: “The confidence of the coach, of the teammates, it frees me, I can only play well like that. The coach is close to us, he talks a lot. I arrived late, I had things to catch up on. Little by little, I’m catching up with them.” Very well even. With this new confidence, Barcola can express his qualities of speed and percussion, his technique and his accuracy in the zone of truth. Anything but a fragile lamb, that's for sure.
Luis Enrique is clearly won over. “He is superb in what he does, in sectors of the game which are very important for him in his position,” he said after the shock against the Sang et Or. “In one-on-one, he is almost unstoppable. He is very fast, he has good finishing and he does a good defensive job. We have several young players in the team, some very young, with great potential that we want to exploit. This is our goal. From the start, I said how happy we were to know that players wanted to sign for PSG and be part of our club. And giving confidence to young players is part of our characteristics.
It is up to Bradley Barcola to continue to prove himself worthy of this trust. It obviously also depends a lot on the positioning of Kylian Mbappé, who we imagined occupying the left side all season. Luis Campos too, that's why Gonçalo Ramos and Randal Kolo Muani were recruited to play in the middle... In the meantime, the former Lyonnais admitted to having had "a lot of fun" against Lens. A reference match for the international Espoirs? “I don’t know but I’m really happy. I had quite a few balloons to express myself. I was really happy, and happy for the team. It’s good for me, it gives me more confidence on the pitch,” he smiles. Obviously, not everything is perfect. The main person concerned believes he can do better, particularly on “ball losses and reading the game”.
To see if Luis Enrique will maintain his confidence in him this Saturday, against the 12th National, or if he will take advantage of this apparently unbalanced poster to relaunch Randal Kolo Muani and/or Gonçalo Ramos. A match for which PSG is still deprived of Milan Skriniar, Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe and Alexandre Letellier, injured or in the recovery phase, without forgetting Achraf Hakimi and Kang-in Lee, selected for selection. Manuel Ugarte (thigh), Gianluigi Donnarumma (knee) and Nordi Mukiele (ball received in the face) will also be missing. But what worries Luis Enrique is above all the pitch. A subject that “concerns” the Asturian. “I will only decide who is going to play, and how, when I see the state of the pitch,” he adds. Suspense.