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PSG: Vitinha, the good student is gaining ground

“The important thing is consistency,” insists Vitinha every time a microphone is handed to him.

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PSG: Vitinha, the good student is gaining ground

“The important thing is consistency,” insists Vitinha every time a microphone is handed to him. Versatility too. And the fact of being perfectly adapted to the technical and tactical wishes of his coach even more. At the start of the season, we could be worried about the Parisian midfielder, departed from Marco Verratti and only reinforced by the very expensive unknown Manuel Ugarte, recruited for €60 million. Especially when thinking about Luis Enrique's penchant for possession, mastery, control. This requires a solid environment. All while remembering that other creative players have left the ship recently, from Lionel Messi to Neymar Jr, including Angel Di Maria.

Fortunately, Warren Zaire-Emery has gained ground. In the end, the Ugarte experience only lasted a moment, the Uruguayan, with a sentinel profile, having given up after a great start to the season. Above all, he does not have the technical quality to follow in the footsteps of Thiago Motta, who was never really replaced in Paris. “Lucho” therefore increased the number of associations and attempts in the middle, around “WZE”, often with Vitinha in the mix. The 24-year-old Portuguese attacked the 2023-24 season as he started the previous campaign, with good level performances. Not enough to immediately become a manager in the eyes of the demanding Spanish technician, who sometimes put him on the bench for no apparent reason for important matches at the start of the season, such as the two matches against Newcastle in C1 (defeat 4-1 and 1-1) or… the Classic against OM (4-0). For the return match against Marseille, this Sunday evening (8:45 p.m.) at the Vélodrome stadium, there is no doubt that “Viti” will appear in the starting 11. Essential.

“At the beginning, it's always difficult for players to assimilate ideas, individually or collectively. But I am very happy with what I have seen for several months, that’s what I wanted to see,” explained Luis Enrique on Saturday, about the evolution of “his” PSG over the course of the season. If the Spanish coach manages to apply his ideas, it is because he has players who follow him and understand him, capable of applying his ideas. Like Vitinha.

Possessed from Porto for just over €40 million in 2022, the native of Vila das Aves has seen his scope of activity evolve over the season. He first served primarily as a… water carrier for Kylian Mbappé. Understand that he compensated on the left side in order to allow the captain of the Blues to enjoy maximum freedom on the attacking front. “As we want Kylian to have the ball a lot and be free, we need a player to block opponents. Today, that's what Vitinha and Ousmane are doing, explained Luis Enrique after the 3-1 victory against Lens at the start of the season. They did it very well in the construction phases. Kylian gave width and Vitinha supported him in the progression and finishing phases. Vitinha opened up the pitch, giving Kylian space inside. Small in size (1.72m), “Viti” compensates for his lack of muscles with his activity, but also his technical qualities and his offensive contribution. A true torchbearer at heart, valuable with and without the ball.

The repositioning of Mbappé in a central role changed things for Vitinha, who was able to flourish in a more natural register for him. All while creating more danger on the offensive level, by scoring, by making people score. Since the start of the season, he has six goals and five assists. He is one of those players who make PSG so dangerous on long shots, as we saw again during the defeat in Montpellier (2-6) before the break. “It’s important to score, to take the initiative to strike. I know I have a good shot. We have to shoot even more,” he said.

Relay, Vitinha's ideal position, far from experiencing the same decline as in the second part of last season? Without a doubt. Except that individual interests must take precedence over the needs of the team. In this case, Paris Saint-Germain sometimes needs Vítor Machado Ferreira – his full name – a step further down the pitch, in front of the defense, to bring out the ball cleanly. This was for example the case against Real Sociedad (2-0): after stubbornly wanting to come from behind despite Fabian Ruiz's difficulties against the Basque pressing, Luis Enrique brought Vitinha down in six. Bingo. “I feel good when I’m on the pitch. It's nice to gain strength like this, to feel good. And then, with trust and team dynamics, things come naturally. I'm happy that it paid off in this match, but we have to continue, because if there isn't consistency, it's worthless. The most important thing is that the team is good,” he smiled after MHSC-PSG.

A good student, Vitinha quickly learned to speak French and even more quickly the language of Luis Enrique. He may not be the big midfielder that Paris will be looking for next summer. In the meantime, “Lucho” is very happy to have him. “He is a player who adapts perfectly to our idea of ​​play, to the qualities that a midfielder must have, versatility, who does not lose the ball which is his specialty, who is good with and without the ball, who occupies well spaces and who plays well with his teammates, recently described the Parisian coach. We are very demanding of him, we think that he has a lot of room for improvement, that he can score even more and defensively, his interpretation of the game. He is a player who has unlimited energy. He plays every minute but he still wants to train afterwards, with those who haven't played... He's a very interesting player and it's a pleasure to have him in our team. Shared pleasure.

“I love the city, my life here, I hope I will stay here for a long time because it’s a big club, a big city, I’m very happy here,” said Vitinha a few weeks ago, he who is under contract until 2027. By then, will he have forgotten Verratti? Last year, the Portuguese imagined himself “quite similar in the game” to the Italian. “We are not very different. He projects a lot, plays without the ball and he creates spaces for others,” corrected the “Little Owl”. In the meantime, Verratti is in Qatar, Thiago Silva officiates on the Bologna bench. And Luis Enrique will therefore continue to rely on Vitinha, sometimes as a relay, sometimes as a sentinel depending on the profile of the opposition and the needs of the team. One thing is certain: the team needs him. And this will again be the case this Sunday on the field of rival Marseille during the Classic.

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