Lucas Digne is already threatening to oust Maxwell at PSG, but that's just the beginning for France's surprise World Cup selection, writes Aman Sehdev...
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He's already got U20 World Cup, French League Cup and Ligue 1 titles to his name – and they all came this season. France’s 20-year-old left-back Lucas Digne is making a name for himself.
The defender joined Lille’s youth academy in 2005, and in 2011 was promoted to the senior squad where he would establish himself as one of the brightest young defenders in France. He became a regular in Rudi Garcia’s exciting Lille team alongside Eden Hazard, Mathieu Debuchy, Dimitri Payet and Rio Mavuba.
Such was Digne's growing reputation that French champions Paris Saint-Germain shelled out €15 million to bring him to the capital in 2013. He has primarily acted as back-up to ageing Brazilian full-back Maxwell, but the Lille graduate began forcing his way into Laurent Blanc’s plans at the tail end of last season. With Maxwell soon to be phased out, 2014 looks set to be the year for Digne to make the left-back slot his own.
France coach Didier Deschamps has shown enormous faith in Digne by selecting the defender in his 2014 World Cup squad ahead of the more experienced Gael Clichy. Although capped just once by Les Bleus, Digne has risen through the ranks at youth level and starred in France’s U20 World Cup triumph in Turkey last year. Digne is expected to deputise for the experienced Patrice Evra in Brazil, but with this likely to be the Manchester United man’s last World Cup, Digne will have an eye on establishing himself in time for the 2016 European Championship on home soil.
- Date of birth: July 20, 1993
- Place of birth: Meaux, France
- Position: Left-back
- Height: 5ft 10in
- Previous clubs: Lille
- Club: PSG; 20 apps, 0 goals
- Country: France; 1 cap
Why you need to know him
France haver an exciting future defensively with the likes of Raphael Varane, Eliaquim Mangala, Kurt Zouma and Layvin Kurzawa all under 23. Digne, however, is arguably the brightest of them all.
The PSG defender has already won trophies in his short career so far, and at 20 there is still plenty of room for him to grow into a top European full-back. Digne will learn valuable tournament experience with Les Bleus this summer as understudy to Evra, and could even feature should injury befall the veteran Frenchman. A promising career in Europe and on the international stage awaits.
Calm and composed on the ball, the PSG youngster is equally adept at attacking as he is defending, and as a result was ever present in Garcia’s Lille team from the middle of the 2011/12 season to 2013 as a teenager. Therefore, he fits a multitude of tactical situations if France or PSG are looking to hold a lead or push forward. He's also able to play as a left-sided midfielder; the PSG youngster possesses good pace and a penchant for crossing.
As with all the young hopefuls who've won a World Cup spot at the expense of an established player (Luke Shaw over Ashley Cole, for example), Digne’s biggest weakness is his lack of big-game experience. Although having played a full group stage campaign for Lille in the Champions League in 2012, he has featured just twice this season in PSG’s run to the quarter-finals and is still getting his feet wet in Europe.
Likewise, with just two senior appearances for France, albeit in impressive showings against Holland and Norway, Digne doesn’t have the experience of Clichy and some eyebrows were raised when the PSG man was included at the expense of the Manchester City full-back.
Former France and Marseille full-back Eric Di Meco: “Compared to so-called phenomenons such as Evra or Clichy that we have, Digne is a monster of a player.” So there.
Did you know…
Digne has represented France at every level available (U16-21 and the senior team). He missed just 17 minutes of France’s U20 World Cup win in 2013.
What happens next?
Despite only spending one season in Paris, Digne has been the subject of rumoured moves to the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Roma in recent months. Naturally, PSG have declared their wish to keep the player they see as a long-term fixture in the side. Next season should bring more opportunities to usurp Maxwell at left-back, so expect Digne to remain in the French capital for the foreseeable future.
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