Sources close to Lassana Diarra and Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed the French capital outfit’s interest in the 32-year-old midfielder ahead of the January transfer window.
It is not the first time that the Ligue 1 leaders have looked into Diarra’s situation — that happened while he was still playing for PSG’s bitter rivals Marseille and Olivier Letang and Patrick Kluivert were calling the shots transfer-wise — but there is logic in this latest show of interest.
Diarra is currently a free agent after his contract with Al Jazira in the United Arab Emirates’ Arabian Gulf League was cancelled by “mutual consent,” and at his age and this stage in his career, he is exactly what Les Parisiens could use until the end of the season.
With Thiago Motta, coach Unai Emery’s undisputed first choice in defensive midfield, currently working his way back to full fitness after his recent knee problem, Adrien Rabiot, Marco Verratti and Giovani Lo Celso have all been asked to fill in there by the Spaniard.
Rabiot has done a pretty good job in that deep-lying role, but the France international picked up an injury towards the end of 2017, is still yet to sign a new contract and is better off — not to mention happier — playing in one of the two more advanced roles.
Verratti is in a similar position, although his impending contract renewal will not depend on whether he gets to play in his preferred role. But the Italian star is also better off when deployed in one of the more advanced berths.
Lo Celso, as good as he has been in the No. 6 role recently, is naturally a more attacking player. The young Argentine is more suited to a role in the front three or just behind two attackers than closer to his team’s defence.
PSG have the likes of Claudio Gomes in the youth academy, and he could be called upon come January to boost squad depth during a hectic start to 2018. But it is unfair on the homegrown Frenchman to expect him to be immediately ready for the Champions League’s latter stages.
Emery’s confidence in young bucks like Gomes is questionable anyway, so PSG are better off looking for a more natural, even if temporary, fit.
That is where Diarra enters the picture.
The former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid player hails from Paris and is looking for a new challenge between now and the end of the campaign, perhaps one final chance to prove that he can still deliver on his only fleetingly recognised potential at the top level.
On a six-month contract, between now and the end of term, Diarra would strengthen PSG in an area where they really need depth — just ask Emery.
Les Parisiens could offer him a chance to prove himself again in Europe, which he was not doing badly at Marseille for the most part, or an opportunity to put himself back in the shop window after dropping off of most clubs’ radars by moving to the UAE.
Judging by the videos of him in action with Al Jazira that are doing the rounds at present, Diarra is not in bad shape, and if his role as a squad figure and not an integral member of the starting XI is made clear before he joins, there should be a minimal number of flare-ups caused by his at times combustible personality.
What should be stressed, though, is the short-term element of a potential move. At 32, Diarra is no spring chicken, and PSG should be looking at a younger option to ultimately come in and take over from Motta after the season.
Considering the interest shown in Fluminense’s Wendel, who will likely join Porto on loan before any sort of link-up with the PSG squad, it appears that sporting director Antero Henrique is doing exactly that.
PSG are looking good for the Ligue 1 title, have a decent chance at Champions League glory and will also likely impose themselves on the Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France — or are at least are expected to.
For this to happen, adequate squad depth is needed across the board, and defensive midfield is one area where options are thinnest.
Bringing in Diarra, in theory, will enable Emery to prepare Motta for both legs against Real Madrid in Europe and the big games across Ligue 1 and both domestic cups.
There are still plenty of other matches to play outside of that, and it is logical to think that PSG would want a natural fit like Diarra to rotate with Motta once in a while.
The experienced Frenchman will not be cheap salary-wise, but paying only wages as opposed to a significant transfer fee as well as basic pay and bonuses represents smart business for a club trying to please UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) watchdog at this moment in time.
Add in the fact that Diarra is French and has impressed influential figures like captain Thiago Silva in the past, and one would surmise he will quickly blend in with the other players.
On paper, at least, Diarra to PSG is a no-brainer and could ultimately make a big difference in the business end of the season.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.