It’s rare that Paris Saint-Germain splash the cash on defenders. An area within their squad which needs the most attention, it’s understandable then that they decided to part with €37m (£33m) for Schalke’s Thilo Kehrer earlier this month. At 21, he represents an exciting prospect which has world-class potential and a great platform to reach it in the seasons to come.
Marquinhos (24) and World Cup winner Presnel Kimpembe (23) are both established centre-backs with youth on their side, which is ideal as captain Thiago Silva turns 34 before this year is over.
Only Silva and compatriot David Luiz have been signed for more money by PSG in defence than Kehrer, who has been capped 33 times by Germany across various age-groups at youth level.
Is he good enough?
Ultimately the most important question is regarding Kehrer’s current ability and whether he is of the required standard to enjoy a successful stint in Paris. The answer is yes, he is a quality defender and one who has the versatility to play across the backline.
A right-footed centre-back who can play either fullback position and equally well in defensive midfield, Kehrer has seized upon his chance from Schalke’s belief in his potential to sign him as a 16-year-old at Stuttgart. Patiently biding his time in the youth ranks, the 2016/17 campaign was his breakthrough season – where he made 25 appearances across all competitions. Last term, he made more than that (28) in the Bundesliga alone, as Domenico Tedesco helped propel his new side to a second-placed finish.
The club’s failure to qualify for Europe the previous year meant he could not earn more midweek experience in either the Europa League or Champions League, though the fact he was a mainstay in a team which exceeded expectations speaks volumes. Schalke had already agreed terms with him over a contract extension, prior to PSG’s surprise bid.
The interest from top clubs was already evident, though club bosses must have assumed it was yet more typical news speculation and him signing improved terms would see suitors holding off, at least for another season.
Barcelona were among those interested, but their European rivals beat them to his signature and it’s a shrewd deal that has gone under-the-radar, but is also a signal of their intent.
Is this move the right decision, right now?
Having captained Germany’s u21s – a side that has featured players including his former teammates Leon Goretzka (Bayern) and Max Meyer (Crystal Palace), it’s clear to see why he’s so highly-rated.
He averaged three tackles, 3.4 clearances, 1.3 interceptions and a respectable 83% pass completion rate in Germany’s top-flight last season. Despite earning a reputation for his tough-tackling style, he maintains a high level of discipline and crucially, was consistent too. With that in mind, every player has their price. Schalke’s asking price was reportedly around the €35m mark and seen as a deterrent. Not expecting anyone to pay that, they should have braced themselves after his impressive season.
The move is justified given such high potential while his ability levels mean he can settle quickly to life in France. There’s a young core within Thomas Tuchel’s first-team forming and after a full pre-season, some academy prospects were promoted to the senior side too.
Kehrer’s flaws; his passing consistency, winning aerial battles and being prone to the occasional heart-in-mouth moment, will be ironed out as he’s playing alongside better teammates. They will naturally hold him to a higher standard and against tougher opposition, he’ll embrace extra defensive responsibilities.
This move, albeit a more expensive version, reminds me of Bayern’s deal to sign Joshua Kimmich from Stuttgart three years ago. Both players are versatile and very talented, have followed similar trajectories – but joining the league champions helped Kimmich boost his reputation after earning more exposure from his performances in Bavaria.
Given the team dynamic and current pecking order, he might not become an immediate regular this season but will provide fierce competition and look to shine whenever given the opportunity.