2017 22under22 Countdown – #12: Presnel Kimpembe

“If I had to compare him with someone it would be Kompany. Presnel has that same elegance and aptitude. He’s a really modern player, he always wants to build from the back.”
– Thomas Meunier

Date of birth: August 13, 1995 (21 years old)
Nationality: French
Position: Center Back/Fullback
Club Appearances: 22 (0 goals)
International Appearances: 0 (but has been called up)
EiF Ability Rating: 64.5

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*

Our 2017 #22under22 project, a countdown in which we will reveal the top 22 players in the world who were born no earlier than 1995, continues with #12, Presnel Kimpembe. The young French center back has burst onto the scene this year with a number of impressive performances for French giants PSG, including an impressive display against Messi and company in the first leg of the now-famous Barcelona – PSG tie. He is one of the most exciting defenders on this list, and his contributions this season have helped him to earn a contract with PSG until 2021. In a French generation packed with young talent, Kimpembe has established himself right up there with Ousmane Dembele and Anthony Martial in terms of importance to the future of French football.

Kimpembe was born to a Haitian mother and a Congolese father in France, and his talent was spotted early by the scouts of the PSG academy, which he joined at the age of nine. After making his way through the academy, he finally made his debut for the senior side in 2014 at the age of 19. Due to PSG’s strength in his position, he has often struggled to gain steady playing time until this season, in which he has made 15 appearances so far. He was already known in French football, but he firmly established himself as an upcoming European star with a brilliant performance on his Champions League debut against Barcelona in that 4-0 victory. He looked extremely calm on the ball and in his tackles against the mighty Catalans. Funnily enough, he was absent from the lineup for PSG’s 6-1 meltdown in the second leg.  Kimpembe earned his first call-up to the French national team for October’s World Cup Qualifiers, although he did not play. He has had a magnificent breakthrough season, and with David Luiz back at Chelsea and Thiago Silva aging, Kimpembe’s future at PSG looks very promising.


Kimpembe’s calm on the ball was on full display against Barcelona. (Photo: goal.com)

One attribute that Kimpembe possesses that modern teams are now looking for more than ever before is his ability to play out of the back. Especially on top teams who tend to dominate possession in their matches, center backs who can keep it ticking and play calmly out of pressure are increasingly important as the style of the modern game continues to develop. Kimpembe fits this mold perfectly and has been praised time and time again for his composure in possession. Kimpembe’s talent in this aspect was on full display against Barcelona where he repeatedly played his way around the high-energy pressure from Messi, Neymar, and Suarez.

Let’s not forget that Kimpembe is still a center back, and in addition to all his ability on the ball, his defensive ability is just as solid. He combines excellent positioning and tackling ability with impressive athleticism to make him extremely difficult to beat one on one or over the top. He is 6’1″ and despite his slightly smaller frame, he is still extremely strong, he is fast enough to not be outpaced by many forwards, and he frequently bullies opposition attackers off the ball.


Kimpembe’s performances have earned him a new contract with PSG until 2021. (Photo: psg.fr)

Kimpembe honestly does not have many weaknesses, however, as a CB, it has been noted he does lack a bit of quality in the air despite his height. Luckily, this weakness is not exposed frequently as PSG generally have the ball for the majority of the game and his strengths on the ball can be highlighted instead. If Kimpembe could improve in this area more traditionally suited for CBs, he has the potential to be an all-around top European defender.

The emergence of Kimpembe this season as a top prospect has certainly boosted French football’s hopes for a World Cup soon as he is touted to lead the France and PSG defenses in the near future. He announced himself to the world with his performance against Barcelona and many scouts from top clubs all over Europe are sure to be monitoring his progress closely over the next few seasons.

Previous: No. 13, 19-year-old Anderlecht sharpshooter, Youri Tielemans
No. 11, Another French starlet, Anthony Martial