PARIS — Arsenal are set to make their first signing under new coach Unai Emery with Yacine Adli poised to snub professional terms with Paris Saint-Germain in favour of a move to Emirates Stadium, a source close to the French capital outfit has told ESPN FC.
The Ligue 1 giants have long struggled to keep their best young talents and Adli, 17, is the latest in a growing list of gems to opt against pursuing their career at Parc des Princes.
Despite the appointment of former player and coach Luis Fernandez as youth academy sporting director, Adli and Manchester City-bound Claudio Gomes have slipped through PSG’s fingers in the past 12 months — no doubt enraging Chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.
Adli could face his PSG as early as July in the International Champions Cup when Arsenal meet the French champions in Singapore, which will also see Emery face off against his successor Thomas Tuchel. Here are five things to know about Adli.
1. He’s an elegant midfielder
Adli, like Gomes, is a promising midfielder — albeit a different type. While the latter is more physical and defensive-minded, the former is more creative and forward-thinking.
Adli possesses impressive passing ability for such a young player, which combines well with two of his other major strengths — his vision and technique.
As well as having played in central and attacking midfield roles at youth level for PSG and France, he can also play out wide, which makes him a versatile option for Emery as he looks to rejuvenate this Arsenal squad.
2. He is Adrien Rabiot-esque
At first glance, you could be mistaken for thinking that Adli is fellow PSG youth academy graduate Adrien Rabiot. Both players possess lanky frames, sport fluffy hairstyles and play in midfield, but the similarities do not stop there.
Although he does not share the same self-belief and physicality as Rabiot, the second of which will come with time, Adli is technically gifted, does the basics well, and can dictate the pace of play.
Those traits serve the senior player better in a No. 6 role, but the younger fares better as a No. 8 — however, both showed enough attacking potential to be tried out wide in their early days.
Considering Rabiot’s petulance after failing to make France’s full World Cup squad this summer, Arsenal may well have dodged a bullet and gone for a potentially better and stress-free long-term option in Adli.
3. He is a France youth international
Adli’s potential was recognised early on and he has been a regular with France’s under-16, U17 and U18 youth teams, racking up appearances in double figures with the first two and being well on his way to doing the same with the third.
Assuming that he gets the game time that Emery and Arsenal recruitment chief Sven Mislintat must have assured him he will get in London, it is reasonable to expect that the teenager will continue to rise through the ranks with Les Bleuets and eventually surface at senior level.
Adli has averaged close to one goal every two games at youth level with France, underlining his attacking intent, but he is equally adept at carving out chances for his teammates from the middle of the park.
Depending on how Adli fares early on with the Gunners, he could make the leap up to U21 level sooner than we think.
4. He already make his first-team debut for PSG
Adli might be leaving to pursue his professional career elsewhere but he was handed his senior debut by Emery in the final match of the Ligue 1 season away at Caen.
Speaking after the final whistle at Stade Michel d’Ornano, he expressed his hope that his eight-minute outing was “the start of a long and beautiful journey.”
That journey in Paris appears to have been short-lived, but the Spaniard’s confidence in the youngster may well have proved decisive in his decision to leave so early.
5. Agent Emery makes a difference
Emery’s knowledge of PSG’s internal problems regarding their youth academy was no doubt an asset in Arsenal’s pursuit of Adli, but the Premier League side had been interested in him for a while.
Back in March, while the Basque tactician was still in charge of Les Parisiens, a source told ESPN FC that the Gunners were among the European giants interested in the French starlet.
Emery no doubt knew this as PSG tried to get him to sign professional terms and Arsenal’s backroom staff have persuaded Adli to pursue his future in England. That bodes well for their working relationship moving forward.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.