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What does Buffon's PSG arrival mean for Alphonse Areola?

Wednesday 18th July 2018

After the World Cup comes reality. slothful managers can now get to work. Unhappy players can ponder about their future. Following Gianluigi Buffon’s switch to Paris Saint-Germain, Alphonse Areola has plenty of that to do. His Russian hangover seized quite early. 

By signing Buffon, PSG went back on a promise to Areola. The Qatari owners had given assurances to the 25-year-old about his position. They made it clear that he will remain their number one after an absolutely solid campaign. Areola racked up an impressive 16 clean sheets from 33 Ligue 1 appearances, conceding just 25 times. 

We have Areola, he's our No. 1. He (Buffon) is a fantastic goalkeeper, he's very charismatic and is a true gentleman. I'm sure all the clubs want him.

President Nasser Al-Khelaifi may have implied PSG were keenly interested. Areola had already sensed the impending arrival of the Italian. He even warned against the move, threatening to depart. Yet headstrong, resolute and spendthrift the Parisian side acquired the Italian mercenary. 

Areola has every reason to feel hard done by. He worked his socks off to be the club’s first choice keeper. Signed at age 13, he has had to bide his time patiently. Areola was never the go-to keeper, even for the youth team. Barely two years in the capital, he was farmed out on loan to INF Clairefontaine and ordered not to return until he clocked 18. 

Mature and exposed, Areola returned to Parc de Princes hoping for a major breakthrough. He didn’t, however. The next stop was the club’s Academy where he spent three seasons. Followed by another three years away. Bastia. Lens. Sevilla. Each of those, Areola showed exceptional trait worthy to challenge for at least a bench role in Paris. 

Eventually, his chance came two seasons ago. With Kevin Trapp’s clangers becoming a regular sight, Unai Emery was forced to alternate with Areola and ended up falling in love with the Frenchman. The following campaign, Areola upsurged Trapp as the undisputed first choice, starting 43 games in all competitions. He was rewarded with a spot on Didier Deschamps’ World Cup-winning squad.  

Buffon offers something of an upgrade, though. At 40, he’s no longer as commanding as he was a decade ago. Neither would he produce those odd slick saves. Yet his unmatched influence, reputation and experience would be key in the Parisians quest for continental honours. However, his arrival creates an intriguing situation between the sticks. Will Thomas Tuchel abandon a promising Areola for a flagging 40-year-old?

On the pitch, there isn’t much to separate both based on current ability. The pair were almost even in terms of clean sheets; managing one every other game. For goals conceded per match, the Italian had the slight edge. He shipped in 17 in 21 Serie A games with an average of 1.2 compared to the Frenchman’s 1.3. 

The logic around the PSG camp is that Buffon will help guide Areola through his final internship phase. There may be every sense in it. Buffon's contract with the club lasts for just a single season. They reckon losing a potential star for the next 10-15 years would be an extremely heavy price to pay for essentially a one-year rental  Besides Buffon will miss three Champions League matches due to a ban.

But the real question is whether Areola desires to continue as an intern. He has made his stance clear about sitting on the bench. AS Roma, Liverpool and Napoli have reportedly provided an exit route. 

Whatever the case may be, PSG will potentially benefit from the competition between both. 

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Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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