With both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo enjoying high-profile competitive streaks, it’s hard to believe anything but a fierce and fascinating rivalry is due to emerge in Italy in the next nine months.
The PSG under-19 squad is a team brimming with talent, most noticeably the likes of French centre forward Arnaud Kalimuendo, 18-year-old French international Adil Aouchiche, and the Dutch-born former La Masia superstar Xavi Simons.
However, a new talent has emerged: a Moroccan midfielder gifted with world-class vision, mesmerising dribbling and an instinct for the game well beyond his years.
Kays Ruiz-Atil was born in Lyon, France to a French mother and Moroccan father on the 26th of August 2002. He first drew attention with local media when he joined FC Barcelona at just seven years of age in 2009.
However, in 2015, after Barca were handed a transfer ban when it was found they breached regulations regarding the signings of players under 18, the then-13-year-old was forced to leave the club, moving back to France. PSG were quick to pounce on the youngster.
After three years in the PSG youth program, Ruiz-Atil became the youngest outfield player to sign a professional contract with PSG at just 16 years and five days. He featured regularly for the under-19s in the 2018-19 season, a product of his close relationship with coach and former Italian midfielder Thiago Motta.
However, this season has seen limited opportunities for the 17-year-old after Stephane Roche took over from Motta. A combination of adjusting to a new system and a very competitive squad has seen the midfielder feature just 11 times under the Frenchman.
But after a string of good performances in January and February things were looking up for the youngster before the cancellation of play.
The highlight came in February against hometown club Olympique Lyonnais in the last 16 of the Coupe Gambardella, France’s premier under-19 cup competition. After providing the assist for the first goal, the 17-year-old stepped up to a free kick on the edge of the area.
Wrong-footing the keeper, he confidently places the ball in the back of the net, giving PSG the lead. He would go on to assist one more in a 5-1 win for the Parisians. Apart from the goal and assists, he exuded confidence and flair.
He is not scared to send a defender to the shops or hitting 40-yard passes with ease. It was a performance worthy of attention, and he is getting some.
Various different clubs are interested in the Moroccan and French international, with Chelsea and Barcelona leading the way. Chelsea legend Claude Makelele is leading the talks for the Blues and believes Ruiz-Atil could be yet another addition to Frank Lampard’s youth-based rebuild.
His contract runs until 2021, and although PSG have reportedly offered him a new five-year deal, the 17-year-old has been frustrated with the club’s reluctance to give him an opportunity in the first team and is yet to put pen to paper.
The youngster took to Instagram to voice his frustration: “If PSG do not want to allow me to train with the first team, there are other clubs. Things are not going to end at PSG. There are clubs that have made me an offer where I train with the first team and then I play matches for their reserves.”
Clearly, Kays Ruiz-Atil is ambitious for the future and eager to move forward, but at only 17 he has time on his side.
Whether it’s at PSG, Chelsea or another club, there’s no doubt that if he continues to impress and perform at youth level then senior football should be not too distant in the future.