Meet the new football sensation Pau Cubarsi whose defence work flattened Mbappe's PSG | Football News - Hindustan Times

Meet the new football sensation Pau Cubarsi whose defence work flattened Mbappe's PSG

Apr 11, 2024 04:26 PM IST

Kylian Mbappe was not ready for 17-year-old Pau Cubarsi as the youngster was a constant obstacle for PSG.

Pau Cubarsi well and truly burst onto the footballing scene on Wednesday night against Paris Saint-Germain. In the lead-up to the Champions League first-leg quarterfinal tie in Paris, everyone knew that he was talented but also that his rite of passage had yet to come.

Kylian Mbappe and Pau Cubarsi fight for the ball. (Getty)
Kylian Mbappe and Pau Cubarsi fight for the ball. (Getty)

What a grand stage the 17-year-old chose for his arrival. In a hostile atmosphere created by the partisan Parisian crowd, Cubarsi exceeded all expectations and PSG, led by the fearsome Kylian Mbappe, shockingly came up short.

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Cubarsi hails from a small Catalan village of 200 residents and he sure made them proud with his extraordinary performance against one of the best teams in the world. Second youngest to feature in a Champions League quarterfinal, he gave a great account of himself against Luis Enrique’s men.

The centre-back, who was only playing in his second Champions League game after coming up with a man-of-the-match performance against Napoli last month, looked not overawed by the occasion. And if he had any anxiety, he hid it very well.

He had a stellar first-half. He had maximum clearances to his name. He passed the ball like a magician with an accuracy of around 93%. The second half was no different. He caught the eye, particularly by winning the ball back five times. That he left the spectators spellbound would be an understatement. A star was born at the Parc des Princes!

Cubarsi, who arrived at Barcelona in 2018 from Girona FC, made his La Liga debut earlier this year against Real Betis, just two days before his birthday. The match against PSG was his 15th first-team appearance in all.

Cubarsi has all the essentials of a future star. What makes him special is his extraordinary peripheral vision. In layman’s terms, he has the field with players at various positions completely printed in his brain. So, there is a lot of stealth in his play which can make the opposition uneasy at times.

The fact of the matter is that the entire Barcelona backline showed terrific form. The other three defenders Jules Kounde, primarily tasked with dealing with the Mbappe threat, Ronald Araujo and Joao Cancelo too had a fantastic game.

The defensive quartet was so good on the night that the France World Cup winner, who will be seen in Real Madrid colours from next season, looked helpless. He had just three shots to his name and none of those was on target. All through the match, he had just 44 touches, the fewest among the PSG outfield players who played the full game. It does not happen often.

Raphinha scored two goals in Barcelona’s 3-2 win but Cubarsi and his backline team-mates were the architects of the victory. The attacking trio of Ousmane Dembele, Marco Asensio and Mbappe had no answers. PSG had 59% possession and taken 18 shots but such was the performance of the Barcelona quartet, those numbers meant nothing at the end of the day.

Barca coach Xavi was thrilled at what he saw from Cubarsi. "I can't praise him enough, he's almost unbeatable and competes like a seasoned player. One thing that makes me proud is that we have young players on the team. The players believe in themselves," Mundo Deportivo reported him as saying after the match.

Not only from the point of Barcelona, Cubarsi passing the PSG test with flying colours is also good news for Spain. Cubarsi has played two games for La Roja so far – both came last month in friendlies against Colombia and Brazil - and with Euro 2024 only a couple of months away, Luis de la Fuente should be a happy man having a great option in Cubarsi.

Spain has had a rich history of great men at the back in the ongoing century and their fans would hope Cubarsi, who is a big admirer of World Cup and Euro winner Carles Puyol, goes on to follow suit.

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