PSG kid Zaire-Emery is French football's next big thing

Warren Zaire-Emery in action for Paris Saint-Germain against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:AC Milan;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">AC Milan</a> in the Champions League this week (GABRIEL BOUYS)
Warren Zaire-Emery in action for Paris Saint-Germain against AC Milan in the Champions League this week (GABRIEL BOUYS)

France's never-ending conveyor belt of footballing talent appears to have thrown up its next superstar in Paris Saint-Germain's midfield prodigy Warren Zaire-Emery, who earned a call-up to the full national team on Thursday.

Zaire-Emery is just 17 years and eight months old, and if he plays for Didier Deschamps' side in either of their final Euro 2024 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece, he will become the youngest France player since before World War I.

That record is held by Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who broke into the French team aged 17 years and nine months in September 2020. Even Kylian Mbappe was 18 when he made his debut.

Zaire-Emery's rise has been remarkable and vertigo-inducing, since he made his first-team debut for PSG on the opening day of last season in August 2022 at the age of 16 years and five months.

That night in Clermont-Ferrand, as he appeared off the bench to join Neymar and Lionel Messi on the pitch, he became the youngest player to represent PSG.

By the end of last season he was starting regularly for the Qatar-backed side. He has hardly missed a game in this campaign under new coach Luis Enrique.

The French champions are reportedly hopeful of getting their starlet to extend his contract, which currently runs until 2025.

"Warren is aggressive, good technically, has good vision, can score goals and set up goals. He is the perfect example for all young kids in the PSG academy who want to be footballers and want to get to the highest level," said Luis Enrique after Zaire-Emery's man-of-the-match display against AC Milan in the Champions League last month.

Deschamps, who does not regularly attend club matches, was in the stands at the Parc des Princes that night and from that point on it seemed inevitable that Zaire-Emery would earn a call-up to the France squad.

His driving runs forward from midfield set up two goals that night. He has since scored in successive Ligue 1 matches for PSG and there are no fears of the full national team being too big a step up.

- Henry: 'Sky is the limit' -

"I reckon it's an objective for everyone, but I am not necessarily thinking about it. I am just playing my football and working hard to get there," he told broadcaster TF1 recently when asked about the prospect of a call-up.

Born in Montreuil in the eastern Paris suburbs, Zaire-Emery is the son of a footballer -- his father, Franck Emery, played for local side Red Star before going into coaching.

Zaire-Emery started playing at the age of four. It was not long before he was picked up by PSG, the club he supported as a little boy.

He starred in the France team that won the Under-17 European Championship in Israel last year. After that tournament he signed professional terms with PSG.

Fast forward to this September and he was handed his debut in the France Under-21 team by new coach Thierry Henry, and was immediately made captain despite being the youngest player in the side.

Henry, who made his own debut for Les Bleus aged 20, is hugely excited about Zaire-Emery, even if he risks losing him from the Under-21 side.

"He is magnificent. The sky is the limit. I have never seen such a young player be so mature," Henry said recently on US network CBS Sports.

"I gave him the armband because I wanted to see the next thing. I know that physically, he is strong, he can run, he can see a pass, he can stop a counter-attack.

"I gave him the armband to know if he could direct the team and talk. That was my way of seeing if he could do that, and trust me, he can. This guy has no limits."