Born in Saint-Maurice, Adrien Rabiot was an exciting talent who simply wanted to play football. He enjoyed youth spells at various clubs – from Créteil to Manchester City, before signing his first professional contract with Paris Saint-Germain.
Throughout his early development he would feature regularly for his beloved France national team, from the juvenile under sixteen side to the heights of the under twenty-one ranks. In total, he would represent the national youth sides on fifty-three occasions over a seven-year period.
His talent was obvious for all to see, and his attitude was rarely in question. As is the case with many young boys, he was energetic and required an arm around him from time to time. What many people do not realise is that he had to endure much more than your average 12-year-old.
Michel, his father, suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2007. The illness left him with ‘locked-in syndrome’ (LiS); A condition that renders people with total paralysis, only having consciousness and their normal cognitive abilities. The pair were as close as any father and son could be.
“As long as we don’t experience this disease, we don’t realise it,” Rabiot told Le Parisien in 2012.
“It’s a very frustrating feeling. Since his accident in 2007, I have been fighting on the pitch for him too.”
An incident that shaped a young man and one that brought his mother closer to him. For it is largely because of Rabiot’s father’s illness that his mother, Veronique, assumed such a distinguished role in his career. She acts as his agent and often speaks on his behalf when fulfilling media obligations.
For many, her presence is enough to disregard the players ability and it is within this I find inexcusable flaw. Social media has poisoned many an individual and gnawed away at a generation of free thought.
It’s true, Rabiot is not without his flaws. This is a man who could very well be classed as an enigma. From tergiversation of contract offers to unpunctual manner in meetings, he ticked many boxes by the age of twenty-three. Most notable in his off-the-field exploits would be his refusal to accept a standby spot for the France national team for the World Cup. This particular incident would leave a sour taste in the mouths of Les Bleus.
Despite an apparent petulant demeanour, the Frenchman would continually surface in first team duties for many of the game’s great tacticians. As a young homegrown Parisian, the player always had a striking symbolic importance for the club. Notwithstanding the competition of Marco Veratti, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta, the 6’2 midfielder would ease his way into the starting XI for much of his time at the club.
One of his finest moments for his beloved PSG would come against the powerhouse that was Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 in 2017. Facing a midfield that consisted of Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, Rabiot was the star of his sides 4-0 victory. Such was the magnitude of his display; he would earn a 9/10 rating from the notorious L’Equipe.
The player had cemented such control in the centre of the field that PSG saw fit to offload Matuidi to Italian giants Juventus. Rabiot would play under Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel who both systematically selected him in midfield – the latter even handing him the captains armband. Alongside Kylian Mbappe, Rabiot would be dropped from the side as a result of tardiness.
A lack of playing time would inadvertently lead the impulsive player to reject a contract offer from the club, turning the partisan supporters against him. The time on the bench led to him losing his spot in the national team, subsequently ending with his refusal of a standby spot for the World Cup. That was the beginning of the end of his time in his nation’s capital.
Six months later, he would be suspended by the club for what was deemed as unacceptable behaviour. Following a defeat to Manchester United in the last-16 of the Champions League, he would attend a nightclub and like an Instagram post from Patrice Evra celebrating United’s victory. His intentions were clear, and he would soon receive his wish with a move to Italy.
Rabiot signed for Juventus in July 2019, making the same move as one-time teammate Matuidi. His time with the Italian giants has had mixed results, but there is a flawed perception of this. It is true, the Juventus fans expected more, and his individual statistics are hardly emphatic. There’s a little bit more than meets the eye here though.
It is worthwhile noting that in the three seasons he has spent with the club, tremendous transition has occurred. He has had to play in three different sides under three different managers. Each side with a different identity and all attempting to shape themselves in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Juventus fans are cutting the image of a joyful bunch at the thought of his departure; the same can be said of Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski, both of whom have since supplied evidence of the talents they possess.
In recent weeks, Rabiot has been linked with a transfer to United and this has been largely dismissed by the fanbase, with some describing the move as desperation on the club’s part. I am aware of the club’s interest for several months, however, and a strong recommendation came from Ronaldo.
Further to United’s interest, Tuchel has directly contacted the player in the hope of reacquainting their relationship at Chelsea, while Paul Mitchell has also sanctioned a move to AS Monaco.
Erik ten Hag has contacted Rabiot directly and is encouraged by his desire to reignite his career. The player is extremely impressed by United’s desire to bring him to Old Trafford and willingness to develop the midfield with his ball-carrying abilities.
There is no guarantee that the Frenchman will be a success at the club, but signings are always an unknown variable. A new chapter has begun in Manchester and the manager is shaping the side in his image. Ten Hag see’s Rabiot as a strong midfield player who immediately improves his side.
Games are won and lost in the middle of the field and managerial careers are based on results. While United pursue additional acquisitions, it is important that other assets are not ignored. It has become fashionable to attach oneself to a popular opinion and this often leads to inadequate views aired amongst the masses.
Time is a fickle beast in Premier League management and this French enigma has a familiar feel.