« We have the feeling that PSG is a family »
Paris Saint-Germain may collect stars, but the youngsters of the academy have never attracted the light as much as this season. Since this summer, several of them have reached the holy grail: playing in an official match with the first team. Among them, El Chadaille marked the spirits by its precocity. Since coming into play against Feignies-Aulnoy, in the 32nd final of the Coupe de France, on December 19, he has become the youngest player ever to come into play with the PSG professional team. That day he was 16 years, 7 months and 3 days old.
But his precocity is not the only particularity of this promising young central defender. At twelve years old, El Chadaille was already 1.90m tall. Incredible growth that has raised many doubts among his opponents. Yet the facts are there. El Chadaille is a giant, who today approaches two meters. For the very first time in his young career, he confided in the microphone of Pia Clemens for the magazine 100% PSG.
On the meaning of his name
It is a biblical name which means « Almighty God ». I am very religious. In my family too, we are very religious and if it’s like that, we’ll say it’s because God wanted it to be like that and there’s a meaning behind it all.
On Romain Rolland, the city of Saint-Denis in which he grew up
It takes me back to my childhood. It’s my first house. This is where I grew up, where I actually started playing football, at the bottom of the city, in Saint-Denis. Where it all began.
On his debut on the pitch
I started football with my grandmother when I was three years old. I started kicking a ball. It’s a bit like her who gave me this desire to play football. And afterwards, it was my father who also got me started in football by enrolling me at the US Saint-Denis at the age of five. In my family, we love football. And since I played at PSG, we support PSG.
On his role models in football as a child
I didn’t have any posters in my room, but I watched lots and lots of YouTube videos. When I was little, I liked to watch Messi, Neymar or Ronaldo. It depended.
On the fact that he trains today with some of his models
It’s very strange, but that’s it!
On his feelings when signing his first pro contract at PSG last July
Me, I said to myself: “It’s a new adventure that is about to begin. Now it’s no longer a joke. The professional world is beginning for me and I have to be ready at all times. “And I was very, very, very happy to be able to sign this contract because it is the beginning of a new adventure, and not an end. This is just the beginning.
On his back and forth between the pro team and the U19s
Every day, every day, I train with the professionals. And when I’m not in the group for the weekend game, that’s when I go back down with the U19s to always keep playing time.
Is this situation uncomfortable?
Not at all. For me it’s very, very good because if in the pro group I’m not ready or whatever, at least one side, I know that I will be able to save playing time so that I can improve and still have this fun to play football.
Does he have the feeling that Mauricio Pochettino is watching him in training?
Yes a lot. We are very, very observed. He doesn’t talk a lot, but he observes a lot and it’s mostly towards the end, or sometimes during training, that he takes you aside and talks to you. But I really feel that he is watching us. Not just me, but all young people too.
Is Mauricio Pochettino warm with him?
Yes, many, many. Really, it feels like a family here.
El Chadaille said in a Pro Direct Soccer France video that the first time he went one-on-one against Messi, he slipped. Has he managed to stop it since?
We don’t have many, many duels, but I was able to stop him once. But still, it’s very, very complicated. It’s Lionel Messi, after all!
On what Marquinhos gives him in training
Marquinhos, to begin with, is someone who brings me a lot in the field, already. When I don’t understand an exercise or I don’t know where to position myself, he will always be there to tell me how to do it. He is someone who will always encourage you, in fact. He’s never going to let you do anything. He will always guide you, tell you what to do, where to go. And that is something that I really like.
Does Kimpembe give him a lot of advice?
Yes a lot. A lot, really. Presnel is someone with whom I got along very, very well. He’s like my big brother and really, I love the bond we have.
Ramos, he doesn’t speak French yet. But I understand a little English and Spanish. And the few times I was able to be in his team, in training, it was much more in tactics. He observes the game, he watches and he says at the right time, in the right timing, where you have to move forward, if you have to slide, if you have to take his place when he leaves. He is a playmaker.
His opinion on a system of play with a defense with three defenders
In fact, it’s a good idea because it’s good to have such a three-way defense. Afterwards, we, the PSG, we did not play much in defense with three, but we are able to do it, we have seen it in particular in the last games. It went very well and having three monsters in defense is definitely a good thing to see.
On the current craze around the young people of PSG
Lately, we feel that the supporters want to see the Titis evolve with the professional world and that does us good. Seeing that the supporters are behind us really boosts us to give the best of ourselves when we get on the pitch.
On the generosity of the stars of the team, in particular Verratti and Mbappé, with the young people on the ground
Off the field, there is a very good understanding. So on the ground, logically, there is also a very good understanding. Even if they are stars, they have this desire to make us progress, because they are also human. And as a human, when you love a person, logically, you want them to complete their project.
On his feelings when he came into play against Feignies-Aulnoy
I had gone to warm up. After five minutes of warming up, the coach called me and said: “Chad, you’re going home”, because Thilo had hurt himself a little. Suddenly, I entered the game around the 60th and in my head, it was really: give everything, and have no regrets. I returned. I did my best to help the team and the coach, in the end, was very happy with me. Everyone congratulated me on this record, telling me that it was very good, that I had to continue like this… And that was only the beginning!
Is he tired of the constant questions about his size?
No, because now people know me. As a result, questions about my size do not reach me. Me, I know that I was born in France, that I am my age… So it doesn’t bother me.
Outclassed throughout his training, because of his size and his qualities, did he sometimes feel out of step with the older players in terms of his maturity?
Not at all. Because, precisely, I learn a lot more when I’m with older than when I play with players of my age. And it allows me to think a lot more, to be able to read things more quickly. And that is an advantage for me, even in my everyday life.
On his footballing qualities when he was a striker
I was very powerful when I was little, because I was tall and ran pretty fast. Suddenly, I was given the deep pass and I eliminated with a feint or a hook and directly… I shot and scored!
On his position as central defender
I learned to love this post. And today, I love it. Being a defender is like being the guardian of your house. No one should enter. You’re protecting your whole family, which is inside. It means that no matter what, no one must score in your goalkeeper’s goal.
On his qualities as a line breaker
It’s because I worked on that when I was younger, the long forward passes that could disturb the opponent. By taking them out of time or behind their backs, I surprised them and they no longer knew what to do. And over time, I learned to develop this pass and until today, I develop it. And I know it hurts a lot. She can upset an opposing team.
On his player profile
I am a very serene player, with composure, efficient and… a technical leader.
On what he listens to before a game to get in the mood
On the way, I listen to urban music. Rap, melodies. But ten minutes before the match, I put on religious music so that I can get even closer to God. I’m in my little bubble and before getting into the game, I say my little prayer and I know that everything will be fine.