PSG would be mad not to activate Xavi Simons' €6m buy-back clause after superb PSV season

Xavi Simons PSV 2022-23
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The Dutch attacker was sensational in Eredivisie last season - and the Ligue 1 champions would be wise to swallow their pride and re-sign him

"I was training with world stars every day but playing games is also important. I learned a lot from these players but I just turned 19 so I think I had to take that step to develop myself. It was really incredible. I don't think you will see such a good team together again."

Xavi Simons' explanation for snubbing a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain in favour of joining Eredivisie outfit PSV last summer was a fair one. He was touted as a future star after leaving Barcelona to head for Parc des Princes in 2019, but only made 11 senior appearances over the next three years.

While Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar were all still on the books, Simons was destined to remain on the fringes of the action at PSG. He made a brave decision by moving back to his homeland, and it paid off handsomely.

Simons was PSV's standout player as they landed the Johan Cruyff Shield and Dutch Cup last season, while also finishing second in the Eredivisie. The 20-year-old managed to win a share of the Golden Boot in the league - no mean feat considering he played mainly on the left-wing - and gave defenders across the Netherlands nightmares with his pace and trickery, scoring 22 goals and providing 12 assists in all competitions while also making his first full international appearances.

It is clear that PSG let a diamond slip through their grasp - but they have a unique opportunity to rectify their mistake. According to Fabrizio Romano, a buy-back clause was inserted into Simons' contract at PSV which allows the Ligue 1 champions to re-sign him for just €6 million.

They will have to move quickly, though, as the clause in question will only be active for the month of July. Simons is currently on a well-deserved holiday after a long campaign, but he won't be short of options when he reports back to Eindhoven.

  1. The Van Nistelrooy effect

    The Van Nistelrooy effect

    Former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy took on his first head coaching role at PSV last summer, and one of his first orders of business was to convince Simons that the Philips Stadion was the best place for his development.

    "We have a very good connection, it's very important to me," Simons said of Van Nistelrooy's influence after signing a five-year deal at PSV. "He explained very well how he wants to work with the team and with me. For my part, I prefer to play as an attacking or central midfielder. Let me run, score and assist."

    Van Nistelrooy instantly brought the best out of Simons, who recorded six goals and two assists in his first five Eredivisie appearances. The PSV was left awestruck by the teenager, as he told Voetbal International last September: "He’s doing everything he can to get to the top, his top. And where that will be, that’s the beautiful challenge.

    “His mentality, his mindset, it’s unprecedented. It’s a boy of only 19 years old, but Xavi is already much further advanced than his age. He really is a pure professional, a boy who is working towards a goal, who wants to get the most out of his qualities.”

    Simons kept up his dazzling level of performance right through to the end of the season, but Van Nistelrooy won't be around to witness the next chapter of his career. The 46-year-old left PSV at the end of May after complaining to the club over a "lack of support", and the news came as a great shock to Simons. He took to social media to bid a final goodbye to Van Nistelrooy, writing: "Thank you for making me a better player and helping me achieve one of my dreams of making it to the national team. Forever grateful. Good luck in the future, mister!"

    Peter Bosz was swiftly drafted in as PSV's new manager, but Simons' future remains very much up in the air after Van Nistelrooy's exit. If PSG capitalise on that uncertainty, they will owe special thanks to the Dutch icon, who was the man to finally unlock Simons' match-winning potential.

  2. Messi-shaped hole
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    Messi-shaped hole

    PSG certainly could have used the talents of Simons last season, as they once again failed to live up to expectations in the Champions League and limped to an unconvincing defence of their Ligue 1 crown. Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was among those to underperform, as he appeared to let his foot off the gas after inspiring Argentina to World Cup glory at Qatar 2022.

    Messi scored a more than respectable 21 goals in 41 appearances, while setting up another 20, but he faced fierce criticism from PSG's Ultras after a poor showing across the two legs of their last-16 Champions League tie against Bayern Munich. The French giants crashed out 3-0 on aggregate, and Messi was made a scapegoat for their latest European disaster alongside Neymar.

    It was no surprise when reports surfaced suggesting Messi wouldn't be extending his contract beyond the end of the campaign, and the former Barcelona superstar confirmed his next move in an interview with Mundo Deportivo and Sport in May. The 36-year-old is all set to complete a free transfer to Inter Miami in MLS, bringing to an end his ill-fated spell in France.

    Messi's exit potentially frees up a spot in the squad for Simons. PSG have been trying to sign Manchester City's Bernardo Silva as a replacement for Messi, but the Portuguese is now being strongly linked with a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia.

    Simons doesn't have anywhere near the same levels of experience as Bernardo, but he could bring a new dimension to PSG's attack, which was disjointed last term despite Messi's presence. The underlying statistics from his first year at PSV prove as much. The Netherlands international made 1.06 goal-creating actions per 90 minutes, the second-best record in the Eredivisie, and there was only one player in the division who could better his total for progressive ball carries (148).

    Simons has also shown he has a real ruthless streak in front of goal, not unlike Messi in his prime, and certainly looks ready for a step up next season.

  3. Arsenal lurking
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    Arsenal lurking

    PSG could live to regret it if they don't bring Simons back to the club, not least because he is once again being tracked by a number of other top European clubs. Arsenal are among those being credited with an interest in the PSV sensation, with Mikel Arteta eager to bolster his options upfront.

    According to L'Equipe, the Gunners are poised to swoop for Simons if PSG delay triggering their buy-option. Arteta already has Gabriel Martinelli filling the left-wing berth in his starting XI as well as Leandro Trossard in reserve, but Simons is versatile enough to slot into a different position in the attack.

    It would be easy for Simons to be tempted by a potential switch to the Emirates Stadium, which is why PSG cannot afford to sit on their hands in this situation. Borussia Dortmund have also been linked with the Dutch starlet in recent weeks, which is another attractive option.

    Dortmund have a strong history when it comes to the development of young talent, with Jadon Sancho, Christian Pulisic and Jude Bellingham among those to have honed their skills at Westfalenstadion before moving onto even bigger things. PSG must not let it get to the stage where Simons starts weighing up the pros and cons of a transfer to a different club.

  4. PSG need an image change
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    PSG need an image change

    PSG's Qatari owners have invested well over €1 billion in new players since completing their takeover at Parc des Princes in 2012, with the likes of Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi and Achraf Hakimi all signed for hefty fees.

    They also splashed out a combined €400m (£344m/$437m) on Mbappe and Neymar in 2017, with one ultimate goal in mind: Winning the Champions League. But aside from their final appearance in the 2019-20 edition of the competition, PSG have not come close to lifting the elusive trophy.

    Not even Messi's presence was enough to change that, and it seems as though the club has finally realised that a new approach is needed. Sergio Ramos will be departing as a free agent too, while Neymar has reportedly been transfer listed after another disappointing year. PSG now appear to be moving away from their superstar policy, having agreed a deal to sign Uruguayan defensive midfielder Manuel Ugarte from Sporting CP in the early stages of the summer window.

    Marcos Asensio will be next through the door, with the Real Madrid man set to complete a free transfer to Parc des Princes when his contract expires on June 30. Inter's Milan Skriniar and Mallorca star Lee Kang-in are also expected to join PSG ahead of the new season, with more focus being placed on players that can improve the overall balance of the team.

    Simons would also fall into that bracket. PSG need extra firepower in the final third, especially with Mbappe still reportedly flirting with a move to Real Madrid. Christophe Galtier wasn't able to keep Simons in Paris last year, but his time in the managerial hot seat is now over. PSG are expected to confirm Galtier's dismissal in the coming days, with Luis Enrique set to be drafted in as his replacement. The former Barcelona and Spain boss has always had a clear playing style, which is why he is the ideal man to help usher in a new era in the French capital.

    For several years now, PSG have been run in a chaotic fashion, with off-field controversy and dressing-room divides ultimately preventing them from making any progress. By reducing their list of marquee names and blooding younger talent like Simons, they will finally stand a chance of changing their overall image for the better.

  5. Perfect foil for Mbappe
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    Perfect foil for Mbappe

    At the moment, it is highly likely that Real Madrid will finally prise Mbappe away from PSG. The 24-year-old has made it crystal clear that he will not be extending his contract beyond its 2024 expiry date, which means this summer is likely to be the club's last chance to cash in on their prized asset.

    Real have publicly played down another move for Mbappe, but PSG are adamant that they will not let him leave the club as a free agent next year. It seems inevitable that the two clubs will eventually reach an agreement, and it has been reported that Madrid could pay a fee upfront to secure Mbappe's services, before allowing him to spend one final year in France.

    If Mbappe does stay put for the 2023-24 season, it would be fascinating to see him link up with Simons. They never really got the chance to build up a strong on-pitch rapport during the Dutchman's first spell at the club, but the dynamic would be different this time around.

    Messi's expert service helped Mbappe win a fifth consecutive Golden Boot in Ligue 1 last term, but Simons could be an equally effective partner. The Dutch attacker has recorded 12 assists for PSV to date, without having a world-class striker ahead of him to aim for.

    Mbappe constantly makes runs in behind and more often than not, applies the finishing touch when picked out. Simons could be the perfect foil for the World Cup winner, especially after taking on some important words of advice from his old team-mate.

    Simons told De Telegraaf of his relationship with Mbappe in April: "I spoke a lot with him and he always told me: 'There's no age in soccer'. If a 21-year-old is better than a 25-year-old, the 21-year-old will just play. I always have that in my head."

  6. Simons wants a second chance
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    Simons wants a second chance

    PSG may have a unique advantage when it comes to securing Simons' services, but he will have the final say on his future. If he doesn't want to return to Parc des Princes, he doesn't have to. But he's already hinted that his heart still belongs to Paris. When speaking to NoS Sport in February, Simons admitted: "I miss France. The city of Paris is incredible, truly a metropolis. I also miss it a bit because Eindhoven is much quieter."

    The former Barcelona academy prospect is also well aware that his stock is higher than ever. PSV are reportedly willing to make Simons their new captain if he remains at Philips Stadion, but he seems to have already made up his mind to leave. "Clearly a lot has changed now," he said during the international break, as per Fabrizio Romano. "I haven’t met or spoken to the new manager yet. I will speak to him and sit with PSV, then decide my future."

    Simons added on a possible return to PSG: "I’m aware of PSG clause to bring me back — but as far as I’m aware they also don’t have a manager yet." That more or less equates to a come-and-get-me plea, and PSG must answer, or else risk missing out on a player with the potential to become one of the leading lights of his generation. The whole world has now seen just how good Simons is, and it would be a bad look for the French champions to turn their back on him.

    He clearly still has unfinished business at the club. Simons only started three games in a PSG shirt, and wasn't able to open his scoring account. But just imagine how many goals he could get playing alongside Mbappe next season. PSG need a new poster boy for their next cycle, and Simons is ready and waiting.