After the whistle blew to signal the end of Paris Saint-Germain’s destruction of Real Madrid last month, Thomas Tuchel shared a special moment with one of his players.
Not two-goal hero Angel di Maria or summer signing Keylor Navas, who had just shut out his old team to help his new one make a perfect start to their Champions League campaign.
Tuchel congratulated both of them, of course, along with the rest of his stars, but it was Idrissa Gueye, another recent arrival, who got more than just a handshake.
Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel congratulates Idrissa Gueye on beating Real Madrid
The German embraces his £30m summer signing after watching him dominate Real’s midfield
Tuchel sought out the midfielder and stopped him for a brief chat, holding the former Everton man’s head in his hands before giving him a kiss on the cheek.
Then he embraced Gueye, thanking him for the kind of midfield display which can often go under the radar, but is so important when attempting to stop a side with the attacking quality of Real Madrid.
The Senegal star was everywhere that night, shackling Toni Kroos and getting back to thwart Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema on a miserable return to France for Zinedine Zidane.
Not known for his forays forward, he even got an assist after some excellent work down PSG’s right and a perfect pass into Di Maria’s path for his second of the night.
Gueye’s £30million move from Goodison Park attracted little fanfare over the summer, which is understandable when you consider the Galactico-type signings the French champions have made in recent years.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe arrived as the two most expensive players in the history of the game, while Edinson Cavani and Di Maria cost around £100m combined.
Gueye has been in superb form for PSG since making the move to Ligue 1 from Everton in July
The midfielder challenges Angers’ Vincent Manceau during PSG’s 4-0 victory last weekend
Gueye, on the other hand, was brought in from a club who finished eighth last term for a relatively modest fee. He was closing in on his 30th birthday and the nature of his position – he is a ball-winning midfielder – is not one which often excites the average football fan.
He has proved, however, that none of that matters if you’re excellent at what you do – and you fit the manager’s system.
The game against Real Madrid was his first in the Champions League in almost seven years, but he immediately looked at home on European football’s biggest stage.
If his signing sparked little interest outside of those in Paris and on the blue half of Merseyside, this performance truly announced his arrival as a PSG player.
His numbers that evening were impressive – two more chances created on top of the assist, 91 touches of the ball, 74 passes with 93.2 per cent accuracy, four tackles, three interceptions, six recoveries and three successful dribbles out of three.
Gueye stretches out his right leg to try and win the ball from Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos
The Senegal midfielder tussles with Karim Benzema during PSG’s comfortable 3-0 victory
IDRISSA GUEYE’S PERFECT RECORD AT PSG
August 25 – 4-0 vs Toulouse
August 30 – 2-0 vs Metz
September 14 – 1-0 vs Strasbourg
September 18 – 3-0 vs Real Madrid
September 22 – 1-0 vs Lyon
September 28 – 1-0 vs Bordeaux
October 1 – 1-0 vs Galatasaray
October 5 – 4-0 vs Angers
And he hasn’t stopped there, either. In his eight games so far for the Parisians, Gueye has an incredible record of eight victories without conceding a single goal.
Clean sheets might not always be a statistic you immediately associate with a midfielder, but Gueye prides himself on relentlessly covering his back four, snuffing out danger and breaking up opposition attacks. It is no coincidence that Tuchel’s men are more solid when he’s in the team.
It is also no coincidence that Everton are far more porous without the former Lille man patrolling their midfield alongside Andre Gomes.
Marco Silva’s men have conceded 13 goals in just eight games this season – the joint- fifth worst record in the division – and sit inside the relegation zone.
Gueye, pictured celebrating a goal for Everton in 2017, was one of the club’s best players
The former Aston Villa man slides in on Aaron Ramsey during a win over Arsenal last season
It would be a stretch to say that the Toffees would be challenging near the top of the table with Gueye still at Goodison – their troubles run much deeper than central midfield – but it is no exaggeration to suggest they would be noticeably better off.
Silva knew that when he refused to sell Gueye to PSG in January, despite the Ligue 1 giants coming close to the eventual price they paid for him in July.
Gueye stayed professional and hit his best form in the final months of the season, not that Tuchel needed to be convinced to go back in for him this summer.
The former Borussia Dortmund boss has an eye for a player and, according to the New York Times, he called Gueye personally to talk him through how he would fit into his side this season.
Tuchel’s vision has come to fruition, perhaps even better than he could have expected. Gueye may not be a Galactico, but he’s just what PSG needed.