In July 2022, Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the signing of Hugo Ekitiké. A strong season with Stade Reims — scoring ten goals in Ligue 1 — had made the 20-year-old one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe. However, the Parisians won the battle for the Frenchman, bringing him in on a season-long loan with an option to buy if certain conditions were met.
This is a trick that PSG has (successfully) used over the years to avoid Financial Fair Play problems. The year earlier, Nuno Mendes arrived on loan before making his move permanent, while in previous years, Danilo Pereira, Mauro Icardi, and a certain Kylian Mbappé arrived at the club in a similar fashion. One year after the Ekitiké signing, Goncalo Ramos would be brought in on loan with a mandatory buy option.
In short — it may have been a loan, but Ekitiké was very much in the club’s long-term plans.
Unfortunately, Ekitiké didn’t exactly hit the ground running. In his first three months with the club, he made just one start — a forgettable 60 minutes against OGC Nice — while he was scarcely used off the bench. He would have to wait until November to get his first goal with the club, an easy finish in a 5-0 demolition of Auxerre.
After the World Cup break, it briefly looked like the lanky striker had turned a corner. He scored in three consecutive games in early January — two Ligue 1 games and a Coupe de France win — and crucially showing that he could get into the right positions to score. However, once Mbappé, Messi, and Neymar returned to the field, Ekitiké moved back to the bench, losing all his momentum.
With the stars running the show, Ekitiké’s role waned, and so did his confidence. With fewer and fewer chances, the young Frenchman needed to be more clinical, but the misses started to pile up. By the end of the season, he underperformed his xG (expected goals) by 0.7. For reference, the previous season, he had overperformed his total by +3.5.
In the offseason, his problems continued to mount. Despite his poor season, Ekitiké was signed permanently for €35 million, but immediately found himself in the doghouse. New manager Luis Enrique wanted a radical rebuild of the PSG squad, and made a list of so-called “undesirables” he wanted to leave the club. Unfortunately for Ekitiké, he was on that list.
Despite the fact that he was training seperately and was unwanted, he did make it on the field for PSG’s Ligue 1 opener, coming off the bench for eight minutes in a 0-0 draw with Lorient. However, with the transfer window coming to a close, he was left as an unused sub in their next two matches.
At the end of the window, PSG made a — ultimately successful — swoop for Eintracht Frankfurt forward Randal Kolo Muani. (He was far from the club’s only signing). Negotiations between the two were long lasting, and it was reported that Eintracht would only approve the deal if Ekitiké went the other way. The problem? Ekitiké didn’t want to join Eintracht.
Crystal Palace, Everton, and Brentford all were rumored to be interested, but ultimately none of them agreed to a deal, leaving Ekitiké stuck at the club until January — at least. But PSG and Enrique weren’t going to let him fight for his place. Instead, Enrique decided to completely freeze him out of the squad.
When PSG released their squad for the Champions League, Ekitiké was not registered, barring him from competing in the competition. Instead, PSG elected to choose four goalkeepers and Kylian Mbappé’s younger brother Ethan, who, at 16, had — and has — never played for the first team. They didn’t stop there, though.
Since August, Ekitiké hasn’t even been named in the squad for a Ligue 1 match. He hasn’t sat on the bench or made it onto the pitch for the first team, and he isn’t playing for the reserves either. Now, signing him becomes a risk — strikers thrive off consistency and momentum, and Ekitiké has neither, having played just eight minutes in the past five months.
The problem for Ekitiké is that expectations were simply too high. His breakout season with Stade Reims was his first full professional season, and he joined PSG as one of the world’s most hyped prospects. The club’s toxic atmosphere sidetracked his development, and every mistake he made was criticized by tens of thousands of fans around the globe. Then, the coach who brought him in was fired and his replacement instantly decided he didn’t want him.
Ekitiké has skill and potential — that much is undeniable. He’s had some bad luck and some confidence struggles, while some of his decisions — joining PSG and turning down Eintracht — have been less than brilliant. For the sake of his career, he needs to leave Paris and find a club that lets him develop and grow at a normal rate. That’s easier said than done.
Image Courtesy of https://en.psg.fr.