RB Leipzig star Xavi Simons has not looked back since leaving French champions Paris Saint-Germain for Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven back in the summer of 2022. Still only 20 and already a senior Netherlands international, the Amsterdam-born talent came through the ranks with Barcelona before moving to Paris and is now in Germany via his homeland.
Simons picked up the KNVB Cup and Johan Cruyff Shield during what proved to be his first and only season with Ruud van Nistelrooy's PSV before being re-signed and swiftly loaned out by PSG. The versatile attacking midfielder already had a Ligue 1 title and Coupe de France success to his name from his first foray into the professional world with Les Parisiens.
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That rapidly growing trophy haul was then added to with the DFL-Supercup which he helped current club RB Leipzig to in his first competitive outing -- a comprehensive 3-0 thrashing of Bayern Munich. Man of the match in the Bundesliga side's UEFA Champions League Group G opener away at Young Boys in Switzerland, Simons has wasted no time in adapting to German soccer.
The Dutch talent has three goals and four assists across all competitions so far and will hope to give Manchester City a stern midweek examination as Marco Rose's men host the titleholders on Wednesday. Red Bull Arena will be an intriguing test for Pep Guardiola's side but also this Roten Bullen group just days after their 2-2 Bundesliga draw with Bayern.
Simons is most at home in a central attacking midfield role with Leipzig yet has already been tested out wide and even in a more central midfield role by Rose. The German tactician who hails from the east German city and coached Borussia Dortmund as well as Borussia Monchengladbach before returning home has been won over by his star performer.
"Xavi is an extremely important player for us in every aspect of our game," gushed Rose ahead of the Bayern clash. "He is a leader, he has got a great attitude and a real desire to win. Of course, he also has the quality to beat defenders, carry the ball forward, get assists and score goals, but he also does his bit in defense. On top of that, there is no sense that it is going to his head at all. That is a rare quality and it is why I am able to praise him so much."
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Although Christopher Nkunku had four years to develop with RBL before moving on to Chelsea, Simons' parallels with another former PSG talent are clear. Both arrived in Leipzig as versatile players with major attacking potential -- it is now a question of whether the loanee's skillset can be fully unlocked through a single term in Germany.
For now, Simons is on loan from PSG until next summer with no option to buy for the Bundesliga outfit and the possibility that Kylian Mbappe could leave a void for the youngster to fill. Sporting director Max Eberl's sudden departure last Friday further complicates the Dutchman's situation beyond the end of the current season given the German's efforts to keep him.
"Of course, we have the intention to extend this in the best-case scenario," admitted the now departed Eberl just at the start of this past week. "Xavi got off to a very good start and he is currently having a very good run. I think we are currently tying him emotionally to RB Leipzig. We are trying to ensure that he stays with us longer in the summer of 2024."
One of the major problems for Leipzig which has been perfectly illustrated by Eberl's abrupt departure is that creating emotional ties with a club that many still view as "artificial" is difficult when key figures still use it as a stepping stone to greater things. Eberl has done it as Markus Krosche did before him and there is little stopping Simons from doing similar to Nkunku come next summer.
PSG and Paris hold a special place in the 20-year-old's heart and the Ligue 1 giants' decision to activate a clause to bring him back from PSV after just 12 months illustrates that he is part of the planning for the future -- possibly regardless of Mbappe's status. For now, the big winners in Simons' continued development arc in Germany are PSG who could bring him back for good next summer.