Nantes fledglings poised for PSG test

Ligue 1 Conforama > ligue1show

Valentin Rongier and the latest products of the FC Nantes youth academy that produced the likes of Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly will be put to the test on Saturday when they face Ligue 1 Conforama leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

Youth has always been given a free rein at the Stade de la Beaujoire, but coach Claudio Ranieri has really taken that philosophy to heart since joining the club in the summer. Homegrown talents have been one of the cornerstones of the Italian's side, who find themselves in a promising fifth place ahead of their Week 13 trip to the capital.

"We know each other really well. There are guys here I've known for 10 years so naturally that creates bonds. If you're close to somebody, you see that on the pitch," midfielder Valentin Rongier, who joined the club aged 5, explained to The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS.

WATCH: Nantes overcome Caen

"If we can have a good season points wise with a core of players produced in the academy, it can only look good. It will mean the next generation of talent will want to come to Nantes because here youth is given a chance, and it seems to work. It can only be positive."

Rongier's optimism can also be translated to his own career. The 22-year-old overcame a serious knee ligament injury sustained in the 2015/16 season to keep his dream on track, and after Nantes showed their faith in him by offering him a contract extension while he was still recovering, they did so again in September this year when his form was attracting the attention of suitors.

Verratti model

The spotlight was cast on Rongier when Ranieri's predecessor, Sergio Conceiçao, compared the Nantes youngster to PSG's Marco Verratti.

"Of course, it's nice to hear your coach say that. But with all due respect to my old boss, I don't think I'm quite up to the standard of the Little Owl," said Rongier humbly of the Italy international who he will likely face on the Parc des Princes pitch.

"He lives and breathes football, you can see how much he enjoys being out on the pitch, it's impossible to miss! When he has the ball, he is always looking for a pass that can undo opposition. As a midfielder, seeing him play is magnificent, he's a real inspiration. For me, he is one of the top 5 midfielders in the world."

WATCH: Rongier helps Nantes to win over Guingamp

An impressive display against the league leaders will reinforce Rongier's status as one of France's emerging midfielders, and in Ranieri, he has a coach with vast experience of not only forging teams but careers.

The former Juventus, Chelsea and Leicester City boss' work with Les Canaris has seen them continue the upward trajectory they were on under Conceiçao, tightening up the side at the back while encouraging them to express their talent further up the pitch.

"He tells us to defend like Italians, but attack like Brazilians," said Rongier. "Italians are known for their tactical prowess, and defensively excellent. But he knows that we French players like to get forward and be creative and he allows that. He doesn't want us being too fancy though. If we can keep a clean sheet and win 1-0, then the coach is delighted, that's perfect for him."

>> MATCH PREVIEW: PSG vs. Nantes

>> PLAYER PROFILE: Valentin Rongier

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