Choupo-Moting leading PSG in absence of big three

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Three years ago, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting finished a dismal season at Schalke with a torn ACL. Two years ago, he couldn’t cut it at relegated Premier League side Stoke City. One year ago, a surprise move to Paris Saint-Germain saw the Cameroonian stuck on the bench behind three superstars.

Now, with each prong of the three-headed monster shelved, the 30-year-old is right where PSG needs him to be.

With Kylian Mbappe on the shelf with a hamstring tear, Edinson Cavani also sidelined with a hip injury, and Neymar nowhere to be found as he looks for a way out, Choupo-Moting is suddenly the man of the hour at Parc des Princes. The Stoke reject struck for PSG’s second as the French side topped Metz 2-0 on the road, one match after his brace led the way in a 4-0 rout of Toulouse.

It’s a small sample size against less than blistering competition, and it doesn’t get any easier from here as PSG gets set to face Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage opener after the international break, but it’s a positive start from an unlikely source. Before this season, since moving to Schalke in the summer of 2014, Choupo-Moting has just 26 goals in 124 league games across Bundesliga, Premier League, and Ligue 1 play.

Thomas Tuchel described Choupo-Moting as “cover for Edinson Cavani” when he made the shocking move to PSG from then-relegated Stoke, but it’s not likely he ever envisioned the Cameroon international carrying the defending French champions in the absence of the entire star-studded attack. With Cavani down for three weeks, Mbappe sidelined a month, and Neymar’s return completely in doubt, there’s still work to be done, but there are promising signs from the unlikeliest of sources for Tuchel to carry them through tough times.