Lethargic and ego-ravaged PSG show how much they need Kylian Mbappe
Eleven years into Qatari ownership, Paris Saint-Germain still resembles an extravagant collection of luxury items more than a football team.
Money has brought immense talent to Paris, but the colossal transactions have been unable to inject the timeless qualities so fundamental to the ultimate European success - togetherness and team spirit. For 74 minutes they were more brooding than blood brothers, and Champions League glory might elude them again after a first leg defeat to Bayern Munich, despite Kylian Mbappe’s substitute cameo reminding the Germans the work is far from done.
Until Mbappe arrived, Munich were too smart, too quick and too confident in an assured display, Kingsley Coman’s volley giving them the advantage they deserved. It had been coming for longer than the 53 minutes required to beat Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The dynamic in the build-up to the round of sixteen tie in Parc de Princes offered more evidence that rather than find a head coach to harmonise PSG’s disparate personalities, a babysitter would be more appropriate.
Like his esteemed predecessors, PSG coach Christophe Galtier finds himself trying to convince the leaders in his dressing room that the most pressing tactical question is not who is taking the penalties.
When English referee Michael Oliver awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Bayern penalty area on the stroke of half-time, one wondered if play might need to be temporarily delayed while a UN negotiator established whether it was the turn of Lionel Messi or Neymar to take it. Messi hit the wall, which presumably means Neymar will argue the Argentinian must wait until April for his next attempt.
Ordering this ego-ravaged squad not to engage in tantrums is as futile as ordering Neymar to stay on his feet. Bayern will be grateful Oliver approached such indecency with a sense of familiarity and a roll of the eyes when, midway through the first half, the official meandered to check Neymar did not require emergency services having been challenged by Benjamin Pavard.
Bayern, predictably dominant in the Bundesliga, seemed the worst opponents at the wrong time for PSG and began in the French capital as if they owned the ball. Too often, PSG looked like their stars were compiling personal showreels, their dribbles constantly surrendering possession.
In contrast to their hosts, Bayern looked structured and as if working to a plan which went beyond hoping one of their stars would produce a match winning moment. Julian Nagelsmann’s frustration during a dominant but goalless first half was how little PSG keeper Donnarumma was tested. That would change with the half-time introduction of Alphonso Davies. His cross picked out Coman for a sumptuous volley. Donnarumma knows he could have done better, although he later made a series of saves to keep his side in touching distance to launch a late rally.
If the balance of play had offered Bayern comfort. The sight of Mbappe, on the bench on his return from a hamstring injury, raised concerns the Germans were not making their superiority count. Mbappe was introduced before the hour. He gave Munich keeper Jan Sommer his first taste of action in the latter stages, and had a couple of celebrations ended when the video assistant referee ruled for offside. His presence shifted momentum, culminating in a late red card for Pavard as Bayern finished nervously.
Galtier can argue the high profile absentee from his starting XI was the greatest contributor to earlier lethargy given PSG were different when Mbappe arrived. They may look different at the Allianz Arena. They will have to. With so much talent there are a few teams so capable of ensuring individual moments of brilliance compensate for the glaring lack of a team ethic.