PSG shows limits in yet another early Champions League exit
After Paris Saint-Germain was eliminated from the Champions League in the last 16 for the fifth time in seven years, Kylian Mbappé was not so surprised.
Reflecting on his team’s 3-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, the France striker bluntly said what was on everyone's mind: This kind of performance against the biggest European teams is actually the maximum PSG can deliver.
“I said it at the beginning of the season, in the first press conference of the season, that we were going to give our all. And that was our all ... That’s the truth," said Mbappé, who signed a contract extension last year with PSG precisely to win the Champions League title.
But more than five years after joining PSG, the France striker has now played in twice as many World Cup finals as Champions League finals.
"We’re going to ask ourselves the tough questions and go back to our daily routine, which is the league,” Mbappé said.
Since cash-rich Qatari investors took over in 2011, PSG has been a dominant force in France but has consistently failed to replicate that success on the European stage despite spending massive amounts on star players.
The only Champions League final PSG reached was in 2020’s pandemic-shortened format, when it also lost to Bayern Munich. Mbappé and Neymar — who cost a combined 402 million euros ($432 million) — were held scoreless in that match.
Since playmaker Javier Pastore became PSG’s first marquee signing for 42 million euros ($45 million) in 2011, the club’s net expenditure has risen to more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). Despite the splurge in spending habits, PSG has failed to build a strong collective with depth on the bench, instead relying on the individual skills of star players.
It used to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it's now Lionel Messi, Mbappé and Neymar. But Neymar is out injured until the end of the season and did not play in Munich, while Messi and Mbappé were kept quiet by Bayern players. They did not have any sort of influence on the match.
To strengthen the squad, PSG officials had discussed the prospect of recruiting a versatile fullback and new midfielders, with Aurélien Tchouaméni and Ousmane Dembélé reportedly among those targeted last year.
None of them joined while PSG missed out on signing Inter Milan central defender Milan Skriniar. During the winter transfer window, PSG tried to recruit Hakim Ziyech but the loan move collapsed because of a late submission of documents.
In Munich on Wednesday, in the absence of the injured Presnel Kimpembe, PSG had to rely on unexperienced 17-year-old center back El Chadaille Bitshiabu after Marquinhos and Nordi Mukiele were both substituted.
"PSG has one of the biggest budgets in Europe and there is no solution on the bench," former PSG player Edouard Cissé said in an interview with L'Equipe newspaper.
In midfield, another teenager, Warren Zaire-Emery, went in for the last 15 minutes in place of Fabian Ruiz.
“You have to turn the game around and you can only put in Zaire-Emery, who is my daughter’s age,” Cisse added. “You really have to ask yourself questions.”
After being knocked out of the French Cup by rival Marseille last month, all PSG can win this season is the French league title. With 12 matches left to play, PSG has an eight-point lead over Marseille.
“It’s a big disappointment," PSG coach Christophe Galtier said. "We have to deal with it and accept it. There’s a lot of disappointment in the dressing room. I don’t know if it’s a lesson to be learned, but there’s a lot of frustration."
With PSG's habit of frequently changing coaches, Galtier's future at the club looks uncertain, while Mbappé, who joined from Monaco in 2017 when he was still a teenager, could be tempted to leave if he feels that his huge talent is being wasted.
Mbappé has often said that playing for Real Madrid was his childhood dream, and the Frenchman did not rule out making the move one day when he agreed to stay longer in Paris.
“No, no, I’m calm,” Mbappe said when asked if the loss against Bayern would have an influence on his future at PSG. “My objective is to win the league, and then we’ll see.”
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