Questions asked as PSG again fall short


Thu, Mar 08, 2018 - Page 16

As the curtain closed on another unsuccessful UEFA Champions League campaign for Paris Saint-Germain, there was an all-too familiar ring to the comments following their elimination by Real Madrid.

The coach insisted the club could win the trophy one day and the disappointed president said things must change for the better. This was after PSG’s 2-1 home defeat to defending champions Real Madrid completed a resounding 5-2 aggregate loss.

“We didn’t do what we had to,” PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi said. “We’ll speak with the players. We’re angry. We’ll think about what we need to do.”

He said much the same after last year’s humiliating elimination by Barcelona, when PSG made history by becoming the first team eliminated after winning a first leg 4-0. The 6-1 defeat to Barca in the return leg had a huge effect on confidence still felt today.

Against Madrid on Tuesday, PSG defended poorly on both goals, having conceded two sloppy ones late in the first leg. That PSG led 1-0 in Madrid, and impressed in spells, adds to the frustration.

In 2013, al-Khelaifi predicted PSG would win the Champions League within five years. That time is up.

A rare and more accurate assessment of where PSG stands came from PSG center half Marquinhos.

“It shows we need to keep working, we need more maturity,” he said. “I don’t think we can win this competition right now. We made a lot of mistakes in terms of our concentration.”

The club appears to have regressed under coach Unai Emery.

Hired to deliver European glory, his team has been beaten two seasons running in the last 16, with 11 goals conceded in those four games.

His contract runs out in June.

Since owners Oryx Qatar Sports Investments chose al-Khelaifi to launch the club into a new direction in June 2011, PSG have not gone beyond the quarter-finals.

They let coach Carlo Ancelotti go to Real Madrid after stalling over his demands for a new contract and then unceremoniously dumped Laurent Blanc — his replacement — in the summer of 2016 to make way for Emery.

Dismissing Blanc cost PSG about 24 million euros (US$29.8 million at the current exchange rate) in compensation for him and his staff: A massive sum rendered more surprising by the fact Blanc had been awarded a new contract just months before.

Money clearly seems no object. However, despite breaking the bank to sign the world’s two most expensive players for a whopping 402 million euros, PSG still seem to be drifting away from their lofty ambitions.

Neymar, one of those huge signings, is recovering from surgery on his right foot back home in Brazil. However, his wastefulness in the first leg arguably contributed as much to the 3-1 defeat as the team’s sloppy defending did. If he had passed more, PSG might have sneaked a 3-3 draw.

Also, PSG were red-faced in the first leg because they did not have a fit holding midfielder, inconceivable considering the club’s wealth.

In Tuesday’s return leg, patched-up veteran Thiago Motta — 35 and lacking match fitness — did his best, but for all his tactical alertness, his legs are going.

This latest loss threatens to resonate off the field, too.

PSG need to find ways to balance the books, after being placed under investigation by UEFA for potential breaches of Financial Fair Play rules over the signings of Neymar for 222 million euros and Kylian Mbappe for 180 million euros.

Elimination will be costly. PSG miss out on 6.5 million euros for reaching the last eight, with chunks of several million each in terms of TV rights, ticket sales and high-end hospitality revenue probably taking that figure to about 20 million euros.

Some sought-after players, such as midfielder Marco Verratti, might leave.

However, question marks remain over Verratti’s composure, underlined by his sending off in the second half on Tuesday: a second yellow card for vehemently remonstrating with the referee.