Times could be changing for PSG

  FRANCK FIFE/AFP

FRANCK FIFE/AFP

This was supposed to be the year for Paris Saint Germain. This was supposed to be the season where the French giants firmly asserted themselves into the class of Europe’s elite. Along with desperately trying to erase the memories of their historic collapse against Barcelona in the Nou Camp last season, PSG showed even more financial ambition than they have in years past. The plan, from that end, worked. In what was one of the more shocking moves in the history of soccer, PSG landed Brazilian starlet Neymar, convincing him to move from being Leo Messi’s heir to creating his own legend in the Parc de Princes. It was an ambitious move and shattered the world record for transfer fees.

Along with Neymar came his former Barcelona teammate Dani Alves, having made a pit stop at Juventus after ending his long run with the Catalans two seasons ago. Then came an even bigger shocker, they landed one of the best young players in the world on a loan deal in Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe. The young French striker took the world by storm last season, showing out in the Champions League while displaying a deadly combination of blistering pace and smart runs behind the defense to create chances for himself. Mbappe also showed willingness to play on the wing, completing the trio of him, Neymar, and Edinson Cavani. It was a deadly strike force and along with support of players like Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti, Julian Draxler, Adrien Rabiot, and Javier Pastore PSG looked like they could be on the verge of European glory.

But now, those hopes have been dashed. PSG have been eliminated at the hands of the mighty Real Madrid and now all the dreams of this being the year where they compete for a trophy have been dashed. PSG didn’t even reach a semi-final this season, let alone a final. Ever since they were bought by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment back in 2011, PSG have only gone as far as the quarter-finals in the Champions League. It’s been a major disappointment for a club which has spent so much in the name of lifting the trophy in early summer. Now along with having to swallow another bitter pill of a disappointing UCL run, PSG face much uncertainty this summer.

The main problem with the future of the Paris project is if their star will even be playing for them in a couple of years. No matter where he has gone, there always has been controversy surrounding Neymar. From the time he left Brazil to Barcelona to when he moved to Paris. Controversy and scrutiny following the logistics of his transfers have always been talked about. On top of that, his transition to life in Paris hasn’t helped. He has clashed with Cavani on multiple occasions, fighting with the striker over a penalty early in the season. Neymar was also booed by his own fans when taking a penalty against Dijon. It was a 7-0 game in favor of the Parisians and there was a chance they could go up 8-0 with a penalty. The clear choice in the situation was Cavani, who had just tied the club record for most goals in PSG history. Instead of giving the ball to the Uruguayan, Neymar took the penalty and slotted it into the Djion net. The decision was not treated with a warm reception by the PSG fans, who understood the situation clearly. If there ever was an incident which had captured Neymar’s tenure in Paris so far it was the penalty against Dijon. He got the result and the job done but it came with its own set of problems. There are also rumors swirling around about another move on the way for the Brazilian. Rumors of a possible transfer to Real Madrid have made its way all the way to Spain and is raising eyebrows across the world. While it’s certainly a dream move for Los Blancos and one which could be labeled off as far fetched, nobody is ruling it out completely. Because that is exactly what people did with Neymar’s possible move to PSG when he was in Barcelona and we all know how that ended.

Along with the Neymar saga, PSG have also found themselves on the wrong side of youth. In their ambitions to win now, they have looked away from their academy and youth players. Players such as Kingsley Coman and Jean-Kevin Augustin have left for other clubs in hopes of finding more playing time. Sooner or later, it will be time for PSG’s next crop of players to be faced with a tough reality: stay and fight for playing time or go elsewhere. Yes, PSG have found some success from their youth players and parts of their starting XI are from their academy but it’s been few and far between. It’s gotten better over this past year with the insertion of Presnel Kimpembe and Alphonse Areola but PSG still need more youth in the squad. Cavani, Silva, Alves, and Thiago Motta are all over 30, Di Maria just hit that age mark. There are some really aging players on this squad and it’s risky for PSG to keep relying on them for tougher fixtures in the future. Some of these players showed their age against Real Madrid and they were punished over two legs.

You could feel another shakeup in the cards for France’s top club. Players like Silva, Alves, and Motta will surely be phased out in favor of new players. There are questions about the future of guys like Di Maria, Draxler, and Pastore also hang in the balance. This is all without the cloud of Neymar’s future as well. PSG somehow hung on to much of their squad last summer, only selling Blaise Matuidi to make room for Neymar. But it seems like this year will be the one where more than one player leaves. How they plan to prepare for a scenario like this remains to be scene.

This PSG squad was bought to compete in the Champions League. Well at least this was the mantra which has been repeated again and again every season. There is no doubt the QSI have high ambitions for their club and it’s completely justified. They have spent a ton of money in this project and the only real way they achieve relative success is either by winning or reaching the final. It’s all about growing PSG into a big club. But the fruits of the project have not flourished and the pressure is ramping. Again having spent a fortune, PSG are a semi aging squad with a star player who hasn’t fit in 100% to the club. Now they walk into a summer having more questions than answers at the moment.