There is somenthing wrong with Paris Saint-Germain and the Champions League: the Parisians simply can’t win it no matter how hard they try. It is this time of year again, when PSG crash out of UEFA’s most important tournament and find their season in ruins.
There used to be a running gag about Arsenal crashing out of the champions league by February, March of each season. Even this season looked familiar as Arsenal temporarily lost the top spot in the Premier League after a little wobble. However, Man City wobbled more and the Gunners are top again with 12 games to go and a five point cushion to separate them from City.
domestic dominion, European failure
In Paris those in charge of Paris Saint-Germain will once again be forced to scratch their heads as PSG crashed out of Europe again at the earliest possibility. This is the club that has two of the best forwards in the game at the moment on their books, the club that is not shy to spend big, very big each transfer period – it is estimated that they have spent around 2bn since been taken over by the Qatari Sports Investment (QSI) – and the club that dominates the French Ligue 1 as they please.
When it comes to Europe however, PSG are an utter lightweight. The past seasons, with the exception of 2020, come the first knockout round of UEFA’s marquee event, the Parisians simply could not raise their game against European opposition – something that happened to Bayern too in the past but this season, the German league looks competitive and close which has forced them to stay on their toes in order to add an eleventh consecutive league title to their letterhead in May.
Ever since the Qatari takeover in the summer of 2011, PSG have invested heavily in their squad yet the rewards are small: they have overtaken AS Saint Etienne as record league title holders and on more than one occasion were run away winners of the league – the competition is just too easy for them and their financial clout.
2012/13 Barcelona were too smart and progressed due to the away goal rule, a year later against Chelsea it was the same, before Barcelona gave them a proper hiding in 2015. Between 2016 and 2018 Real won the competition three times in a row, while PSG crashed out vs Man City in the quarterfinal before Barcelona again showed them how it’s done in Europe. Their come back from a 4:0 defeat to beat them 6:1 in the return leg clearly must have left a mark on Paris’ psyche. And the trend continued. Their biggest chance came in 2020 when they reached the final of the Champions League Final Tournament in Portugal but again could not overcome Bayern Munich.
What is the reason for PSG’s perennial failure? One reason is the league. The French league has always been considered as a feeder league for other European leagues, most notably Spain, Italy and England. There is no country that has more professional footballers playing abroad than France. It is a sign of the excellent youth coaching system. Yet, it leaves the league at a loss as the talented players are snapped up at a bargain by bigger clubs.
On the other side, PSG have been lavish in their expenditure, handing out big contracts to players. It is an assembly of big egos and characters which is no easy task for any head coach. Ever since been taken over there have been six coaches in almost twelve years – most staying for two years, with Laurent Blanc’s three years being the exception. This is in line with the club’s history; only one coach has stayed longer than three years: Georges Peyroche (1979-1983). This cannot be seen as the reason for such underperformance.
quest for answers
It must be the players, thus, who underperform. Players like David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi and Neymar who are giants of 21st century football but who cannot win the Champions League when wearing a PSG shirt. There were also Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Motta, David Luiz and Blaise Matuidi to name a few who recently graced the pitch at the Parc des Princes.
According to Transfermarkt, the squad for this season has a value of €890m, roughly 100m less than Bayern, ranging from 150k for their fourth goalkeeper Lucas Lavallé to 180m for Kylian Mbappé.
Could it be that the problem is within the squad? That too many egos are clashing and that there is a culture of laxness which allows players to switch off come the New Year? There are no easy answers why PSG fail as they do each season.
Pas Si Grand, Pas Savoir Gagner
— Jerome Pugmire (@jeromepugmire) March 8, 2023
The Champions League is THE currency that matters most in European football and it eludes PSG year in, year out. No matter how hard they try, they stumble and fall at the first hurdle. They are not alone though: French success in Europe is far and few. However, given the importance Paris and PSG accord themselves, this stain has become more than an itch.