Qatar’s emir watches as PSG stumbles in Champions League

Making a rare visit to the Parc des Princes, the emir of Qatar watched first hand as Paris Saint-Germain came up short on Europe’s biggest stage once again.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was in the stands as Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and the rest of an expensively assembled team lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich on Tuesday, putting the club in danger of another early exit from the Champions League.

More than a decade of hiring and firing and splashing the cash has so far failed to deliver a coveted Champions League trophy for PSG’s Qatari owners.

Amid reports that the oil and gas rich Gulf state is now planning a move for Manchester United, perhaps the emir’s patience with PSG could be close to running out.

Despite all the superstar signings, a series of coaches have not managed to achieve PSG’s owners’ ultimate ambition.

When Christophe Galtier was hired last July he became the seventh coach since state-backed Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took over the club in 2011.

With its motto “Dream Bigger” splashed on the team bus, the owners had a clear ambition to make PSG one of Europe’s leading clubs.

Yet PSG’s defeat to Bayern on Tuesday in the first leg of the round-of-16 in the Champions League was its third straight loss and fifth in 11 games, with Messi, Mbappe and Neymar all struggling for form since returning from the World Cup.

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 this outlay, there’s been more humiliating exits than finals in Europe.

The only Champions League final PSG reached was in 2020’s pandemic-shortened format, when it also lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich as Mbappe and Neymar — who cost a combined 402 million euros ($432 million) — were held scoreless.

In 2017, PSG became the first team to be knocked out after winning the first leg 4-0 in the round of 16, losing 6-1 in the return leg at Barcelona.

In 2019, PSG became the first team to be eliminated after winning the away leg 2-0 in the round of 16, losing 3-1 at home to Manchester United.

Against Real Madrid last year, PSG was leading 2-0 on aggregate before Karim Benzema’s devastating 17-minute hat trick.

The 2020 final loss to Bayern was also symbolic because the goal scorer was winger Kingsley Coman — who left PSG when he was 18. Coman scored the winning goal again on Tuesday.

PSG’s signing of stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar and Messi pushed homegrown forwards like Coman, Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku — who all became France internationals — to leave for other clubs.

PSG’s academy had also previously failed to snap up other rising talents.

World Cup winners Thierry Henry, Paul Pogba (Juventus) and N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea) were Parisian youths but didn’t go through PSG’s academy, while Mbappé was also missed and signed from Monaco.

Hire and fire

PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi sat alongside Galtier at the coach’s unveiling and made a pledge: “We have a new era to start, a new atmosphere, new objectives.” Al-Khelaifi, however, was long seen as too close to PSG stars who were indulged while coaches had a hard time keeping their jobs.

Since QSI took over, Carlo Ancelotti is the only coach not to be fired. He left for Real Madrid in 2013.

Ancelotti was hired only after Antoine Kombouaré was moved out in December 2011 with PSG three points clear at the top of the French league. PSG lost the title to modest Montpellier by three points.

Galtier replaced Mauricio Pochettino, who had one year left on his contract and became the fourth coach in succession to be fired by PSG after Thomas Tuchel, Unai Emery and Laurent Blanc.

Pochettino, who took over in January 2021 from Tuchel, paid the price for the Madrid defeat last season.

Tuchel had been shown the door after reportedly claiming that managing PSG was like being a politician, such was the level of difficulty. Emery reportedly fell out with Neymar.

Pochettino and Blanc had signed new contracts before getting fired, exposing PSG’s impatience and apparent indifference to hefty compensation packages.

Pochettino and his staff reportedly received around 10 million euros ($10.8 million). When Blanc was fired in 2016, PSG paid out 22 million euros ($23.7 million).

Fans were also angered at how long-serving captain Thiago Silva and Cavani — PSG’s all-time leading scorer with 200 goals — were encouraged to leave.

Considered too old for two-year contracts in Paris, Silva then won the Champions League with Tuchel at Chelsea and Cavani scored in the Europa League final for United in 2021.

But the Madrid defeat last year finally prompted an introspective overhaul at PSG.

Sporting director Leonardo — whose strong contacts with AC Milan made it possible to sign Ibrahimovic, Silva and European Championship-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma — was fired during his second spell.

Yet problems have resurfaced under the new regime. PSG hadn’t lost three straight games since late 2011, and its five losses in 2023 are more than all of last year.

Source link

Leave a Comment