PSG: Bad Habits
As PSG suffered another shock exit from the Champions League, this time at the hands of Benzema and Real Madrid, Stanley Murphy-Johns looks at the fundamental issues that plague the Parisian outfit.
I checked the Champions League scores on my phone whilst having dinner with my family; PSG was leading 1-0. I reported this in between mouthfuls of lasagne, and my Dad responded by joking, “Wouldn’t it be funny if they bottled it?” Now I don’t mean to spoil it for you, but clearly PSG has decided to pursue a career in comedy.
Real Madrid’s 3-1 comeback to knock PSG out of the Champions League is a perfect amalgamation of the last 5 years for Paris Saint-Germain. A favourite in the only competition they care about only to be beaten by a club with real history, with a real belief that they deserve to be competing on the highest stage. Rashford’s penalty, Barcelona’s 6-1, and now Benzema’s hattrick. All that money to win a Champions League, but instead, they’re just making the competition more interesting for everyone else. The French League is practically non-existent, as are their domestic competitions, making the Champions League the only competition where PSG get to test themselves. Yet they have only progressed past the Round of 16 once in the last 5 years.
Realistically, given the money at their disposal, their luck should have changed by now, unless the problems run deeper than simply a roller coaster of unlucky results. Perhaps the most obvious answer to the conundrum of this money factory is the most daunting. What if…and hear me out… it’s not a good idea to have all the most expensive players in the world at the same time? What if…in this team sport…operating under a specific system is integral to playing the game? Just a theory…
In the summer of 2021, PSG signed:
- Donnarumma (arguably the best goalkeeper in the world);
- Sergio Ramos (arguably the best defender of the last decade);
- Achraf Hakimi (arguably the most exciting full-back outside of the Premier League);
- Georginio Wijnaldum (arguably integral to the most successful Liverpool team for 30 years);
- Oh, and Lionel Messi (The GOAT).
I list them just to put into perspective the insanity of their current project. This was one transfer window. These were additions to a squad already brimming with world-class talent, but more importantly, world-class ego. How do you manage a team with this much burgeoning potential? The simple answer: You don’t. Reports are constantly springing up about players going over the manager’s head to complain about game-time or training sessions.
Whether you believe every story or not, the managers PSG have had over the past few years proves that the issue lies deep. Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino are impressive managers with good CVs and big personalities, and yet these reports of dissent have continued. So clearly, this absence of respect exists on a fundamental level, running through the club, corrupting the new acquisitions, and ensuring that no matter their net spend, they won’t get any closer to their coveted prize.
One coach reported that in the lead up to the second leg against Real Madrid, a player asked why they had to sprint so much and disapproved of the answer when told that it was one of the most important games of their life. I find their disapproval of this answer interesting not because it proves the lack of respect within the camp but because it hits upon another key issue with the players PSG recruit: no game will be the biggest of their lives. Their talent exceeds the stage PSG can provide for them, and as such, their desire to prove themselves is almost non-existent. PSG would perhaps go further in the Champions League with a team of good players than they ever will with a group of fantastic individuals.