Paris Saint-Germain need Champions League success to justify big spending

Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery walks onto the training field to prepare the team for the crunch clash with Real Madrid. (Reuters)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Paris Saint-Germain need Champions League success to justify big spending

LONDON: The league is theirs, as it always seemed it would be once they had reacted to last season’s slip-up by arranging the two most expensive transfers of all time. But league successes barely register any more. Such is PSG’s dominance that the league, although they have only won it six times in their history, no longer brings fulfilment; all it offers is the potential for an embarrassment like last season’s. For them, as for so many of the super-clubs, the Champions League is the only competition that counts.
They’re averaging over three goals per game in the French league and they broke the goalscoring record for the group stage, banging in 25 goals in their six games but the truth is none of that really matters either. Perhaps PSG don’t have to win the Champions League this season, but after a summer of astonishing investment there certainly needs to be a good performance in the competition, and that means not going out in the last 16, even if they have been drawn against the defending champions, Real Madrid.
The pressure is extraordinary, on Neymar in particular. This is the year in which he is expected to redeem the failure of the last World Cup and lead Brazil to glory in Russia, but it’s also a year in which PSG’s owners need him to offer at least some evidence that he will provide a return on their spending. Such is the interest in Brazil that Wednesday’s judging in the carnival in Rio de Janeiro has been moved earlier to make sure everybody is finished in time to watch the game.
Behind it all lies a huge irony, the strange sense that all the investment PSG have made in order to become a European force might actually count against them. This is a problem the former Liverpool midfielder Igor Biscan identified during his time at Dinamo Zagreb a decade ago, when they were midway through a run off 11 straight Croatian championship successes.
His team, he explained, won easily almost every week. The defenders’ job became about delivering good balls to the forward; they forgot how to defend. Everybody, meanwhile, forgot how to fight. What that meant was that as soon as Dinamo came up against any sort of resistance, as they did in Europe, even against a team of players less talented than them, they struggled to impose themselves and their soft center was exposed. That problem is now afflicting teams in leagues much more highly rated than Croatia’s.
Might Bayern have won the Champions League under Pep Guardiola with greater case-hardening at home? Might Juventus be more effective if they didn’t keep dominating Serie A? PSG have only to think back to last season’s last 16 tie against Barcelona to be aware of their own vulnerability. When they were on top, in the home leg, they found Barca, almost equally unused to defending, acquiescent and won 4-0. At the Camp Nou, though, they were so frozen by the prospect of a side actually attacking them that they let in four goals in the final seven minutes.
The tie as a whole was thrilling but it also served as a warning about the dangers of the financial disparities in modern football. Good teams, frankly, shouldn’t buckle as Barca did in Paris and they certainly shouldn’t capitulate as PSG did in Barcelona. It’s not even an issue of having good defenders: PSG could buy as many as they wanted.
Their back four as it stands — Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Layvin Kuzawa, with Thomas Meunier, Presnel Kimpembe and Yuri as back up — is perfectly serviceable (with perhaps slight doubts about Dani Alves’ continued ability to get up and down the flank). The issue, though, is one of practice. It doesn’t matter how strong you are — if you don’t use a muscle it will get flabby.
PSG are not the only side facing that problem, but they are perhaps the club most obviously afflicted. And it is brought into sharper relief by the sense that they need European success. Splash out all that money and if you don’t start producing, you soon look pretty silly.


Chief of Qatar-owned PSG dispels Gianluigi Buffon transfer rumors

Updated 20 May 2018
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Chief of Qatar-owned PSG dispels Gianluigi Buffon transfer rumors

  • Italy legend has been linked with a move to France
  • But president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has faith in No. 1 Alphonse Areola

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has poured water on suggestions Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon could step in to replace the French club’s No. 1 goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola.
Buffon, 40, played his final game for the Italian giants in a 2-1 win over Verona on Saturday, capping a 17-year career in Turin that harvested seven consecutive Serie A titles.
Buffon’s contract will expire in a matter of weeks, but asked if the French capital could be the emblematic Italian’s next destination, Al-Khelaifi told L’Equipe sports daily on Sunday: “We have Areola, he’s our number one.”
When then asked if that would also be the case next season, Al-Khelaifi replied: “Yes, for sure.”
He added: “He (Buffon) is a fantastic goalkeeper, he’s very charismatic and is a true gentleman. I’m sure all the clubs want him.”
Areola underlined his feelings about the situation when he told Le Parisien newspaper Saturday he wanted to “remain number one” at PSG and would leave the club if that were not to be the case next season.
“Because if I’m not the number one anymore, it would mean the season I’ve just finished has all counted for nothing,” said the 25-year-old Areola, whose own deal ends in June 2019.
PSG, who regained the French league title this month, will be taken over by coach Thomas Tuchel next season. He succeeds Spaniard Unai Emery.