PSG project called into question after latest European let-down

Paris Saint-Germain's Qatari president Nasser Al-Khelaifi (L) and Real Madrid's Spanish president Florentino Perez attend the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid on March 6, 2018, at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris: (Franck Fife/AFP)
Updated 07 March 2018
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PSG project called into question after latest European let-down

PARIS: After an honorable defeat to Barcelona on away goals in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2013, Paris Saint-Germain’s Qatari president Nasser Al-Khelaifi stated the club’s objective was to win the competition “in the next five years.”
That deadline expired with Tuesday’s limp defeat to holders Real Madrid in the last 16, leaving the French side as far away from being European champions as at any point since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) bought the club in 2011.
For all their lavish spending, PSG have still not made it past the quarter-finals of the competition this decade, and there have now been consecutive exits in the last 16, the 5-2 aggregate loss to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real coming after a spectacular collapse saw them crash out in Barcelona a year ago.
The strategy after that defeat was to commit to paying the two biggest transfer fees in football history last August to sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for a combined 402 million euros ($499 million), an attempt to buy immediate success on the biggest stage.
It has not worked, with Neymar left watching Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at the Parc des Princes that sealed PSG’s fate from Brazil, where he is recovering from a foot operation.
“All that for that,” was the headline on the front of sports daily L’Equipe on Wednesday, a reference mainly to the bold transfer strategy.
“We believe in our players. We want to continue the project, with the two of them because they are the future of the club,” said Al-Khelaifi on Tuesday when asked if the club’s investment should be called into question.
Seven years after QSI’s arrival, PSG have still managed to beat just three teams in the Champions League knockout stage: Valencia, Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea.
That is a damning statistic for a club with their means and ambitions.
“We will continue, as much as patience allows, to build a team which can win in the future,” said coach Unai Emery on Tuesday.
“When I came here I said I was sure this team can win the Champions League. But it’s a process.”
Soon to be out of contract, Emery will not be given another crack at the competition in Paris. The club will look for a new coach, and they will be tempted to go for a big name after the failure of the Emery experiment — the Spaniard won three Europa Leagues with Sevilla but has never won a Champions League knockout tie in six seasons of trying.
They also need to revamp their squad again, and replace the likes of Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Dani Alves and Angel Di Maria, all in their 30s.
The club insist they are not worried about falling foul of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, even if a premature European exit will mean a shortfall of millions of euros.
“We are relaxed about it. It is more of an issue outside the club than inside. It is March and we have until the end of June. There are no worries,” sporting director Antero Henrique told L’Equipe last weekend.
One thing that is unlikely to happen is Neymar leaving, despite ongoing speculation that the Brazilian has not settled in France.
Al-Khelaifi’s beIN Sports owns the exclusive international distribution rights for television coverage of the French league, and the network is currently in the process of negotiating new deals around the world. In that context, PSG selling a star such as Neymar this year is unthinkable.
But in the meantime another period of soul-searching will begin for PSG and their Qatari owners.
“Now is not the time to talk about change, everyone is upset. We want to calm down before working out what needs to be changed. We have time to think about that,” said Al-Khelaifi on Tuesday.
PSG still have three domestic trophies to go and win before the end of the season, but that seems instantly less appealing once the big prize of the Champions League is no longer up for grabs.


Luka Modric wins world player of year, ends Ronaldo-Messi duology

Updated 25 September 2018
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Luka Modric wins world player of year, ends Ronaldo-Messi duology

  • Egyptian legend Mohamed Salah wins fan-voted Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of the year
  • Saudi Arabian legend Sami Al-Jaber presents award for Best Fans to Peruvian contingent

LONDON: Croatia’s Luka Modric was crowned Men's Player of the Year at FIFA’s The Best Awards, but insisted beaten finalist Mohamed Salah should be proud of his record-breaking season, assuring the Egyptian he will have other opportunities to win the sport’s premier individual award. 

Modric, who won the Champions League for a third successive year with Real Madrid and led his country to the World Cup final in Russia this summer, beat both Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo to the award. The 33-year-old is the the first player outside of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to win the prize since 2008. Neither of the two former winners attended the otherwise star-studded event at Royal Festival Hall.
 
“It’s a great honor and beautiful feeling to stand here with this amazing trophy,” Modric said, after being presented the award by FIFA president Gianni Infantino. “I want to give congratulations to Mohamed and Cristiano for the great seasons they had.”

Looking at Salah, Modric added: “I am sure in the future you will have another opportunity to fight for this trophy.”

The 26-year-old Egyptian did take to the stage to collect a prize when, earlier in the evening, he picked up the fan-voted Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of the year. The Liverpool forward’s strike against city rivals Everton last December in the Premier League was deemed more worthy than Ronaldo’s bicycle kick in the Champions League and Gareth Bale’s emulation in the competition’s final a few weeks later. 

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is presented with the FIFA Puskas award by Noel Gallagher and Didier Drogba. (Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley)

“I’ve nothing much to say about this,” Salah responded after accepting his award from fellow African Didier Drogba and English musician Noel Gallagher. “I’m very happy and proud… and looking forward to another award later tonight.”

He, however, had to wait to learn he would be not be returning to the stage as host Idris Elba and a host of special guests presented a wide range of other awards. 

Didier Deschamps was awarded Best Coach having led France to World Cup glory, beating out competition from Zinedine Zidane and Zlatko Dalic. Zidane resigned from Real Madrid earlier this year after winning three successive Champions League titles and embraced his former France teammate amicably. Dalic, who spent seven years in the Gulf with Saudi clubs Al-Faisaly and Al-Hilal before enjoying great success with Al-Ain in the UAE, inherited a Croatia side on the edge of failing to qualify for the World Cup and took them to the final within 12 months. 

Reynald Pedros won Best Women’s Coach for his work with Lyon, having led them to a memorable league, cup and Women’s Champions League treble, while Brazil's Marta was crowned Best Women's Player for a record sixth time for her role in winning the Copa America, fending off Lyon duo Ada Hegerberg and Dzsenifer Marozsan.

Real Madrid new boy Thibault Courtois was handed Best Goalkeeper for his performances for Chelsea last year, although was curiously beaten by Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea to a place in the Fifa All-Star Team. Salah was also surprisingly snubbed for the FIFA All-Star Team, with Ronaldo being joined in a forward line alongside Messi, PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Modric slotted in behind alongside N’golo Kante, who was positioned to protect a defense of Marcelo, Dani Alves, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos.

“I am very happy and proud to be named as one of the best 11 players in the world again,” Varane told reporters afterwards. The French defender was the only player to win both the World Cup and the Champions League this past year.

Salah, who disappeared after the ceremony without speaking to any media, had said before the awards were announced that he was not pinning his hopes on victory, instead looking forward to the future.  

“I'm happy to be here, but I’m sure it’s not the last time,” he said. “My goal is just to be better than last season, but I’m not worrying about that. We’ll just see what happens. [Qualifying for the World Cup was] the best moment in my life so far; a big thing for us as a nation. It would mean a lot to win; it’s a dream come true, but I have a long time still to play football.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian legend Sami Al-Jaber presented the award for Best Fans to a small contingent of Peruvians who represented the more than 40,000 compatriots who attended this summer’s World Cup in Russia, their country’s first appearance in 36 years. 

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AWARD RESULTS


Puskas Award: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Best Goalkeeper: Thibault Courtois (Real Madrid)
Best Coach: Didier Deschamps (France)
Best Women’s Coach: Reynald Pedros (Lyon)
Best Fans: Peru Fans
Fair Play Award: Lennart Thy (VVV Venlo)
World XI: De Gea; Alves, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kante; Hazard, Messi, Mbappe; Ronaldo 
Women’s Player of the Year: Marta (Orlando Pride)
Men’s Player of the Year: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)