Title cannot soothe PSG's pain in Europe

PARIS • Paris Saint-Germain may have clinched their long-expected sixth Ligue 1 title in the past seven seasons, but that triumph cannot mask the French club's shortcomings on the European stage where results have failed to match their huge investments.

Thomas Tuchel's side claimed the title without kicking a ball yesterday after second-placed Lille were held to a goal-less draw at Toulouse. PSG have 81 points after 32 games and cannot be caught as they lead Lille, who have played one more game, by 16 points with five games remaining. PSG hosted Monaco this morning (Singapore time).

Even the prospect of another domestic double - PSG play Stade Rennes in the French Cup final on Saturday - cannot soothe the pain felt by fans at seeing their galacticos team fall again at the last-16 hurdle in the Champions League.

Having spent over €1 billion (S$1.52 billion) on players since Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) took over the club in 2011, including the likes of Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG have not got past the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition since 1995.

In the past three seasons, they have gone out in the last 16 after squandering a four-goal lead against Barcelona in 2017 and a two-goal away advantage against Manchester United this year.

Tuchel, who replaced Unai Emery this season, also could not manage a domestic treble which the Spaniard and France World Cup-winner Laurent Blanc achieved.

PSG can argue that bad luck struck as Neymar suffered a foot injury before the Champions League knockout phase but, like last year, they have not addressed several weaknesses including the need to develop a winning mentality. Just ask Dani Alves.

  • Domestic league titles won by French Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain in the last seven seasons.

"I know how to win," Brazil full-back Alves, who won three Champions League titles at Barcelona, said this week. "When someone has been there, maybe it's good to listen to them, rely on their experience."

Tuchel and the PSG management also failed to resolve Adrien Rabiot's situation, with the gifted midfielder being left out of the squad for most of the season over a contractual dispute.

With Blaise Matuidi having departed for Juventus in 2017, Tuchel has often had to play Marquinhos alongside Marco Verratti in midfield, although the Brazilian is probably his best central defender and PSG have suffered by conceding some soft goals.

Tuchel also failed to appoint a clear No. 1 goalkeeper, with France international Alphonse Areola and Italian great Gianluigi Buffon swopping roles throughout the season.

Buffon made a rookie mistake that led to Romelu Lukaku's goal when United won their last-16 second leg 3-1 in Paris, a damaging result that left PSG's expensive squad still chasing their elusive Champions League dream.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2019, with the headline 'Title cannot soothe PSG's pain in Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe