After watching their latest bid for European glory end on Wednesday, many fans and pundits are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the possibility of this generation of Paris Saint-Germain players ever winning the Champions League.
PSG’s 3-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich marks their second consecutive exit from the tournament in the round of 16. Despite winning France’s Ligue 1 in eight of the past 10 years, the club’s mega rich owners have long prioritized Champions League success. In 2020, Kylian Mbappe and his teammates came tantalizingly close to achieving that goal, losing 1-0 to Bayern in the final.
PSG’s lackluster performance in the UEFA Champions League is in stark contrast to their impressive domestic form, despite assembling a squad full of superstars, such as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Lionel Messi.
PSG’s quest for European glory began in earnest in 2011, when the club was purchased by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). QSI invested heavily in the team, spending hundreds of millions of euros on transfers and salaries in order to turn PSG into a global powerhouse. The goal was clear: to win the Champions League, the most prestigious club competition in world football.
Despite the huge investment, PSG’s performances in the Champions League have been disappointing. The club has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of the last nine seasons, but they have only made it to the final once, in 2020, where they lost to Bayern Munich. In the other eight seasons, PSG failed to advance beyond the round of 16, and this season they crashed out in the round of 16 again, this time against Real Madrid.
The reasons for PSG’s struggles in the Champions League are complex, but there are a few key factors that stand out. First and foremost, the club has often struggled to find the right balance between attacking flair and defensive solidity. PSG’s front three of Neymar, Mbappe, and Messi are undoubtedly three of the best attacking players in the world, but the team has often looked vulnerable at the back.
Another factor has been the lack of cohesion and chemistry within the team. PSG has assembled a squad full of superstars, but integrating them into a cohesive unit has proven difficult. The constant turnover of players and coaches has also contributed to this lack of cohesion, with the team often looking disjointed on the pitch.
Perhaps the most significant factor, however, has been PSG’s inability to handle the pressure of knockout football. The Champions League is a high-stakes competition, with every mistake potentially costing a team dearly. PSG has often looked nervous and tentative in key moments, and they have been punished for it time and again.
Given the huge investment that QSI has made in the club, PSG’s struggles in the Champions League must be seen as a failure. The project was designed to turn PSG into a dominant force in European football, but the club has fallen short of that goal. Despite their domestic success, PSG will be judged by their performances in the Champions League, and on that front, they have failed.
What can PSG do to turn things around? One option would be to focus more on defensive solidity and team cohesion. While the attacking firepower of Neymar, Mbappe, and Messi is undeniably impressive, PSG may need to sacrifice some of that attacking flair in order to become more solid at the back. Additionally, the club may need to be more patient in their pursuit of Champions League glory, recognizing that building a cohesive team takes time.