The road for Lionel Messi and the French goliaths seems to have gone as far as they can together.
The rapid elimination of Paris Saint-Germain from the UEFA Champions League in the round of 16 has led to open-ended questions on the uncertainty of the team’s future, specifically with regards to its superstars.
Troubled with injuries and locker room gossip, the Parisians have produced a below-par presentation post World Cup despite ambitious dreams for the 2022/23 season. After losing to Bayern Munich, it’s clear that PSG has fallen short of expectations and now has an unflattering 15 failed attempts to secure the title.
Despite having a costly assembly upfront, the club’s latest result marks the second consecutive loss for the likes of superstars Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mpabbe.
Craig LaMay, Professor and Director of the Journalism and Strategic communications programme at Northwestern University in Qatar, has noted that the road for PSG is troubling.
“While PSG has won the Ligue 1 title eight out of the last 10 years, the team was built for the Champions League where its failures are now the stuff of legend – the wrong kind,” LaMay told Doha News.
“The team has the highest wage bill in the sports world and accounts for more than a third of salaries in Ligue 1 but can’t get past the round of 16 in the Champions League,” LaMay added.
Since the 2011 Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) acquisition, PSG has managed to steer a team into evolving an unprecedented Ligue 1 campaign.
However, the massive expenditures translating into PSG’s domination of French football have not been consistent internationally, LaMay says.
“Some reasons for that are impossible to ignore, like injuries to key players. But ultimately, PSG is too much a soft power and marketing project and not enough of a football team,” LaMay claimed.
“They’ve spent a boatload of money on their three top stars but haven’t built a coherent team with them or around them. That might work in some sports – the New York Yankees can have nine players who play only for themselves and still win baseball championships, for example – but football doesn’t work that way,” the director added.
To some, the 12-year acquisition of PSG by Qatar has been described as a game of patience.
However, with a fast-approaching summer deadline, PSG will have all hands on deck as they attempt to recover the wants and needs of players like Messi and Mpabbe from other desiring and more competitive squads.
Former professional footballer and football consultant Nabil Guedioura told Doha News there is faith in PSG’s destiny.
“In tabloids you’ll see and hear all the good and the bad but all the decisions will be made at the end of the season. I am confident about the future. I believe PSG are integrating the younger players from the academy with the more established players like Messi, Ramos and Kylian who act as mentors to them, which I think is great and brings PSG a stronger and more vibrant identity,” the former forward stated.
For Guedioura, the future of PSG remains not solely on the feet of their star-studded starters now but in the upcoming generation that will ultimately build a competitive top-flight team.
“We can see there’s a bright new generation of players coming up like 17-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery and Ismael Gharbi…every year, PSG is expecting to win all the titles, but that takes time to build a club to a European top level. So far, the management has been able to have the club in the top 10 European teams,” Guedioura added.
Not winning a Champions League title may not be the only measure of success for PSG, as Guedioura credits the team’s ability to reach the tournament finals.
In fact, the ideal objective would be for teams within the French League to improve to up the heat and increase the action.
“I wish to see la Ligue 1 with more competitive teams for PSG to be challenged, so it can perform better in the Champions League. For me this is the key,” Guedioura told Doha News.
While the performance of the French champions has never looked this unfamiliar, PSG may be just one decision away from achieving its fantasy, or alternatively, just a step away from a fall from grace.