Champions League

PSG project called into question after UCL let-down

2018-03-07 07:55
Neymar (Getty)

Paris - After an honourable 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, 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."

Neymar to stay, Emery out

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.

Read more on:    psg  |  champions league  |  neymar  |  soccer
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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
AEK Athens v Ajax, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Viktoria Plzen, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Valencia, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v Benfica, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Manchester United v Young Boys, Old Trafford 22:00
Roma v Real Madrid, Stadio Olimpico 22:00
Hoffenheim v Shakhtar Donetsk, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 22:00
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Atletico Madrid v Monaco, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 19:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Galatasaray, RZD Arena 19:55
Porto v Schalke 04, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
PSG v Liverpool, Parc des Princes 22:00
PSV v Barcelona, Philips Stadion 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Club Brugge, Signal-Iduna-Park 22:00
Napoli v Crvena Zvezda, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale, Wembley Stadium 22:00
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