PSG's domestic dominance papers over cracks of another European dud
Paris Saint-Germain captured its fifth Ligue 1 title in six years on Sunday courtesy of a stunning 7-1 victory over last year’s shock winner Monaco.
The Parc des Princes was in a raucous, celebratory mood that mirrored the elan of the players. PSG’s ground was loud, and so too was the football. Giovani Lo Celso’s first brace for the club and goals from Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria inside of 27 minutes set the tone for a jubilant second frame in a display that was nothing short of clinical and utterly enjoyable.
Related: Paris Saint-Germain destroys Monaco to clinch Ligue 1 title
With two domestic trophies on the campaign and a spot in the Coupe de France semi-final alongside Caen and a pair of third-tier sides heavily favouring the capital side, on the surface, a latest decorated season could be qualified as a sweeping success for PSG.
But with ambitions focused on the Champions League on the heels of a eighth-successive continental dismissal at the quarter-final stage or sooner, PSG is facing a summer of necessary flux both on the pitch and the touchline.
Financial Fair Play concerns loom above the Parc des Princes like a monetary cloud casting a wide shadow as Kylian Mbappe’s rules-skirting loan move is set for permanent purse-tightening status. That, paired with Neymar’s opulent signing and a slew of significant wages on the books may force PSG to take a more sober summer approach still some ways from transfer teetotalism.
Club chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants a Champions League title, and after Unai Emery won three Europa League titles on the spin with Sevilla, the hope was that the Spaniard could bring that savvy to the French capital. Emery is as good as gone as names like Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte are bandied about, and the manager isn’t the only influential piece set for a summer exit.
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Hatem Ben Arfa has been put out to graze and Grzegorz Kyrchowiak’s shambolic loan move to West Bromwich Albion has set the Polish international back a season. It’s doubtful he has any future with Les Parisiens. Fan favourite Blaise Matuidi’s move to Juventus has left a midfield void PSG has failed to replace, and it’s in the middle of the park where the most questions emerge. Amid a drastic drop in form, Marco Verratti is continuously linked with an Italy return, Thiago Motta is well past anything resembling his former self, as is emergency signing Lassana Diarra.
Additionally, Javier Pastore has had one foot out the door since January, and Lo Celso hasn’t quite acclimated to life at PSG despite Sunday’s stellar showing. The younger Argentine was an unfortunate scapegoat for a disastrous midfield in the first leg Champions League last-16 loss to Real Madrid. Dani Alves has lost a step, as has Thiago Silva, and Layvin Kurzawa is nearing a summer exit as Yuri Berchiche takes his first-choice duties. Thomas Meunier has hinted at taking a similar path after ageing Alves took his gig.
Before replacements are brought in, a new manager will need to be in place. If it is Tuchel, a manager who values attacking football, an emphasis will have to be placed on the midfield and backline, and not in attack, where PSG compete with the continent’s best. Then, perhaps it can rival those sides, the clubs Al-Khelaifi and Co. so desperately desire to be mentioned alongside, the same sides that continue to end PSG’s European dreams.
The gulf between PSG and Ligue 1’s big clubs was on full display Sunday against a talented and well-managed Monaco side, and with it, Al-Khelaifi returns France’s top prize to the capital after a one-year hiatus on the principality.
Celebrations will extend into the early hours of Monday, but once the drunken fog of domestic football dominance recedes, it’s back to the drawing board for a club whose ambitions extend beyond France.