Another year, another unsuccessful Champions League campaign for Paris Saint-Germain. In their eleventh consecutive attempt at winning Europe’s showpiece club competition since the Qatari takeover, Les Parisiens fell 3-0 on aggregate against Bayern Munich.
It’s worth a reminder, to start with, that bowing out of the Champions League, even this early in the knockout stages, and against a club this steeped in European football history, is not that shameful.
But what stands out is the gulf, at every level, between a multiple Champions League-winning team and a club that has spent £1bn in the last decade and still look so far away from becoming the second French outfit to lift Old Big Ears since Marseille 30 years ago. Bayern Munich have a clear organisational structure with former players Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić respectively as CEO and Sporting Director. A stark contrast to PSG.
Nasser Al Khelaifi has been the acting president of the club since the Qatari takeover. But there’s more. He is also, since 2013, a Qatar minister without portfolio. Let’s not forget he’s also the board chairman of the beIN Media Group, and he was recently appointed chairman of the European Club Association. This is, of course, all good for him – but like for you and I, Al Khelaifi’s day is 24 hours long. So how much of his time is truly dedicated to the actual running of Paris Saint-Germain, the fifth richest club in the world according to Deloitte? To reuse the French title of the 1980 film Airplane!, is there a pilot in the plane ?
The same can be said of Luís Campos. The Portuguese director is not an executive per se. His actual role is that of sporting advisor who is tasked to be in charge of the organization, recruitment and performance of the senior squad. That’s a lot of responsibilities, considering the advisor does the same job for Celta Vigo.
But Campos was responsible for the appointment of head coach Christophe Galtier and he was the driving force behind PSG’s latest squad building, which can, as of now, be considered a failure.
Let’s look at the substitutions yesterday. When Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann was able to call on Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané and João Cancelo, Galtier could only rely on Juan Bernat, Nordi Mukiele, El Chadaille Bitshiabu, Warren Zaïre-Emery and Hugo Ekitike. How is this possible? How did the PSG hierarchy allow their squad to regress that much? “Bayern have a team that’s built to win the Champions League. At the start of the season, in the first Champions League press conference, I said we’d do the maximum we could. This is the maximum we can do”, admitted Kylian Mbappé in a seething assessment of where PSG lie in Europe’s football leaderboard – barely in the top 16 best teams.
It remains to be seen now whether PSG’s hottest property will want to stick around in the club that made him their French frontman and franchise player. Will he have the patience to wait for a necessary rebuild of the sporting hierarchy? It is clear by now that, whoever stands in the dugout, be it Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino or Galtier, the constant is that PSG needs a complete overhaul. Should players who were part of so many under-achieving squads, such as Marquinhos, Marco Verratti or Neymar stay or go? What about the signings who simply have not show enough such as Vitinha, Carlos Soler, Hugo Ekitike? The question can also be aimed at those who are too old to embody the future (Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi).
A rebuild this big can’t be successful without a full-time dedicated Sporting Director with complete operational power. They should be an architect of performance that can bring success on the pitch, and the fans on their side. A smooth operator, able to pursue and convince young prospects to sign, rather than expensive players who are past their best and looking for one final paycheck. Otherwise, those eleven years of hurt will have been in vain.
GFFN | Bastien Cheval