HomeSportsNo identity, no character as PSG fails again in Champions League

No identity, no character as PSG fails again in Champions League

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Uefa Champions League round of 16 second league match against Paris Saint-Germain at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, March 9, 2022. — AFP pic

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PARIS, March 10 — With Lionel Messi and European champion Gianluigi Donnarumma added this season to an already star-studded squad, Paris St Germain could have thought this was their year to finally clinch their maiden Champions League title.

They reached the final in 2020 and the semi-finals in 2021 after a series of early failures and managed to keep Kylian Mbappe after the France forward had asked to leave for Real Madrid.

Yet, they slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Real in the return leg of their last-16 tie for a 3-2 aggregate loss in a remarkable collapse, with Karim Benzema scoring three in the space of 17 minutes after Mbappe’s first-half opener.

The scenario again highlighted PSG’s shortcomings, proving, if evidence was needed, that an aggregation of talent does not make a team and that players cannot be bigger than the club.

PSG, who have invested over EUR1 billion (RM4.6 billion) in transfers since Qatar Sport Investment (QSI) took over, have had six managers since 2011.

Carlo Ancelotti, who led Real to the quarter-finals yesterday, was one of them but he was sacked after less than a year and a half in 2013.

Thomas Tuchel lost his job in December 2020 and less than five months later, he guided Chelsea to their second Champions League title.

He was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, who has not yet managed to give the team a proper style of play after more than a year in charge.

While individual talents make the difference in Ligue 1, where they enjoy a 13-point lead this season, that kind of approach is not enough on the big stage as 13-time European champions Real reminded them.

At Santiago Bernabeu, the ghosts of past collapses — against Barcelona or Manchester United – resurfaced on Tuesday, with PSG losing their composure after a Donnarumma blunder gave the hosts a lifeline.

The Italy keeper has been in competition with the experienced Keylor Navas and Pochettino’s decision to name him in the starting line-up backfired.

But it is the collective acceptation of defeat that shocked as PSG simply sunk when they had about half an hour to preserve their one-goal aggregate lead.

Sporting director Leonardo, who believes Donnarumma suffered a foul in the lead-up to Benzema’s equaliser, refused to draw conclusions from yet another failure that will leave PSG frustrated when the Champions League final is played at the Stade de France — a stone throw from their Parc des Princes.

“It is not the moment to find all the solutions or to drax all the conclusions,” he said.

“Up until halftime, we were superior. We were good, with a squad to win the Champions League. We need to time to think and move forward.”

Meanwhile, Mbappe, who was made to stay by PSG until the end of his contract in June despite asking to leave for Real Madrid during the close season, might think it is definitely time to move on. — Reuters

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