Stop me if you’ve heard something like this before: Paris Saint-Germain players will never excel on the big stage against elite competition because they play their club football in France.
If you’re on social media (or make the mistake of tuning into ESPN FC), I have no doubt that you’ve seen the “Farmer’s League” replies to any post referencing the capital club or their players. Even Neymar Jr., who is widely considered to be the third best football player in the world, can’t escape criticism for joining PSG with many suggesting French competition will somehow diminish his abilities (just read the replies to this tweet). On Saturday, all of this rubbish commentary came crashing down.
The argument from pundits is simple. In their minds, PSG players don’t face tough competition on a regular basis in Ligue 1 and therefore, when they do play in the UEFA Champions League against the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, they fall like a deck of cards. Given PSG’s recent history against those sides in the Champions League, analysts have been able to spew this lazy take because it bashes the team they hate and is easy for them to articulate. Why get into tactics or the fact that Madrid is historically one of the greatest teams ever when you can dismiss the French league and unfairly bash a club that you fundamentally hate?
That opinion is quickly being eroded at the FIFA World Cup in Russia though. So far, PSG players have scored more goals for their countries than any other team. The opening day of the Round of 16 is where the argument truly became a dumpster fire. France and Argentina kicked things off with Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria starting for their respective teams. Of the 22 players on the pitch, including all-time great Lionel Messi, those two PSG players scored three of the seven total goals with the young Frenchman also winning a penalty that Antoine Griezmann ultimately converted.
— Marc Damon (@MarcDamon1) June 30, 2018
In the second match, Uruguay battled Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal with the South America squad edging out the 2-1 victory. Oh, and those two goals for Uruguay were not scored by Luis Suárez, PSG’s Edinson Cavani was the one who netted the brace. If math isn’t your strongest subject, that’s five total goals from PSG players in one day in the knockout stage of the World Cup against Messi and Ronaldo-led teams. Not too shabby from a bunch of players who line up against farmers 9 months out of the year.
The World Cup is obviously not the Champions League. It’s actually bigger with a hell of a lot more pressure to perform. National teams suffer from a lack of playing time so it’s difficult to form a cohesive unit. Given what we’ve seen so far in Russia, I don’t know how the biggest PSG critics could continue to use the “Farmer’s League” argument. In fact, they’re already starting to retreat from that and come up with a new angle to whine about.
The new argument and media narrative will be that Mbappé is too good for PSG. Somehow he is being held captive by the evil Paris Saint-Germain empire and it’s their job to rescue him. Let’s not forget that several clubs had the opportunity to sign him last summer. Big clubs from England and Spain but they didn’t step up to the table with a bid worthy of someone with his talents. PSG were the only ones who worked out a loan deal that would eventually turn into a transfer of €180 million this summer. After his World Cup performance, the price is starting to look like the steal of the century and those who hate PSG simply can’t handle it.
Paris Saint-Germain will never be loved. It’s something I’m still trying to come to grips with. Their accomplishments are dismissed and their failures are magnified and laughed at. If this World Cup is anything to go by though, this upcoming season may leave PSG supporters with the last laugh.