Unlike the first installment of this series, where we looked at Paris Saint-Germain’s success in the 1994-95 season, which fell right in the middle of the club’s glory years, this one will take a look at perhaps the worst season in the club’s history.
Never had the club come so close to relegation than it did during the 2007-08 season, clearing the cut-off by three points on the last matchday with a legendary game-winning goal towards the end of the game from Amara Diané.
This was a season of unprecedented turmoil, effectively crystallized by the resignation of club president Alain Cayzac in April.
However, despite league struggles completely unfamiliar to the club, good runs in the Coupe de France, in which PSG lost in the final to Olympique Lyonnais, and the Coupe de la Ligue, which PSG won thanks to a stoppage-time penalty conversion from Bernard Mendy in the final against FC Lens, were results that left fans proud.
This was a season of 13 draws, 15 losses, a goal differential of -8, and embarrassing performances. Consecutive wins were managed just once, and the club’s largest winless streak stretched eight games.
Losses like 3-0 to Girondins de Bordeaux, then managed by Laurent Blanc, featuring a hat-trick from Wendel Geraldo, or 4-2 against Lyon, when Hatem Ben Arfa scored two goals in just three minutes, were just a couple of the blows that would amount to a season of great agony and humiliation.
With all of the controversy surrounding the current ownership as well as the players they brought in, PSG fans now criticize the players for different reasons, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how the 2007-08 season was such a poor showing that it saw a new signing like Péguy Luyindula become, for a moment, a scapegoat.
At the same time, the club still featured memorable players, including both starters and depth players. This was the first season in tricolor for Zoumana Camara, who has stayed with the club to this day, now serving as assistant manager. It was also the season that saw Mamadou Sakho break into the first team and famously wear the captain’s armband, a decision made by Paul Le Guen who questioned the leadership of captain Pauleta and vice-captain Sylvain Armand.
Even the club’s role players, in a season as tough as this one, are interesting to look at: 2007-08 wasn’t just Sakho’s debut, it was also the arrival of academy graduate Younousse Sankharé, who is now playing the later years of his career at Bordeaux, and who played a great role in helping the club reach the Coupe de France final, as he started three games in the tournament and played well.
Other interesting role players included Marcelo Gallardo, now legendary manager of River Plate. Although he didn’t play many minutes and left after just this one season, it’s interesting to look back at such a cast of characters and see such a legendary coach standing among them.
While this may have been the season that some use to define them as poor leaders, or players who couldn’t compete at the level of other big names, Pauleta, Armand, and Mickaël Landreau were all fundamental in avoiding relegation. Had it not been for Pauleta’s ability to score a goal out of thin air, Armand’s technical prowess and ability to hold his own at any part of the pitch, as well as Landreau’s consistency in goal, the club would have finished much worse than the 16th place finish they achieved.
For many supporters, this had cemented these players, particularly Pauleta, as fan favorites who had stuck it out with the team in its darkest hours.
On May 17, 2008, Diané became a cult hero as he tied Pauleta as the club’s leading scorer with his 15th goal in all competitions, saving it for the final minutes of the last matchday against FC Sochaux, securing the club’s position in Ligue 1 for the next season.
While it may not have been an ideal send-off, coming minutes away from relegation and winning with Diane’s last-second slow-roller that tucked just narrowly between the posts, it would serve as Pauleta’s final match. That game, along with the rest of the season, is a good reflection of his years at the club: there were stressful, hard defeats, yet somehow, someway, he’d help guide the team to glory.
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