Ever since Qatar Sports Investments took over Paris Saint-Germain, the goal has to been to win the UEFA Champions League. Thus far, the club has failed at that mission but this season was supposed to be different.
After a historic summer transfer window, which included the signing of Lionel Messi, many of the top betting sites predicted PSG to win the Champions League. However, as PSG approaches the winter break, the club is playing some of the worst football of the QSI era and many are calling for the manager, Mauricio Pochettino, to be sacked less than a year since his arrival.
The bigger failure, for me, is the complete and utter waste of Messi. The Argentina international turned 34 last summer and is learning a new league, but he shouldn’t look this bad, especially playing with Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé.
Last season with FC Barcelona, Messi scored 30 goals and recorded 15 assists in 36 La Liga appearances. This season, Messi has 1 goal and 3 assists through 8 Ligue 1 appearances. It’s one thing to come up short in spectacular fashion in the Champions League, but it’s quite another to make arguably the greatest footballer of all time look like Benjamin Stambouli.
So, what’s the problem? First of all, Pochettino needs to be sacked. He’s never won anything of substance as a manager and has no experience managing world-class players. PSG needs a manager who is not only a great tactician but also one who has a resume the players will respect. Zinedine Zidane checks both of those boxes.
Assume PSG can convince Zidane to come to Paris, that alone isn’t enough. PSG’s midfield is an absolute disgrace. Marco Verratti is easily one of the best in the world, but he’s constantly injured or suspended. At this point in his career, he’s unreliable. In the January transfer window, PSG needs a midfielder who can win possession, keep the ball, and turn defense into offense by feeding Messi and the other forwards.
The good news is PSG has time. They should finish 2021 in first place in Ligue 1 and they’ve already qualified for the Round of 16 of the Champions League. Leonardo, PSG’s sporting director, needs to use the next two months to make Zidane an offer he can’t refuse and find some reinforcements for the midfield. If he can do that, PSG may be able to turn this season around and avoid the utter embarrassment of wasting a talent like Messi who just won his seventh Ballon d’Or and I’m sure would like to add an eighth.