PSG’s 2022/23 UEFA Champions League campaign ended in all-too-familiar disappointment of an early exit after fellow heavyweights, Bayern Munich comfortably defeated them, 3-0, on aggregate in the round of 16.
This was despite PSG once again having been heavily tipped to win the UCL, according to early bet predictions on the Champions League, with the club’s sheer level of investment and the quality of its individual players convincing many that eventual success is inevitable.
Will PSG ever win the UCL, and what steps can they take to improve their chances of success next season?
#1. Change the Recruitment Focus
Over the course of the last decade, PSG have been committed to buying established global talent, replicating Real Madrid’s infamous Galacticos transfer policy of the noughties. This has failed to deliver anything beyond domestic success, however, despite PSG having been represented by players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and the incomparable Lionel Messi over the years.
It may now be the time to reconsider and reinvent PSG’s recruitment drive, as the Parisians instead focus on identifying and developing local talent to supplement their star-studded squad. Paris is certainly a hotbed of football talent, with players like Kingsley Coman (who helped Bayern to eliminate PSG from this year’s UCL), Moussa Dembele, Adrien Rabiot, and new Chelsea signing Christopher Nkunku having all come through the youth system in Paris. Instead of leveraging the youth academy as a way of selling players and offsetting their spending, PSG should consider placing an emphasis on youth and creating a less ego-driven squad.
#2. Ditch the Superstars?
While few can argue with the individual brilliance possessed by Neymar, Messi and Mbappe, they’re frustratingly inconsistent and rarely work well together in a team.
Neymar is also particularly vulnerable to injuries, making it hard for the manager to create a strong collective or aggressive front foot press with these players in the forward line.
As counterproductive as it may sound, then, PSG may want to reconsider the make-up of their first team, perhaps by recognising that one or more of these players may be dispensable. Certainly, Neymar is now 31 and fading from the peak years of his career, while Messi (for all of his effortless brilliance at times) often cuts the figure of a man who has already achieved everything he possibly could in the game. Although Mbappe retains the type of youth and talismanic quality that PSG could build a team around, it may be time to make some difficult decisions about Neymar and Messi in the preseason.
#3. Improve the Defence and Midfield
PSG’s defence is currently led by 37-year-old Sergio Ramos, but the Spaniard’s move to the French capital hasn’t seen him produce anywhere near his best form. Elsewhere, injuries to Pascal Kimpembe and Brazilian Marquinhos have exposed PSG’s lack of defensive cover, with midfielders Danilo Pereira and Nordi Mukiele having at times been asked to cover this season.
We’d expect PSG to invest in one or two quality centre backs this season, with Inter’s robust Milan Škriniar one of the club’s primary targets. They’ve also been linked with Napoli’s outstanding Kim Min-jae, and both of these players would represent a welcome departure from constantly investing in older representatives.
Midfield could then also do with some attention in order to support the ever-reliable Marco Verratti, with Lazio’s powerful midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic seen by many as the ideal partner for the Italian. Once upon a time, however, Paul Pogba was perennially linked with a move to the French capital, but injuries and the stars return to Juventus may make such a transfer unlikely.
There are also question marks over current boss Christophe Galtier. He may have performed superbly earlier in the season with his fluid 3-4-2-1 formation, but he struggled with injuries throughout the UCL campaign, and the PSG board isn’t known for its patience. Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel, and Mauricio Pochettino, all ex-managers, have all been previously dismissed for European failures despite winning domestic titles, so it may be hard to plot recruitment drives, going forward, at least until PSG decide on who will lead them in 2023/24.
The Last Word
Ultimately, PSG retains the core financial resources and playing squad to win the UEFA Champions League, but there remain unanswered issues over the collective quality of the team and the mentality that exists throughout the set-up.
Recruitment will undoubtedly play a key role if PSG are to achieve European success, with renewed focuses on youth players and a desire to invest in players who are at their physical peak (regardless of reputation) being potential game-changers for a team that keeps falling short at the last minute.