The departures of both Lionel Messi and Neymar this summer signaled an end to PSGs ‘Galacticos’ era, which promised so much but, ultimately, delivered so little. When they bought the club in 2011, Qatar Sports Investments made it pretty clear that their primary goal was to win the Champions League.
They were happy to splash out top talent to achieve their dream, signing the likes of David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Edinson Cavani in the years that followed. But while the intervening years have seen them bag nine Ligue 1 titles, the Champions League continues to elude them. Indeed, not one since the Qatari takeover has outright European football odds shown PSG as favorites at the outset of the competition.
In recent years, the club seemingly tried to replicate Real Madrid’s attempts to take Europe by storm with their ‘Galacticos’ of the early 2000s. After signing Brazilian superstar Neymar from Barcelona for £190 million in 2017, they continued to heavily invest in their squad.
But the real coup was securing the signature of Lionel Messi, arguably one of the greatest footballers of all time in 2021. That same summer saw the club sign Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos, among others.
With an attacking line including Messi and Neymar, fans were more than hopeful – they were expectant. But like that Real Madrid side from two decades earlier, PSG lacked balance and cohesion.
The team never progressed beyond the round of 16 with Messi – the Argentine unable to inspire his new teammates in the way he had done so often during the height of his powers while at Barcelona.
In fact, their two best Champions League performances came in the two years prior to his signing. They were beaten finalists in 2020 and went out in the semi-finals in 2021. Domestically, this collection of stars was simply too good for the competition, and PSG secured Ligue 1 titles in both of Messi’s seasons.
But success against the very best teams from around Europe relies on a far more nuanced approach. While they could expect to outscore pretty much any other team in France, more often than not, they came up short in the most important games on the biggest stage.
When you look at the teams who have knocked PSG out of the tournament during the time Qatar Sports Investments have been in charge (and spent almost £1.5 billion on players), you’ll see the biggest names in European football:
- Real Madrid
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester United
- Manchester City
The Galacticos era is over. And history will view it as a failure. PSG would have almost certainly won the league without their triumvirate of attacking talent. What the owners and fans wanted was European success. The team failed to deliver it.
But with a new manager in Luis Enrique, hopes are high once again. This summer, their transfer business appears to have been focused on bringing in quality signings across the board. After making significant improvements to their midfield, they’ve bolstered their defense with two new center-backs (Milan Skriniar and Lucas Hernandez). And up front, Ousmane Dembele brings a proven knack for scoring goals. They may not have all the biggest names, but this looks like being PSG’s best hope of finally bringing the Champions League trophy to the French capital.