Koulibaly and Napoli revealed PSG's apathy for UCL glory
Every club in Europe dreams of being crowned with the UEFA Champions League trophy. An accolade for being the best football club, of course after knocking out the rest in the fiercest of competitions. It’s a public secret that Paris St Germain have been literally hunting the champions league gold for some time. Their only European gold dates back to the 1995-96 season when the tournament was still called the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Even after breaking the bank so many times in recent times and consistently hired new management, they still look unfit to go all the way. Allow me to make it a bit more concrete.
Delusions of the Ligue 1
Now, it goes without saying that the French top flight football league is not the most competitive football league in Europe. PSG has won the domestic title consistently from the year 2012 up until now, only missing out in the 2016/17 when Monaco was really on fire. Before the Parisians’ dominance from 2012 onwards, Lyon had also enjoyed 7 consecutive title wins from 2001-08. Even now, PSG look like they will likely go uncontested in the 2018/19 season after winning all of their opening ten games, with some huge scorelines. The pattern of the French league obviously amplifies some of their performances and seem to take a toll on the team’s mentality when lining up against the best there is in Europe. They do have some of the world’s best football talent in their ranks which seem almost unplayable in many of the Ligue 1 matches but consistently fail to put up the same performances in the big European matches. Do you remember how they gave away a 4-0 first leg win to lose 6-5 on aggregate to Barcelona in 2017 or how they cowed when they lined up against Real Madrid in the 2017/18 campaign, losing 5-2 on aggregate. Getting knocked out in the round of 16 of the competition on both occasions. Make no mistake, they do have some real quality players in their squad, almost in all the positions but it just seems never to be enough. No matter how much they spend, nothing is changing - perhaps you cannot “buy” trophies after all.
Koulibaly and Napoli argument
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been gathering up some impressive results as of late. A dominant home win against the 2018 champions league finalists, Liverpool, have been followed up with an impressive 2-2 draw away in Paris. With Senegalese center back, Kalidou Koulibaly, reaching maturity and attaining world class defender status coupled with the experience of Hamsik, the decisiveness of Insigne, Dries Mertens and finally pure grit exhibited by the rest of the not so world class players in their squad - they have been punching way above their weight. The final scoreline does not accurately show the complexion of the entire match. Koulibaly and the rest of the Napoli team hardly had a lot to do in the encounter, expect when they could do nothing about Di Maria’s stunner in stoppage time. The battle of the match was won in the midfield by Allan, Hamsik and Spanish youngster Fabian Ruiz, who got the better of Verratti and Rabiot. Of course Neymar tried more than once to individually rally the Parisians but the final ball was never really the one they would have desired. The few times they got clear chances, they were met by the inconsistent Edinson Cavani or the outnumbered Mbappe. It was real masterclass by Napoli, with Koulibaly even striding forward in attack on several occasions and fluffing out the final balls thrown into the box during the closing moments of the match. Before Di Maria’s sublime finish, PSG had been fortunate to head back into the game, courtesy of a Mario Rui own goal from Thomas Meunier’s poor cross into the box.
Am I bashing the Parisians too much? Perhaps, but something need to change in their game if they are to become European champions.
What’s my recommendation
Thomas Tuchel is a great manager but I think they need a more experienced guy who has actually won the champions league and possessing the abilities to manage the big egos in the squad. The likes of Zidane, Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho may be some of the options. As of this season, I will not put my money on the Parisians winning the European gold, I am prepared to be proven wrong.