PSG is going to win Ligue 1’s title. It didn’t wind up happening Wednesday despite the opportunity, so it will drag out a little while longer. But what has been inevitable for months—was inevitable before the season started, really—will come to fruition. It should be cause for celebration. The club will join Marseille and Saint-Etienne as the most successful in France’s history with 10 Ligue 1 titles all-time. Eight will have come in the last 10 seasons, a product of the Qatari investment that has turned the club into one of Europe’s handful of domestic monopolizers.
Yet instead, it all feels like mere consolation. The club’s own supporters, spoiled as they may have become, aren’t happy. A big bet was placed over the summer, when a transfer spree for the ages—not all big buys, as the free-transfer route was wielded quite strategically—was geared toward pushing PSG over the hump in the Champions League. On paper it all looked so great and promising. LionelMessi. Sergio Ramos. Gianluigi Donnarumma. Achraf Hakimi. Georginio Wijnaldum. Winners on big wages all coming together under one umbrella, held by the reputable Mauricio Pochettino, with an eye on becoming the next iteration of Galactico champions.
Instead, the club that originally took the Galactico mentality to the next level taught it a lesson. In 17 Karim Benzema–authored minutes, all of PSG’s primary targets for the season were lost, in the round of 16, no less, and all of its ghosts of European failure returned. Save for Hakimi, its new marquee signings have all underperformed to different degrees. Sergio Ramos, beset by injuries, has made nine appearances in all competitions, none of which were in the Champions League. Messi has had his moments of him and does rank second in Ligue 1 with 13 assists, but he’s amazingly scored just three times in the league all season (with an additional five in the Champions League). It’s hardly what PSG thought it was signing up for when pouncing on Barcelona’s misfortune, reuniting him with Neymar and pairing him with Kylian Mbappé.
And it’s Mbappé’s brilliance that has largely been the only thing consistently generating good vibes—and avoiding the wrath of the club’s supporters—with the French star leading Ligue 1 in both goals (22) and assists (14), but even those vibes come with a major disclaimer. Barring an exorbitantly expensive U-turn, the out-of-contract star is likely headed for Real Madrid on a free transfer this summer in another blow to PSG and one that leaves it suddenly reliant, for next year, anyway, on an aging Messi -Neymar duo.
And in a set of circumstances that seemed oddly appropriate, both South American stars missed what could have been the coronating moment Wednesday—the title would have been secured with a win at Angers coupled with a Marseille draw or loss to Nantes, but OM came back twice to push off the coronation for at least a few more days—with Messi nursing an Achilles injury and Neymar suspended.
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But all of that is besides the point. PSG’s European obsession—and repeated shortcomings on that stage—dwarfed any potential positive outcomes at home. Even a win over Marseille in Le Classique last weekend was met with relative apathy and muted celebration. It was not quite befitting of a rivalry victory that puts the club on the precipice of reclaiming its throne at home after Lille’s surprise title last season. Instead, it’s a trophy that feels like a participation award.
“I wasn’t expecting this atmosphere. It wasn’t the right time to do this,” PSG captain Marquinhos said after the 2–1 triumph. “We understand [the fans] have their reasons, maybe they’re not getting answers. But as a player I don’t agree.”
But that’s what PSG and its cavalcade of stars have signed up for. What’s won at home means little if it isn’t also accompanied by European success. It’s not the only club to operate under that mantra, but when you put all of your Fabergé eggs in one basket, you must live with the ramifications when it doesn’t work out. That the Champions League final was relocated to Paris this year only twists the knife even more. So close to the coveted trophy, yet also so far, and if Mbappé does in fact leave, a whole host of uncertainty and uneasiness is sure to follow.
“During my time here, I have always said that one of the main targets is to win the Champions League, so when you don’t do that, it is a big disappointment at the club,” Pochettino said before Wednesday’s match, where even prematch comments focused on a league title can’t be made without a nod to the failure that overshadows it all.
So yes, PSG will win Ligue 1 again, and in doing so will take another step toward becoming France’s greatest club ever. But for those to whom that should matter to the most, it seems to hardly register a blip.
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