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PSG is just a waste

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Every year is the same.

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Marco Verratti is a great embodiment of the problem with PSG. In the second leg of his team’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie against Real Madrid, he was the best player for the time that he was on the field. His full range of talents were on display: his tremendous passing range, the way he can open up passing lanes with body feints and hesitations, his close control and dribbling, the ability to drive the ball forward against multiple defenders, and the borderline magic skill of finding and creating space for himself and others.

Then there’s the other side of Verratti: making cynical, stupid challenges, petulance when the pressure is on that handicaps his team, and his bad attitude. It’s a weakness that he was supposed to grow out of, but one that seems ingrained in him.

Most of the time Verratti manages to escape the second yellow, though he is almost always deserving to be sent off, but this time the referee was in no mood to be endure his frustration and anger.

It’s unkind to blame the two-legged defeat on one man. His team’s exit from the competition was determined the moment that PSG was drawn against an opponent that it couldn’t just walk over. Just like his team as a whole, Verratti’s flaws have never changed, and that’s what keeps both from the greatness that’s clearly within their reach.

It seems then that the story of PSG plays out in the same way every year. They spend an enviable amount of millions on transfers only to lose in the Champions League to the top teams that they desperately want to be overcome.

PSG spent €95.8 million in 2011-2012 to start the revolution with Javier Pastore, Kevin Gameiro, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta. It went from Antoine Kombouaré to Carlo Ancelotti in the manager’s chair, with Leonardo leading the vision of the team. A failure to win anything was to be forgiven in the first year and it was remedied in the years to come.

More and more money was spent every year: €110.8 million for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Gregory van der Wiel and Ezequiel Lavezzi. €109.4 million the next year for Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos and Lucas Digne. €49.5 million for David Luiz. €114 million for Angel Di Maria, Layvin Kurzawa and Serge Aurier. €136 million for Julian Draxler, Jese, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Giovani Los Celso. Then last summer, the incredible €238m in Neymar’s transfer and Kylian Mbappe’s loan, which will become permanent at the end of the season for €180 million.

The Trophée des Champions was won five times, the league and the Coupe de la Ligue were both won four times, and the Coupe de France three times. In 2013, PSG made it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League to face Barcelona and lost on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie thanks to a late Pedro strike. Laurent Blanc replaced Carlo Ancelotti, but the next year’s result was similar, with Chelsea beating PSG in the quarterfinals on away goals, after a 3-3 aggregate tie. After the match, Alex, the PSG defender, expressed a sentiment that would become a perfect expression of PSG’s defeats to come: “It was very difficult for us and all the players are sad. We were confident of getting a good result but we did not play like we can and we paid for it.”

Blanc stayed for the next season to be embarrassed 5-1 on aggregate by Barcelona with Neymar and Luis Suarez doing the damage. The next season it was Manchester City that dumped them out at the same stage. Things seemed to be moving backwards, so Unai Emery came in next. He surpassed Blanc in losing 6-5 on aggregate to Barcelona in the Round of 16, where Barcelona won 6-1 in the second leg. This season, it was a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid at the same stage.

Draxler who came on with less than 20 minutes left, echoed the prophetic words of Alex from a few years ago: “Overall, we just showed too little. That’s why it’s hard to accept we failed that miserably today ... we had big goals. All of the city was fired up, we were fired up. But then we show a match without anything, no explosiveness.”

In the past the problem, which has now become a cliche, was that PSG were a great collection of individuals and that was fine for winning Ligue 1 and domestic titles but they required a greater cohesion and stronger mentality in the Champions League when faced against the big teams. That’s what Blanc and Emery were brought in to remedy, but the problem has gotten worse.

Against Real Madrid there was never a sense of danger from PSG attackers. They controlled possession for most of the time before Verratti’s red card but did nothing with it. In the attacking third, everything stalled and the players seemed to wait for Neymar, who gets injured at this same time every year, to magically show up and create something for them. Despite having a team of Cavani, Di Maria, Verratti, Adrien Rabiot, Mbappe, Dani Alves, Pastore and Draxler, but no one could create anything of worth. No one threatened a Real Madrid team that has been struggling all year.

It would be embarrassing if it wasn’t expected. That might be the worst part of the spectacle, that no one really expected PSG to beat Real Madrid. Their fans were in full voice during the game, but only those who lived in delusion would have thought that their team was going to put in the effort or had the character to challenge one of the big teams. They withered under pressure as they always do. Verratti got his red card, Cavani scored his consolation goal, and the rest was academic.

Now PSG face the possibility of being a failed project. For the first few years after their takeover, there was a legitimate promise in the team. They could have accepted the defeats to Barcelona and Chelsea as unlucky, as growing pains. But after this lifeless display against Real Madrid, the implosion against Barcelona last season in the second leg after winning 4-0 in the first, the optimism is gone. There has been too much money spent, too much talent on the team over the years, all to go backwards from where they started. Maybe a new manager will be the answer and deliver them to the promised land beyond the quarterfinals, but for now there’s no reason to believe so. PSG’s rightfully gained reputation is one of disappointment and wastefulness.