PSG facing uncertain future following latest Champions League failure

Manager Galtier and club's recruitment policy in spotlight after Bayern send Ligue 1 club crashing out of tournament they most covet

Kylian Mbappe during Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League last-16 second-leg defeat at Bayern Munich. AFP
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Christophe Galtier, the manager of Paris Saint-Germain, had a long list of alibis for the hard questions he faced after another disappointing night in Europe. PSG had been unfortunate with so many senior players absent at key times, Galtier said in rainy Bavaria. The French champions’ back line, in particular, had been repeatedly disrupted.

PSG had just lost 2-0 to Bayern Munich, a result that took the aggregate score from their Champions League tie to 3-0 in Bayern’s favour, sending the German club striding into the quarter-finals.

For the second year in succession, PSG have failed to pass the first knockout barrier in the most esteemed club tournament. They have now accumulated 11 seasons on the trot fielding one of the most expensively assembled sides in the competition and their return is just one final, lost to Bayern in 2020, and a series of dispiriting exits.

“We are disappointed,” said Galtier, “I know how important the Champions League is to PSG. There is a huge expectation, and we shouldn’t underplay that. The big regret is that we weren’t able to do battle with all our best resources over these two legs.”

Galtier had been without Neymar, who will miss the rest of the season recovering from ankle surgery, for the Munich leg, and without Kylian Mbappe, because of injury, for the first hour or so of the first leg.

Presnel Kimpembe, the France international central defender, was also ruled out on Wednesday, as was, with 36 minutes on the clock, captain Marquinhos. When Marquinhos went off feeling discomfort below his ribs, he was replaced by Nordi Mukiele in a back three that already had Danilo, nominally a midfielder, on the right-hand side.

Mukiele then got injured, and for the second half - when Bayern scored through Eric Choupo-Moting and, late on, Serge Gnabry – 17-year-old El Chadaille Bitshiabu made his European debut for PSG in the fierce cauldron of Munich’s Allianz Arena in a team obliged to chase two goals and risk exposing their defence.

These are legitimate excuses, but they in turn pose their own questions about how PSG focus their recruitment. Galtier made use of Warren Zaire-Emery, who turned 17 on Wednesday, in both legs, and while the midfielder is a thrilling prospect for the future, he might wonder if, at a club that makes so many statement signings in attack, he will have room to grow

PSG made Neymar football’s most expensive transfer, at €222 million, in 2017. They committed a record-breaking contract to Mbappe last year. They united Lionel Messi with those two when Messi, against his desires, was told by Barcelona he had to leave Camp Nou in 2021.

Among the painful ironies of the defeat by Bayern is that it was strikes from Kingsley Coman – a product of PSG’s youth system but allowed to depart at 18 – in the first leg, and Choupo-Moting – who played a major part in pushing PSG to their only Champions League final during his two-year spell there – that drove Bayern past Mbappe, Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gigio Donarumma, Marco Verratti and company.

For all their champion calibre – Messi and Ramos have eight European Cups between them, Mbappe a World Cup; Donnarumma and Verrati were part of Italy’s Euro 2020 gold-medal side – PSG failed, as Galtier said, “to capitalise when we were at our best”.

In Munich, Vitinha had a fine opportunity to level the aggregate score in the tie, thanks to a goalkeeping error from Bayern’s Yann Sommer. Vitinha’s shot was just weak enough to allow Matthijs De Ligt to reach out and clear it off the goal-line.

After that, Mbappe was adequately policed by his compatriot Dayot Upamecano and by Josip Stanisic, and Messi kept quiet. If Galtier is justified in pointing out some key missing parts over the course of the tie, so would Julian Nagelsmann, Bayern’s coach.

Stanisic played because Lucas Hernandez is injured and his fellow French World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard was suspended. Sommer is in for the injured Manuel Neuer. Sadio Mane was deemed fit enough only to come on in the second half.

And Bayern still racked up a three-goal winning margin, inflicting on PSG a fifth last-16 phase exit in seven seasons. In the previous four, Real Madrid (twice), Barcelona and Manchester United had trailed in the ties before exposing a brittleness in their opponents. This time, PSG never really got started.

Galtier, their third manager in as many years, must fear his term in charge may be over before he can start again, in September, on trying to lift the gloom that follows PSG through the competition they most covet.

Updated: March 10, 2023, 8:15 AM