Crossroads for Paris Saint-Germain after coming up short in Champions League quest

Defeat to Bayern in Lisbon final highlighted weaknesses in French champions' squad but also the need to avoid quick-fix culture

Soccer Football - Champions League - Final - Bayern Munich v Paris St Germain - Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal - August 23, 2020  Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman scores their first goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)  Manu Fernandez/Pool via REUTERS
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At least, Thilo Kehrer may reflect, it is unlikely to be remembered as ‘the Thilo Kehrer final’ in his homeland.

It may be the benefit of losing a Champions League final to Bayern Munich. But the German right-back might have conceded a penalty for a first-half challenge on Kingsley Coman.

He was outjumped when the Parisian headed the only goal against Paris Saint-Germain. Hansi Flick had sprung a surprise by preferring Coman to the in-form Ivan Perisic. The sense was that it was to target Kehrer. If so, it worked.

That is not to scapegoat Kehrer. He was symptom as much as cause of defeat. PSG have underfunded other departments of the team after spending around €400 million (Dh 1.74 billion) on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Some of their free transfers, such as Ander Herrera and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, have proved astute recruits but this was a triumph for Bayern’s more balanced business model.

In such circumstances, comparisons can be unflattering. Maybe Thomas Meunier would have done better, but he has already joined Borussia Dortmund after failing to agree a new deal with PSG.

In a game of two right-backs, Kehrer’s Bayern counterpart was Joshua Kimmich, who set up Coman’s winner, and who doubles up as one of the world’s finest midfielders.

Albeit partly because of injury, France’s World Cup-winning right-back, Benjamin Pavard, was on the Bayern bench. They had enviable options.

It meant that perhaps the most pertinent comment Thomas Tuchel made afterwards was: “We have to make the squad wider.” It is about allying more quality with more quantity.

The PSG way has been to pursue celebrities, but Tuchel’s was not a call for another Galactico.

He laughed at suggestions of signing Lionel Messi, but they underline fundamental questions about the club’s identity. Are they a star vehicle or a team?

As Tuchel pointed out, the club record signing Edinson Cavani has left and the captain and defensive cornerstone Thiago Silva will follow.

PSG require several signings, which means a budget being divided multiple ways and being used intelligently. It entails unglamorous signings. They may note that the record signing of the last two Champions League winners, Liverpool and Bayern, is a defender.

Now few, if any, of Tuchel’s defenders or midfielders would get in the Bayern side. That may need to change if they are to become the best team in Europe.


PSG v Bayern player ratings


It is about mentality as well as personnel, but that attitude needs to come from the top.

Tuchel stands for collectivism, and he has got Neymar working harder; Ligue 1 opponents can be eviscerated if the forwards neglect their defensive duties, but not the European elite.

Tuchel stands for continuity, too, and predecessors such as Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery have been doomed by Champions League defeats. Tuchel has taken PSG further in Europe than anyone else, but the double Champions League finalist Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with his job.

A quick-fix culture can lead clubs to assume one signing or one managerial appointment will solve everything. As their past proves, it rarely does.

They can also study the lessons of the last two Champions League finals. Losing can be a springboard or a plummet into decline.

Tottenham lost 7-2 to Bayern and will not even be in next season's Champions League, even if PSG's dominant position in France suggests they will not suffer the same fate.

Liverpool bolstered their defence and midfield in 2018 and went one better by becoming Champions League winners in 2019.

Tuchel followed Jurgen Klopp to Mainz and Dortmund and must hope to emulate him again. And yet the bigger decisions about the direction of the club will be taken by those above him.