Euro 2020 Special

Difficult Choices Ahead For Neymar, Mbappe and Lionel Messi After Paris Saint-Germain’s Failure

Paris Saint-Germain were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League once again as they succumbed to a 3-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. This is PSG’s fifth such elimination over the last seven years, with the club’s eternal quest of clinching Europe’s most prestigious trophy failing to materialise despite massive investments by the owners. Fans and supporters of the club are now seeking accountability for the club’s failure on the international stage, with the likely sacking of Christophe Galtier looming on the horizon.

Meanwhile, the trio of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar all have two more months to decide on their future course. The club itself might have some hard decisions to make in the summer transfer window, but if the three stars decide to move outside France, the upcoming summer transfer window might witness the biggest-ever deals in the history of European football.


Shattered Dreams

When the Qatari government decided to invest in Paris Saint-Germain back in 2011, the owners aimed to buy soft power for the country in preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. The new owners poured millions of dollars into the club, initially with a desire to increase the stature of the club in the continent. The club grew in confidence, becoming the dominant force in Ligue 1 similar to Bayern Munich’s dominance in the Bundesliga.

With an increase in stature came increasingly ambitious goals. The focus shifted to the Champions League. No French club has won Europe’s most coveted title since 1993 when Marseille brought the cup home. Marseille are in fact the only club from France to win the championship in the tournament’s history. This dream enthused fans and supporters from across the nation, and combined with France’s tremendous success in the FIFA World Cup in 2018, turned PSG’s quest for the Champions League trophy into a national obsession.

But the results on the field tell a different story. Despite being immensely successful on the domestic stage – PSG are still expected to win Ligue 1 this season – the Parisians are unable to compete with Europe’s best clubs. The final of the 2019-20 season was the closest they ever came to laying their hands on the title, only to succumb to a defeat to Bayern Munich.


The Trio

In order to pursue their dream and boost their image in one go, Paris Saint-Germain broke the bank to add Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to their ranks. Of the three stars, Kylian Mbappe is undoubtedly the club’s leader, with PSG offering the 24-year-old unprecedented influence and control in the summer transfer window last season to extend his contract. The French forward is already on the list of all-time greats, breaking the record for most goals scored by a player for Paris Saint-Germain last week.

What Paris Saint-Germain failed to foresee is the difficulty of building a team around superstars. Reports of rifts, confrontations and ego battles are a regular feature of the news cycle coming out of the club’s dressing room. Both Neymar and Lionel Messi played together at Barcelona for years before they moved to Paris, but Kylian Mbappe’s outsized role at the club never sat well with the duo.

By breaking the bank to retain both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe over the last two years, Paris Saint-Germain did not have money left to build the rest of their squad. The midfield and defensive unit remains woefully under-manned – a reason for their failure in the Champions League year after year. The change in approach and direction of the club under Luis Campos, widely expected to deliver results at the start of the season, has failed to materialise.

To add to PSG’s woes, all three players focussed their efforts for much of last year on the FIFA World Cup. All three had an equal shot at clinching the prestigious cup before the tournament with their teams, and the club could do nothing except wait and watch on the sidelines. The tournament ended with Kylian Mbappe’s heartbreak and Lionel Messi’s coronation. But for the club, it meant both players took time from duties to celebrate or recuperate. 


Potential Targets

The only option remaining for PSG is to let go of one or more players from the trio and rebuild their team. But it is more likely that the players themselves would like to move on from the club, with all three players eager to sign with clubs where their potential can be better utilised.

Neymar’s season effectively ended last month when he picked up an injury, with the Brazilian’s poor luck with injuries extending to a fourth straight season. The 31-year-old is currently Europe’s most expensive player, with PSG extending his contract until 2025. While Neymar brought glitz to the Paris-based club, it was his ability to change the course of decisive games that made him valuable to the club. But after five seasons, it is now clear that Neymar’s impact at the club is limited.

While few clubs can afford to break the bank like PSG to sign Neymar, rumours are going around that Chelsea are looking to make a bid for the star. But without a release clause in his contract, PSG can effectively set the price they want to release the star, which might derail the Blues’ plans to make yet another expensive signing this year.

Lionel Messi’s situation is more precarious. With his dream of a World Cup victory achieved, chances are high that the 37-year-old could take a more laid-back approach to his games. Like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi’s inclusion in any club will alter the dressing room dynamics. While the Argentinian captain will be a free agent this summer, the expensive wage bill also makes it prohibitive for most Premier League clubs to sign the star.

Like Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United, Lionel Messi could see a return to Barcelona in the upcoming summer transfer window. While Xavi has converted Barcelona into a winning machine without the need for new signings, Lionel Messi’s return could see the club’s profile and commercial valuations rocket to the sky. If Barcelona don’t opt to bid for the star, we could also see Lionel Messi join Cristiano Ronaldo in transferring out of Europe.

Of the three players, Kylian Mbappe is the only player around whom Paris Saint-Germain could build a potential future. Despite all the drama on and off the field, the 24-year-old is still the best player on the planet today, with scope for immense improvement. This makes him a valuable asset for the club in case they decide to rebuild the team. But for the relationship between Kylian Mbappe and PSG to work out, he would demand more say in the club’s direction – an unlikely scenario after this year’s results.

This could mean Kylian Mbappe could potentially be on the transfer market in the summer. Real Madrid remain interested in signing the youngster despite all the drama last year but are unlikely to offer the same terms. Chelsea and Manchester United could also bid for the star, with new ownership increasing the financial heft of the Premier League.

Paris Saint-Germain’s failure in the Champions League this season means that the upcoming summer transfer window is likely to see three blockbuster deals in Europe.




Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.