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Paris St-Germain: Historic title amid poisonous backdrop; Lionel Messi and Neymar out?

Sporting history is normally made at the pinnacle of a career or at the end of a spectacular season – the result of something extraordinary.

But it’s the opposite for Paris St-Germain, who have won their 11th Ligue 1 title amid a difficult, tense, and toxic environment.

They are the first team in France to have won 11 league titles, one more than Saint-Etienne. However, the campaign has been so difficult that the customary sense of accomplishment and pride will fall short of the mark.

Now, after clinching the title with a 1-1 draw at Strasbourg, Paris St-Germain face a summer of uncertainty, with manager Christophe Galtier expected to go, key players expected to leave, and a new philosophy in place.

PSG has won nine of their 11 titles in the last 12 years. Their dominance may not rival Bayern Munich’s in Germany with 11 consecutive wins, or Juventus’ in Italy with nine consecutive wins up to 2020, but no team in France has come close to them since Olivier Giroud’s Montpellier in 2012, Kylian Mbappe’s Monaco in 2017, and Nicolas Pepe’s Lille in 2021.

Lens and Marseille have given Paris a run for their money this season, and until a few weeks ago, it looked like they would even beat them to it, partially because the Parisians have had a difficult year, both on and off the field.

‘A dressing room rocked by Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar’s indiscipline.’
Galtier was hired manager to replace Mauricio Pochettino last summer, and despite a strong first half of the season in which his club went unbeaten until the World Cup break, they crumbled at the start of the 2023 season, suffering eight defeats in the first 19 games.

Overall, the former Lille head coach did not appear to be good enough. He never developed anything with this team, no personality, no style, all while dealing with and controlling a dressing room full of superstars.

He heavily relied on the ‘give the ball to Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe and they will do the rest’ strategy. Of course, ‘the MNM’ were not only the team’s most valuable asset, but also the season’s soap opera.

With the ball, there was no doubt these three could perform miracles, as evidenced by their statistics: 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 Ligue 1 matches for the Argentine, 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 Ligue 1 games for the Brazilian, who was seriously injured in February and did not play again this season, and 28 goals and five assists in 33 games for the Frenchman.

This is one of the best front threes ever built, both on paper and in moments of brilliance and genius. The truth, however, was completely different. The MNM also caused the team to be unbalanced, unable to press, and disjointed. Bayern Munich beat them 3-0 on aggregate in the Champions League last 16 and 2-1 in the French Cup final 16.

It wasn’t great off the field, either. The club’s ultras targeted out Neymar, who showed up uninvited at his residence one evening four weeks ago to chant for him to leave their club.

At the same time, Messi missed a training session in order to travel to Saudi Arabia for a promotional shot. It caused havoc, and he was suspended by the club for two weeks before apologizing and being reintegrated into the squad.

Mbappe publicly criticized the manager’s tactics in September before leaking the news that he had had enough and wants to quit the club in January despite signing a new contract last May. In the end, he stayed in the winter transfer window, but the indiscipline of all three rocked a dressing room that was already not cohesive or strong-minded enough.

Lionel Messi: Destiny is available on iPlayer.
PSG has a historic summer ahead of them.
So, what comes next? The club is already planning the upcoming season. To begin, despite winning the league, Galtier will be fired a year before the conclusion of his contract.

Luis Enrique, Zinedine Zidane, Jose Mourinho, Marcelo Gallardo, Thiago Motta, and Abel Ferreira are among the names on the shortlist to replace him.

They all have diverse personalities and are at various phases of their coaching careers. PSG cannot afford to make a mistake with this appointment.

There will be several exits among the players, beginning with Messi, who will go when his contract expires on June 30. Neymar is also contemplating a new chapter, and the club is eager to let him go.

The MNM, it seems, cannot make you all-powerful, so it is time to deconstruct it. PSG currently wants some younger players, ideally Paris-born or French, like Manu Kone, Randal Kolo Muani, or Marcus Thuram, as well as some team players like Manuel Ugarte or Bernardo Silva, and a world-class number nine like Harry Kane, Victor Osimhen, or Dusan Vlahovic.

It seems like another historic summer for Paris St-Germain. Even after a disappointing season, the club, fans, and players will enjoy the title celebrations and making history for the time being.


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