No surprise, no lessons learned as PSG exit Champions League early again
By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain were knocked out in the Champions League last 16 for the fifth time in 12 seasons under big-spending owners Qatar Sport Investment (QSI) and it came as no surprise given the lack of a club culture at the French capital club.
Poor recruitment decisions and blind faith in the talent of Kylian Mbappe and a handful of others meant PSG were not armed against a Bayern Munich side whose cohesion and strength in depth made the difference in their 3-0 aggregate victory.
PSG have been relying on the mercurial Mbappe up front, but Bayern were well prepared against such an elementary strategy, while Lionel Messi has been inconsistent since he joined from Barcelona in 2021.
Neymar was out injured on Wednesday, when PSG lost 2-0 despite a promising first half, and while the team looked more balanced with the Brazilian missing, the lack of craft in the midfield was horribly exposed.
Marco Verratti has been a key player for PSG since 2011, but suspensions and injuries have worked against the Italian.
At the Allianz Arena his blunder cost the visitors the first goal which was scored by Eric Choupo-Moting - a stinging irony after the Cameroon forward became a laughing stock at PSG before joining Bayern.
In 2019, the striker somehow managed to stop the ball on the goal line as he tried to finish a move by PSG in a title-deciding game against Strasbourg - a mishap labelled the worst miss of all time by the media.
Choupo-Moting has improved since then and netted from close range after being set up by Leon Goretzka to put Bayern 1-0 in front before Serge Gnabry put the result beyond doubt in the closing stages, leaving PSG to reflect on what went wrong again.
This time the joke was on the Paris side and it was not the first time after humiliating eliminations against Barcelona and Manchester United in 2017 and 2019, respectively, after they had taken a seemingly decisive advantage in the first leg.
It is now the fifth time in the last seven campaigns that PSG have exited Europe's elite club competition in the last 16.
"We have to stick together all the time. We must have pride," said Danilo Pereira, who played well on Wednesday but cannot be considered a world-class player.
The same goes for the likes of Vitinha and Fabian Ruiz, who were partnering Verratti in midfield.
While Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann sent the experienced Leroy Sane and Sadio Mane on from the bench, his PSG counterpart Christophe Galtier had to call on 17-year-old Warren Zaire Emery and Hugo Ekitike, 20 late in the game.
Former PSG great David Ginola, a pundit for Canal Plus, was fuming, pointing out that the team lacked grit.
"There has been a real problem for years. There are players in this team, I wonder about the recruitment policy," he said.
"How can we have so little strength in depth? We are still capable of living up to our ambitions and having players who are up to the task. Tonight Vitinha was not up to it at all.
"If we want PSG to win the Champions League, the players have to be more invested in the club, more committed."
In 12 years, PSG seem to have learned almost nothing from their setbacks and have failed to develop the club culture of the likes of Bayern, Liverpool and Real Madrid.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)