For most football fans the mouth-watering possibility of Neymar, Messi and Mbappe at PSG sounded like real-life fantasy football. When Qatar Sports Investments took over the club in 2011 and placed Nasser Al-Khelaifi as the club president, they immediately started to make moves. Following the likes of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, the aims of this club have been very high and many felt it was only a matter of time before PSG would start making waves in the UEFA Champions League.
The club signed coaches like Carlo Ancelotti, Tuchel, and Pochettino, among others to take the club to the elite levels of football achievement, and signed high-profile players, both young and old. Some of these would be the likes of Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Keylor Navas, Marco Veratti, Javier Pastore, Neymar Jr, Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and many others. However, like many other clubs who tried this, the success they craved never came. The best they have ever done was the finals of the UEFA Champions League in the 2019-2020 season against Bayern Munich.
So naturally when Lionel Messi was signed fresh after his Copa America 2021 win, the entire world stood up and took notice. Having star names is nothing new for this club, but let’s face it Leo Messi is by far on another level. With the likes of Neymar and Mbappe, it seemed like an attacking force made in heaven. Other big signings were made that season, including Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnrauma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sergio Ramos. This would add to a squad that had the likes of Rabiot, Draxler, Veratti, Di Maria, Marquinos, and Icardi, just to name a few. So what could go wrong? Just ask Real Madrid president Florentino Perez when he was in charge of the first “Galacticos” era of the early 2000’s.
Florentino Perez had the grand idea of bringing the best and globally recognized superstars to Real Madrid, and so he did. The likes of Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham and Luis Figo were all massive stars at the time, but that team only gave the club one UEFA Champions League in the 2001-2002 season and after that, the elusive tenth UEFA Champions League and even La Liga trophies deserted the club. Florentino Perez had a formula that involved signing top marketable attacking players and signing “Bravos”. The “Bravo” is in reference to Omar Bravo, who was a young Real Madrid product at the club and it suggested that they will bring in the “Galacticos” signings and fill the gaps with young club talent. This was an ambitious but proved to be a very expectedly flawed, approach.
A perfect example of this was when Florentino Perez refused to resign Claude Makelele, who was a French defensive midfielder and absolutely crucial in the teams success. The signing of high-profile attacking players, and ignoring the overall balance of the team lead to the sad downfall of this era. This mistake is one PSG is currently making. When they signed Messi and the others back in 2021, immediately the following season many players left in an attempt to balance the books. Leandro Paredes, Di Maria, Rabiot among a few others left and essentially diminished the midfield of PSG. The team’s ability to utilize the strengths of Messi, Mbappe and Neymar was nullified, and put tremendous strain on Messi to not just create but drop extremely deep into his own half to try to get into the game. Mbappe is not known for tracking back, and neither is Neymar, so the ability to press when not in possession was also vastly less effective. PSG made the same mistake Perez and his Real Madrid team at the time made where they created a tremendously unbalanced group of players that did not function as a team even though it was structured for success. It seems that in an attempt to raise the club’s profile, they were willing to sacrifice balance. This is a team that, unless it starts to have more thought about its signings, will end up vastly underachieving and basically become a French version of the first disastrous “Galacticos” era.
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