The football landscape is changing and that could have drastic repercussions for Paris Saint-Germain, who must know it is now or never this coming season.
The most popular French soap opera has had another summer of high drama with multiple character changes. In other words, it’s another pre-season at Paris Saint-Germain.
The most famous to have left is Lionel Messi, who ended a largely unhappy spell in the capital with a second Ligue Un title but also a suspension and heckling from his own fans.
Kylian Mbappe would be in Saudi Arabia right now if the Saudis and PSG’s Qatari owners had their way, but so far he is holding out for one last dance in Paris before hightailing to Madrid on the biggest free transfer in football history.
Others to have flown out of Charles De Gaulle airport this summer include Sergio Ramos, who like his former Barcelona rival arrived as part of the free agent class of 2021, which now only sees Gianluigi Donnarumma remain.
Both Neymar and Marco Verratti could still leave, two players who help summarise this era at PSG: all the talent in the world but unfulfilled while at the Parc des Princes. The Brazilian’s club peak happened at Barcelona and the Italian midfielder will always be remembered more for the Euros success in 2021 than anything he’s done in his 11 years in France. A sad reality for all involved.
Oh yes, and there was also Christophe Galtier leaving after just a single season in charge, but not before he was arrested in a probe into alleged racism.
Emily in Paris has nothing on the real-life storylines and scandal of a troubled football club whose Qatari project feels like it’s about to roll its final dice for true success.
That involves another revamp, led by new manager Luis Enrique, who has already had to deny he wants out before a ball has been kicked in the new season.
Understand reports suggesting Luis Enrique could quit as PSG boss (despite only just joining!) are wide of the mark.
Same for suggestions Luis Campos could be fired.
Stories viewed by those close to PSG as destabilisation attempts.❌ pic.twitter.com/GahkMXy1E0
— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) August 3, 2023
With so many big names either gone or on the way out, the former Barcelona and Spain boss will be taking charge of a much younger squad that has been boosted by several arrivals this summer.
The most eye-catching of these are Manuel Ugarte and Goncalo Ramos, who have joined from the Portugal for £60m and a loan (which will likely result in an even bigger fee once FFP hurdles have been cleared this year) from Sporting and Benfica respectively.
The free agent market has been utilised once again with Milan Skriniar and Marco Asensio making the moves from Inter Milan and Real Madrid, with both having plenty to prove in their newest big city.
Cher Ndou also joins from Benfica as one for the future, while Xavi Simons has returned from PSV to instantly go on loan to Leipzig; Kang-in Lee is another whose been earmarked for a few years down the line.
Other moves have seen Qatar tap into the near-endless French talent pool. Lucas Hernandez has joined from Bayern Munich, where he will link up with international teammate Presnel Kimpembe and adopted Parisian and club captain Marquinhos at the back, the latter being one of the few success stories of the last decade.
Ousmane Dembele also looks likely to make the move back home from Barcelona, although his injury issues remain the usual concern.
Hugo Ekitike has signed on a permanent deal following a loan from Reims last season, while the younger Mbappe, Ethan, has been part of the first-team squad this summer.
This French connection is something long overdue at the club, as well as a focus on youth, with PSG on the doorstep of the most concentrated region of football talent in the world. It is about time they used it, with or without the France captain.
Bringing in young, hungry and local players instead of big names and big egos is far likelier to reap rewards long term and should keep the drama at a minimum over the coming years, particularly with the club’s ultras groups.
They have openly revolted against the Qatari running and remodelling of the club, which has seen it move even further away from its heart and soul and forget what it once stood for. Fans want players who care and represent their city, their values and themselves over mercenaries who use the club as a resting spot before taking their talents elsewhere.
If the owners are serious about change, they have made a good start and hiring Enrique is a strong choice. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and is capable of handling egos and intense media scrutiny. If you can handle Barcelona, you can handle PSG.
It is just a case of letting him get on with the job. His tough style is reminiscent of Thomas Tuchel in many ways, the only manager to bring the club to a European Cup final but someone who eventually was sacked due to politics once again just four months later and just six months before he won that very trophy with Chelsea.
If Enrique falls, the managerial graveyard that has been PSG of the last decade will gain another victim and warn off other managers even more than before.
It is another reason why this feels like a final roll of the dice and a last shot at success. As is the wandering eye of Qatar towards European football’s cash cow, the Premier League.
While somehow a few have convinced themselves that Sheikh Jassim is just a wealthy individual who loves Manchester United, he is simply a front for a state bid and if successful, it would seem likely attention will be put on the bigger club in the bigger league. With the current mess at Spurs and a potential need to sell, they could also be another option.
It could even lead to an eventual sale of PSG, which would be ideal for the fans, but for Qatar? Their gulf rivals at Manchester City have just won the Treble, while the Saudis have followed a similarly low-key policy at Newcastle. These are high stakes and a political game, and another symbol of how completely lost football is as a sport.
For all of this and more, it feels like now or never. Paris is arguably Europe’s most famous and glamorous city. It should be home to one of the continent’s premier teams. With or without their current state ownership.
“Ici c’est Paris” has been the marketing slogan of the club in recent times but could it soon be Au Revoir to Qatar? The next 12 months could dictate PSG’s next decade.