A cynic might say that the dismantling of Paris Saint-Germain has already begun.
Less than 24 hours after PSG lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich in Lisbon, news came down that longtime team captain Thiago Silva is expected to sign this week with Chelsea.
The Brazilian defender’s exit is no shock; it was confirmed in June that the 35-year-old’s expiring contract would not be renewed and that he would leave after eight years in Paris. Still, it would be surprising if Silva is the only big name to depart the Parc des Princes before Europe’s summer transfer window closes in October, more than a month later than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The financial fallout from the ongoing health crisis figures to impact PSG less than many other top clubs, what with the bottomless pockets boasted by its ownership group. But even after the most successful season in its 70-year-history — one that took longer to arrive than many expected when the sleeping giant was purchased by an arm of Qatar’s autocratic government in 2011 — keeping its squad together won’t be easy.
After luring the likes of Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham to France’s capital, PSG dropped nearly a half-billion euros on Neymar and World Cup-winning youngster Kylian Mbappe in 2017. Thomas Tuchel, considered one of Europe’s top up-and-coming managers, was hired the following year.
It took Tuchel just two seasons to build a roster capable of reaching the top of the club game. Make no mistake: PSG’s ascension wasn’t a fluke that could occur only during this unprecedented season. Neymar and Co. hit the ground running after the quarterfinals were postponed to this month despite not having played a competitive game, unlike their competition, since the world went sideways in mid-March.
They had finally became a team, rather than a collection of high-priced individuals under their German coach. Alas, even that might not be enough to keep them together.
Real Madrid has long coveted Mbappe; an agreement to sell the 21-year-old to the reigning La Liga champion was reportedly nearly complete before COVID-19 intervened. Mbappe has since committed to staying in Paris through the end of next season, but things change. Former Real headliner Cristiano Ronaldo is already lobbying his former team to sign the French national team speedster.
Neymar would be an even bigger loss for PSG. The face of the club has flirted with leaving almost since his arrival on a world record transfer fee three summers ago. Barcelona reportedly came close to reacquiring the 28-year-old last summer. Neymar reportedly was disappointed that the reunion didn’t happen.
Barca could renew interest, whether or not a disgruntled Lionel Messi forces his way out in the weeks or months to come. Messi’s departure would give Barca more than enough cash to splash on Neymar’s return.
And while it’s true that PSG is one of the likeliest destinations should the game’s greatest player leave Barcelona, there’s no reason to think competing in Ligue 1 would be more attractive to Messi than other leagues. (Tuchel, for what it’s worth, believes Messi will stay in Spain.)
PSG will add reinforcements regardless, of course. Barca’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal is believed to be high on Tuchel’s wishlist. If and when Mbappe or Neymar leave, another global icon will no doubt be recruited to take his place.
Yet what PSG’s summer run has proven is that it takes time as much as money to build a cohesive squad capable of standing toe-to-toe with other methodically built and similarly wealthy foes. After coming so close to the summit on Sunday, this Paris Saint-Germain team deserves the chance to stay intact long enough to build on its success and make another Champions League run or two.
"We have to keep this quality to continue on this road,” Tuchel said after Sunday’s defeat.
Whether they get to or not remains to be seen.
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