Why A Champions League Win Over Real Madrid Would Be Such A Big Deal For PSG
“Here’s a look at what you could’ve won” springs to mind when Real Madrid face PSG in the Champions League this week. Make no mistake however - there is still plenty left to lose for ZInedine Zidane and co.
As PSG go hard on their marketing for the enormous tie with two stars featuring more than most, Real Madrid might well be wondering what could’ve been. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are the leading lights of this new PSG era; young but extremely gifted, and handed the responsibility of not only guiding the French outfit to success in every area on the field, but also making the club a bigger feature on the map in terms of being an elite name.
There’s still an underlying feeling PSG are not taken seriously by some, that they’re still desperate to be seen alongside Europe’s more historic names. The Bayerns, Juves, Barças of this world. Then of course, Real Madrid too. Their mass appeal and worldwide status seduces PSG, and for Parisian outfit this is their greatest chance yet to finally be accepted. In front of the world, they can indeed scupper the ‘world’s biggest club’.
In one way they already have. The double capture of Mbappe and Neymar this past summer sent shockwaves through football, particularly in Madrid more than anywhere else. Skirting away from a Galactico policy, with Danilo their biggest purchase over the last seven transfer windows, Real Madrid passed up on the chance to sign Mbappe as they felt intimidated by the finances on offer from PSG. Neymar meanwhile was at Barcelona so that in itself was a problem, but the campaign to lure him to Madrid has persisted since he before he even set foot in Catalunya.
Real Madrid not only face Mbappe, Neymar and PSG in a football match on Wednesday, but they also face them on other levels. The Spanish side are in the midst of an internal fight over whether to continue to remain astute in the market, and focus on cheap young talents - or do they return to blitzing the transfer market in their usual fashion. This tie provides a backdrop to that and for some it may offer a confirmation that this new fangled approach has ultimately failed.
It is all Real Madrid have left of a season that is in pieces. They have been cut adrift in LaLiga with Barcelona running away at the top, while they were humbled by minnows Leganes in the Copa del Rey. Even when they’ve won, few have been convinced. The exits of Pepe, James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata have taken on more prominence, with criticism over the lack of squad depth and quality coming to the fore. The youngsters coming in to replace them simply haven’t stepped, while aside from Luka Modric, the regulars simply haven’t been at their best level.
More forthcoming however, have been the barbs levelled at Zidane. This tie does have the feel of must-win for him in terms of his future. Some suggest he could still go even if they were to retain their Champions League crown. A feeling that Florentino Perez has seen enough and doesn’t want to stagnate any further, instead opting for a fresh approach, isn’t out of the question. He’s watched a team lack motivation and identity this season, as Zidane’s failure to maintain those high levels and inability to alternate tactically have left the club in a position they’re not too familiar with.
It’s not just on the bench where the pressure festers for Real Madrid. On the field, BBC face yet another severe test of their status. The decline is undeniable, but can they stave it off a little longer? All the signs point to no. They lack the dynamism and intimidation factor of previous years. Cristiano Ronaldo looks more frustrated than ever. Gareth Bale has shone when fit, but that doesn’t happen often enough. Karim Benzema meanwhile has gone back to looking like an average striker, lazy and disinterested. It’s not the first time.
PSG have their own sensational trio containing messers Neymar and Mbappe, but also Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan has been reinvigorated in front of goal and has seemingly been stirred by suggestions his place as PSG’s attacking leader is up for grabs. That sort of attitude is in short supply in Madrid this season, along with everything else.
PSG’s plan for world dominance has been afoot for some time, but since Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s arrival in 2011 there have been only flashes of there being substance behind those aspirations.
Conquering Real Madrid on the field, despite their wounded state, would sit nicely alongside their recent victories on the field.