In Paris, the Champions League is no longer an obsession

Since the summer, the Paris Saint-Germain club has been doing everything possible to break away from the previous era and, by extension, from its series of European failures since its acquisition by Qatar in 2011.

An extreme makeover summer. Tired of disappointing themselves, Paris Saint-Germain has changed almost everything in just a few months. No half measures. Less than a year after his appointment, Christophe Galtier was dismissed from his position as coach, despite being identified as the face of “a new project”. A coach with diametrically opposed ideas replaced him. With Luis Enrique, twelve recruits have joined the Parisian squad. Ousmane Dembélé, Randal Kolo Muani, Lucas Hernandez… The headline signings of the transfer window are French, like Kylian Mbappé, the latest addition to the team after Lionel Messi’s departure and Neymar’s (forced) departure.

No patience, no mercy, even for a darling of the Parc des Princes. Marco Verratti, who had everything to finish his career in Paris after already spending 11 seasons there, was also shown the exit. All of these strong decisions served the same message: PSG will no longer be the same in 2023-2024. On the eve of the capital club’s return to the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, this strategy of rupture was still evident on Monday in their communication.

“The path is long”

When asked about the importance of the competition to the club, Luis Enrique made a change in tone during the press conference. According to the Spanish coach, obsessing over it is counterproductive: “When a club or someone is obsessed with something, it is never a good sign. You must have hope, ambition, but obsession never works. In any area of life.” These words may sound obvious, but this discourse had not yet been clearly heard in Paris, a club that “gave itself five years to win the Champions League” following its acquisition by QSI in 2011.

No static on the airwaves. The message was clearly received by captain Marquinhos, who repeated more or less the same thing as his coach: “The club wants to win all the titles and the Champions League is part of that, yes. But it’s not the only one, it’s not an obsession. We want to reach the top, but the path is long.” After two consecutive eliminations in the round of 16, PSG has come back down to earth to the point where their two most recent semifinals (2020 final and 2021 semifinals) seem very distant.

The advantage for the capital club is that everyone agrees, players and observers alike, on the importance of the journey ahead and its priority over these lofty and unfulfilled goals. Despite the home defeat against Nice (2-3) last Friday, there is no heavy atmosphere that is usually present approaching each European evening. A year ago, the controversy over sand yachting erupted, sparked by an unfortunate comment from Christophe Galtier during a press conference. This time, we will remember Luis Enrique’s optimism.

“I believe that the attitude and behavior of my players deserve a 10 out of 10,” emphasized the Spaniard, also saying he is “extremely satisfied” with the summer transfer window, despite the loss of Marco Verratti. Thanks to this measured communication, as they prepare to play their first match in the toughest group of this Champions League, Paris is taking precautions. The transformation towards the new PSG is announced, but the reality of the field still needs to validate it.

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