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What did PSG money buy?


As a final act, it was so fitting that for a moment one might have wondered whether Kylian Mbappe did it on purpose. He has reached the final embers of PSG’s Champions League campaign. The dream of European glory that had powered the club for more than a decade had once again been shattered.

Suddenly, here he was, finishing cleanly: the best player in the world, a hometown icon, a symbol of PSG’s ambition, strength, excess and arrogance, his moment to shine within reach. Then, Mbappe slipped as Dortmund’s defiant backline dragged helplessly at his feet.

No tackle, no foul, no intervention. He just fell. He won’t have his goals. He won’t be a hero. But he at least provides a perfect allegory: not just of the seven years he spent at his hometown club, but of the lavish, transformative and deeply flawed project he represented.

Whether this is Mbappe’s last performance as a PSG player remains to be seen. He has not started a Ligue 1 match for more than a month. But this will surely be his last meaningful appearance.

Although work is in progress and we apologize for the inconvenience, Luis Enrique’s side were crowned Ligue 1 champions not too long ago.The next few weeks were simply a matter of bureaucratic necessity, a brief downtime before Summer International Business. At some point in the midst of all this, Kylian Mbappe will leave, most likely to Real Madrid, and PSG will be left with nothing but memories.

What they will record is harder to determine. Of course, Mbappe scored a lot of goals during his time in Paris: at last count, he scored 255 goals in 306 games. He also amassed trophies: six French titles, three French Cups, two French League Cups and various individual awards. He became rich beyond anyone’s imagination. his prominence It also provided him with some form of political power: he dined with the French president at the Elysée Palace more often than, say, Levine Kurzawa.

But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Mbappe’s seven seasons in Paris will be defined more by absence than presence. Like Neymar before him and Messi after him, he was brought to Paris to spend the spring. His legacy should have been forged in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, the game PSG values ​​most.

On paper, his return was impressive: 20 goals on football’s grandest stage. But this number requires some context.

Mbappe scored six goals in the 2021 semi-finals and added five more during this year’s adventure. Too often, he proves to be a fringe character. (The comparison to international football is both apt and stark: By the age of 24, Mbappe had become a dominant figure in two games. world cup final.)

The same goes for his team. PSG’s defense has become a real force in the Champions League recently. Reaching the semifinals three of the last five years. In 2020, under the special circumstances affected by the epidemic, the club finally Go all the way to the final.

However, it never managed to cross the finish line and touch the trophy, which – or at least should have been – was not only a source of considerable embarrassment for the world’s richest club, but also created real existential tension. Paris Saint-Germain were acquired as a project by a division of the state of Qatar with the aim of winning the Champions League.

To this end, Qatar has invested countless funds to acquire players, from Edinson Cavani, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore, to Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi, all the way to Messi and Randall Kolo Muani. The total cost easily reaches into the billions of dollars.

Chief among them, of course, is Neymar, who was poached from Barcelona in 2017 for around $240 million. The fee represents not only the Brazilian’s talent, but even his value to his new employer.

World record price and most importantly, Aiming to break European football. PSG paid so much partly in the hope of widening the transfer market so that only Manchester’s two clubs could compete. The rest of the old guard, Real Madrid and Barcelona and all the rest, risk going bankrupt if they try to keep up. This was a move designed to change the world.

Of course, in hindsight, we know it didn’t work. Neymar is, at best, a visitor to PSG’s first team. Messi arrived from Barcelona a few years later, heartbroken and bored. Mbappe, the most expensive homegrown product in history, has slowly become a luxury problem: unwilling to play in certain positions, ineffective in others, and his influence may extend beyond the team and Affects the team’s recruiting policy.

Sometime last year, the club’s hierarchy – much earlier than anyone else – admitted their mistake.As soon as the decree came out, the club’s Galacticos era It’s over. From now on, PSG will reinvent itself as a haven for young talent in France and especially in Paris. “We can’t throw everything away just because we were eliminated,” club captain Marquinhos said after the defeat to Dortmund. “It’s a new program, a new coach.”

It’s a down-to-earth and admirable stance, and one that would have been great if the club had taken it almost a decade ago, but it does leave a rather obvious question unanswered.

Qatar has invested billions of dollars in PSG’s previous generation and will likely need to spend even more to get out of trouble and start over without Neymar, without Messi, without Mbappe.

The move not only turns French football into a wasteland – a league without competition – but distorts the landscape of European football more broadly, all in the name of a prize it can’t take away. It’s almost not worth it. As it turns out, this wasn’t what anyone would call a smart investment. So, after all, what is it all for?

To call Mats Hummels a veteran would seem to be an understatement. The defender is only 35 years old, but it’s hard to imagine football existing without him. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that he gracefully appears off the field with the ball at his feet in a photo captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. Pillars of Creation.

He also glowed with youthful joy as Borussia Dortmund advanced to the Champions League final. After Dortmund eliminated Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich eliminated Arsenal in the quarter-finals, he wrote on the social platform A punch from someone.

He then returned after Dortmund won in Paris and sealed their place in next month’s final. “A lot of teams want to play us,” he posted. “Luckily we are all very good people and made it to the finals so that as many people as possible could have a chance.”

It’s hard to feel jealous over a bit of schadenfreude from Hummels. He was perfect in both legs of the semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain. He’s been considered a busted flush about every three months, and has been for years. Yes, every one of Dortmund’s opponents in this year’s knockout rounds will likely view Hummels and his team as their worst options.

At the same time, there is no doubt that the draw did play a role in Dortmund’s trip to Wembley. Now Dutch champions PSV are not an easy hurdle in the last 16, but not as tough as Inter Milan and PSG. Dortmund are just as grateful as the Spanish side to face Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals.

This is not an attempt to belittle Dortmund’s achievements, or to suggest that their exhilarating, inspiring final was some kind of fluke. Quite the opposite. But while no one really wants to admit it, the knockout draw does matter. Some trails offer more difficult terrain than others.

Or at least they did. This is the last season that the Champions League will have an “open” draw starting from the quarter-finals. Starting next year, the tournament will have seeding matches like tennis.

The theoretical appeal is that it’s a more reliable way to spot two of the strongest rivals – think between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic of all finals – but the downside is that it makes a story like Dortmund’s much less likely to happen. It weighs their dice. In doing so, it removes more of the wonder of the tournament.

Good news: Eight nominees announced Premier League Young Player of the Season Award Out. Bad news: Four nominees are also vying for the Player of the Season award; two of them have already won the Young Player award; the fact that one of the awards was won as early as 2021 makes the entire award meaningless .

It is clear—and has been clear for a long time—that the standards of honor need to change. Currently, the rules are very simple: Any player who is 23 or younger when the season starts is eligible. Ultimately, that’s the problem. The rules can be a little more complicated, maybe a little more complex.

For example, it would make more sense to focus qualifications on experience rather than age. One of this year’s candidates, Bukayo Saka, has made 225 appearances for Arsenal. He has played for England for many years.Another candidate, Manchester City’s Phil Foden, won 16 major honors. He is not far away from his 300th senior appearance. These are hardly wide-eyed newcomers.

Likewise, anyone who has already won should be disqualified. That rules out Foden – who already has two, for crying out loud – and his teammate Erling Haaland, who won last year’s award. Haaland did this while winning Player of the Year (overall). This absurdity could be stopped by making it clear that a player cannot be nominated for both at the same time.

There should obviously be an award for new faces in the Premier League, but it would be better to reframe the award as the equivalent of rookie of the year honours: only open to players in their first few seasons in the division, rather than those who settled in a few years ago.

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