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PSG has reduced a cause for joy to a mere consolation prize

PSG’s primary bet was on becoming European champion, not extending its domestic supremacy, as evidenced by their lack of enthusiasm for another Ligue 1 victory.

PSG will win the Ligue 1 title. Despite the potential, it didn’t happen on Wednesday, so it’ll have to wait a bit longer. But what has been a foregone conclusion for months—in fact, it was a foregone conclusion even before the season began—will come to pass. It should be a reason to rejoice. With 10 Ligue 1 titles, the club will join Marseille and Saint-Etienne as the most successful in French history. Eight of them will have arrived in the last ten seasons, thanks to Qatari financing, which has helped the club become one of Europe’s few local monopolizers.

Instead, it all feels like a slap in the face. The club’s own fans, however spoilt they may have grown, are dissatisfied. PSG made a major risk over the summer, when they went on a recruitment spree for the ages—not all big deals, as the free-transfer route was used strategically—with the goal of getting them over the Champions League hump. On paper, everything appeared to be fantastic and exciting.

Lionel Messi. Sergio Ramos. Gianluigi Donnarumma. Achraf Hakimi. Georginio Wijnaldum. Winners on big wages all coming together under one umbrella, held by the reputable Mauricio Pochettino, with an eye on becoming the next iteration of Galactico champions.

Instead, the club that pioneered the Galactico mindset was the one who gave it a lesson. All of PSG’s key season targets were gone, in the round of 16, no less, in 17 minutes written by Karim Benzema, and all of the club’s ghosts of European failure reappeared. With the exception of Hakimi, the team’s new big additions have all disappointed to varying degrees. Sergio Ramos has only made nine appearances in all competitions due to injuries, none of which have been in the Champions League. Messi has had his moments this season and is second in Ligue 1 with 13 assists, but he’s only scored three times in the league (with an additional five in the Champions League). It’s not exactly what PSG expected when it pounced on Barcelona’s misfortune and reunited him with Neymar and paired him with Kylian Mbappé.

With the French star leading Ligue 1 in both goals (22) and assists (14), Mbappé’s brilliance has essentially been the only thing regularly producing nice vibes—and avoiding the wrath of the club’s supporters—but even those vibes come with a significant disclaimer. Unless he makes an outrageously expensive U-turn, the out-of-contract star will most certainly join Real Madrid on a free transfer this summer, dealing another blow to PSG and leaving the club unexpectedly reliant, at least for next season, on an old Messi-Neymar pair.

With Messi nursing an Achilles injury and Neymar suspended, the two South American stars missed what could have been the crowning moment Wednesday—the title would have been secured with a win at Angers combined with a Marseille draw or loss to Nantes, but OM came back twice to push the coronation off for at least a few more days—with Messi nursing an Achilles injury and Neymar suspended.

All of this, though, is beside the point. PSG’s fixation with Europe — and their repeated failures on that stage – overshadowed any potential domestic successes. Even a Le Classique victory over Marseille last weekend was met with disinterest and subdued celebration. It was unworthy of a rivalry victory that puts the team on the verge of recovering its throne at home following Lille’s unexpected title triumph last season. Instead, it’s a participation recognition in the form of a trophy.

“This atmosphere caught me off guard. After the 2–1 victory, PSG captain Marquinhos commented, “It wasn’t the proper time to do this.” “We understand [the fans’] motives; perhaps they aren’t getting answers.” However, as a player, I disagree.”

But that’s exactly what PSG and its slew of superstars have agreed to. What is accomplished at home is meaningless unless it is accompanied by success in Europe. It’s not the only club that follows this philosophy, but if you put all of your Fabergé eggs in one basket, you’ll have to live with the consequences if it doesn’t work out. The fact that this year’s Champions League final was moved to Paris just adds to the tension. So close to the desired title, yet so far away, and if Mbappé leaves, a slew of uncertainty and unease will undoubtedly follow.

“One of the main targets in my time here has always been to win the Champions League, so when you don’t do that, it’s a big disappointment at the club,” Pochettino said ahead of Wednesday’s match, where even pregame comments focusing on a league title can’t be made without a nod to the failure that overshadows it all.

Yes, PSG will win Ligue 1 once more, advancing one step closer to becoming France’s greatest club ever. But it doesn’t appear to register as a blip for those who should care the most.

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