After more Champions League woe and Mbappe’s exit near, what’s next for PSG?

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On one hand, there are positives to celebrate at Paris Saint-Germain: They’ve clinched yet another Ligue 1 title and a French Super Cup, they face a French cup final against Lyon (a team they’ve beaten by a combined 8-2 score over two games this season) at the end of the month, and they can feel good about reaching the UEFA Champions League semifinals with the youngest team in the competition.

That’s all worth being proud of, but on the other hand, there is this overwhelming feeling of failure. The Champions League final was there for the taking and it represented an incredible opportunity to go there again, four years after their last and only one, which they lost to Bayern Munich behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic. And what a way it could have been for Kylian Mbappé to end his PSG career by lifting the only trophy he never managed to win at the club.

As is often the case, PSG’s season comes down to whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full. Football is made like that. The Parc des Princes had dressed for the occasion, full of red and blue colours, of passion and of chants. But the players and Luis Enrique, with the help of some bad luck — like hitting the Dortmund posts or crossbar four times over 90 minutes, failing to score despite a 3.25 xG — let them down.

So what’s next for this super-club? With Mbappé leaving this summer, where do they go from here?

Luis Enrique has reinforced his position as manager

Since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) purchase the club in the summer of 2011, the Champions League campaign has always been what defined PSG’s seasons. Managers routinely got sacked for not delivering it or going far enough in it, but that standard won’t be applied to Luis Enrique. The Spaniard has another season left on his contract and the club is very happy with both his work and the progress this young team made this season. He has been able to create an identity, a unity and a team spirit that hadn’t existed previously, when first-team squads would be dominated by individuals.

“He will definitely be there next season to continue what he has started to build this season” a source told ESPN yesterday at the Parc des Princes after the game. Talks should even start soon for an extension, ESPN has learned. The club know that to finally win the Champions League, their Holy Grail, they need a solid foundation and stability, things Luis Enrique has successfully fostered in this group.

Of course, he has made mistakes this season. His 4-2-4 formation in the group stage game at Newcastle — and his decision to stick with it for the whole game — was impossible to justify as they lost 4-1. Starting Marco Asensio as a false 9 against Barcelona in the quarterfinal, first leg, was a bad idea too — like taking off Goncalo Ramos on Tuesday against Dortmund to replace him with the same Asensio. The list continues but all managers have to make choices and decisions and never get everything right.

At the start of the campaign, the objective was not to win the Champions League this season, but next season. They would have taken it now if they could have, of course, but in this light, PSG and their manager are ahead of schedule.

The King is dead, long live the King

So that’s it — Mbappé will never wear the PSG shirt in Europe ever again. It ended like that, at his home ground where he’d dreamt of bringing back the Champions League trophy as a farewell gift; sadly, all he delivered was tears, regrets and hitting both posts.

The Paris-born superstar took responsibility for his side’s elimination, admitting that he didn’t do enough and that he should have scored as people expected him to deliver. But what happened to the saying that “big games belong to big players?” Mbappé was nowhere to be seen in the first leg in Germany last week, and he wasn’t much more present in Paris on Tuesday. (Vitinha, the Portuguese midfielder signed from Porto in 2022, was arguably PSG’s biggest attacking threat.)

Mbappé believed, as did his entourage, that it was written in the stars: his destiny was to play the final at Wembley against Real Madrid, his future club, and to shine in it. Instead, his last game will be the French Cup final in Lille on May 25. Not the same vibe or motivation.

The raucous Parc des Princes crowd never sang Mbappé’s name on Tuesday, which is noteworthy, and the whole evening was a neat summary of his seven years at the club: a lot of highs and individual records, but some massive missed opportunities too. In this competition alone, you’ve got this semifinal obviously, the one against Manchester City in 2021 when he said that he was not fully-fit — the club, to this day, still dispute it — and the final in 2020, of course, when, at 0-0 against Bayern, he missed a massive chance to beat Manuel Neuer from a great position.

With his on-again, off-again exit finally here, the fans showed on Tuesday night that they’re ready for a new generation of stars to support.

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Mbappe ‘disappointed’ after PSG’s Champions League exit

Kylian Mbappe shares his thoughts after PSG’s defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and looks ahead to French Cup final.

A squad to change and to strengthen

The departure of Mbappé should lead to PSG having a transfer budget of around €300m to invest this summer, a source told ESPN on Tuesday. Between the savings made on the Frenchman’s wages, the bonuses he is waiving by leaving and the funds already allocated, the club will have plenty of opportunities to strengthen their squad, and they need to.

To keep this team progressing and growing, they need to spend, and they will start by finding the replacement for Mbappé. It could be a direct swap on the left wing — someone like Milan’s Rafael Leão — or it could be a prolific No.9/center-forward like Napoli‘s Victor Osimhen or Dusan Vlahovic of Juventus, despite the fact that PSG already have Randal Kolo Muani and Ramos, on whom they spent €150m in fees last summer. They could also go for a marquee signing like Liverpool‘s Mohamed Salah if he becomes available.

The midfield needs more quality depth too. As good as Vitinha has been all season and the revelation that is 18-year-old Warren Zaïre-Emery, the PSG midfield has consistently felt too light to compete with other top clubs. They need experience there, along with more creativity and more options. This will be addressed in the summer, with the likes of Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) and Bruno Guimarães (Newcastle United) on the club’s shortlist.

Defensively, things are well-covered. Lucas Beraldo is only 20 years old and will hopefully learn from his mistakes; the same is expected of Nuno Mendes at left-back. What about Gigio Donnarumma in goal? He has been great on his line for most of the season, but his weaknesses on corners have cost his team at times and his distribution is not great either. Luis Enrique and Luis Campos — the latter is PSG’s sporting director, though his future is also uncertain considering he was brought in because Mbappé wanted him — could take a look at other options.

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