Paris Saint-Germain chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi isn’t the first man to be enchanted by the idea of Champions League glory. Roman Abramovich, among others, can attest to that.
It took the Chelsea chief nine years from buying them to seeing the club crowned kings of Europe, in 2012 against Bayern Munich. So far, Al-Khelaifi has been at PSG since June 2011 and in five Champions League campaigns, they have got as far as the quarter-final.
Once the dust settles on the exit at the hands of Real Madrid and Al-Khelaifi assesses how PSG compare to the rest of Europe’s elite, he may feel his side have more similarities to Celtic than Chelsea. And that is there where the magnitude of winning Europe’s elite club competition becomes startlingly clear.
PSG are obsessed with Champions League glory but had an early exit from the tournament
For chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, defeat by Real Madrid made for uncomfortable viewing
The fiery atmosphere at the Parc des Princes couldn’t inspire PSG to victory over Real Madrid
PSG, like Celtic, are the best team in their league by a distance. They largely have the picking of all the best players at the other sides around them. They have a super stadium and an ardent fanbase. And every season, they fail to meet their expectations in Europe, often getting picked off by a bigger bully in a different playground away from the comfort of their own division.
The money PSG have can even put Chelsea in the shade. When Kylian Mbappe’s loan from Monaco becomes permanent for £166million in the summer, the Qatari Sports Investment company that own the club will have spent over €1billion (£896m) on players. That simply demands a better return than the quarter-final.
Of course, an element of luck is involved here. PSG scored 25 goals (12 against Celtic) on their way to winning Group B – the most in the tournament at that stage. They did all they could to ensure a favourable last-16 draw and could have landed Porto or Shakhtar Donetsk.
But Madrid are as fallible as they have looked in years and this was a big chance for PSG to claim a scalp. Zinedine Zidane’s men are currently 15 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and are widely expected to overhaul their squad in the summer, so poor have they been in Spain. They still beat PSG 5-2 across two legs, though.
Neymar would have a made a difference, yes, but not the difference. He has repeatedly been linked with a move to Madrid and while PSG fans will feel appeased at him commending his team-mates on social media after Tuesday’s loss, he will not stick around for too much longer if they keep exiting the competition in March.
The Brazil star’s eyes for the Ballon d’Or runs parallel with his club’s desire for the Champions League. But as Pep Guardiola said only in February: ‘You have to be there in the latter stages. Without the latter stages you will not be nominated. Everyone knows to be there (in contention for the Ballon d’Or) you have to win titles, and titles and titles. Especially one.’
World record signing Neymar was absent from the game after an operation on his foot
PSG forward Edinson Cavani beats the pitch with anger after the final whistle against Madrid
After the first leg loss in Spain, Adrien Rabiot bemoaned the standard of PSG’s display
Manager Unai Emery will almost certainly depart at the end of the season and was arguably lucky to remain in his job last year after the club’s four-season league winning streak was ended by Monaco. But that was when Monaco had Mbappe.
Whoever replaces the Spaniard may find the strength of the French league could play a part in their European struggle.
‘It’s all well and good putting eight goals past Dijon, but it’s in matches like this that you have to stand up and be counted,’ midfielder Adrien Rabiot said after the 3-1 first-leg loss in Madrid.
While English clubs have far from thrived in Europe themselves recently, the Premier League is a fair example of how regular competition can keep a side ticking over in the business end of the season.
BT Sport pundits Owen Hargreaves and Michael Owen both pointed to this after Liverpool reached the last eight in Tuesday’s other Champions League tie, while Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundigan recently underlined how winning the Premier League too early could be a hindrance.
‘I don’t know if it would be good to win the league that early,’ he said. ‘You need rhythm, and to always play seriously. You should always try to play in a serious way. If you are able to win the league quite early, you can maybe lose that seriousness for the Champions League.’
Unai Emery faces an uncertain future after PSG’s latest exit from Europe’s elite tournament
Neymar knows Champions League glory is key to his hopes of winning the Ballon d’Or
Both City and PSG will be runaway league winners this season. But unlike City, the French side are much more assured of success at the start of the campaign.
They will likely complete a clean sweep of domestic trophies – they play Monaco in the French League Cup final on March 31 and after beating Marseille last week in the French Cup, play Caen in the semi-final.
The problem, however, is that Neymar isn’t in France to win any of those medals and neither is Al-Khelaifi. And for all the millions spent and players PSG have, the wait for the one one they crave looks set to be a lot longer than what Abramovich endured.