2019/20 Paris Saint-Germain Ligue 1 preview
Background Image: Zakarie Faibis, CC BY-SA 4.0
Les Parisiens cruised to their sixth Ligue 1 title in seven years, bettering runners-up Lille by 16 points. Once again, however, they failed to close the full deal. They didn't come close to defending their Coupe de la League crown. Then an early exit to Manchester United in the Champions League and an embarrassing defeat in the Coupe de France, following which Neymar tussled with spectators, again left Les Rouge et Blanc on the outside looking in at Europe's elite squads.
The Parcs des Princes isn't short on talent. Alphonse Areola confidently stood between the sticks with Gigi Buffon providing cover. Thiago Silva, Presnel Kimpembe, Thiago Silva. Marquinhos, Thilo Kehrer and Daniel Alves all patrolled at the back. Adrien Rabiot, Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler and Marco Verratti kept the PSG engine turning over in midfield. And how do you ask for more in attack than Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting rotating in? What you do is ask more of them.
Mbappe always responds to such challenges. In Neymar's absence, he made the team his in 2018/19, pouring in 33 Ligue 1 goals. Expect the lion's share of the glory to be contested by the two wingers this season, assuming the Brazilian stays with the team rather than reuniting with Barcelona.
Chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi continues to listen to Barcelona's offers for their €222 million man. But the Qatari caretaker doesn't stop there. Several stars were ushered out the door and quite a few in to keep the side fresh.
The cash was splashed on Abdou Diallo, Idrissa Gueye and Pablo Sarabia. Marcin Bulka, Ander Herrera and Mitchel Bakker all joined on free transfers. Loic Mbe Soh was promoted from the team's U19s.
While €80 million was invested, €79 was recouped. The club sold six players, including Giovanni Lo Celso, Moussa Diaby, Christopher Nkunku, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Tim Weah and Kevin Trapp. Lo Celso may not stay with Real Betis, the club where he spent last season on loan. Los Beticos have cultivated something of a bidding war with two or three Premier League top-six sides all interested in the playmaker. PSG also allowed Gigi Buffon to return to Inter on a free, along with disgruntled midfielder Adrien Rabiot. Dani Alves went home as well, joining Sao Paolo in the Campeonato Brasileiro.
The biggest challenge remains. Neymar's situation remains unresolved. The 27-year-old wants a Camp Nou redux after two seasons in Paris. Barcelona are willing to welcome him back but not on PSG's terms. The back and forth continues but if nothing comes of it, the left-winger will have little choice but to start the season in the City of Light. Life can be cruel. Unfortunately, the cruelty will be enacted on Thomas Tuchel if the Brazilian continues to act out when not given what he desires. PSG might be best advised to hold out for the last best offer and snap it up.
The good news is there are no other malcontents in the squad with Rabiot in Turin. Mbappe and co appear to all be pulling in the same direction. The 20-year-old wunderkind harbours no thought of leaving Paris and Cavani's firing boots are in good condition for the new season's challenge. They can use Neymar at his best but do without his worst.
So too can Tuchel. Having succeeded Unai Emery, the German must know the current shelf life of a PSG boss who fails to improve the club's European standing. His first season at the helm wasn't convincing. He couldn't defend the Parisians' monopoly on domestic cups. Racing Strasbourg, who finished 11th, and relegated Guingamp vied for the Coupe de la League. In the Coupe de France, Stade de France proved stubborn and nicked the cup on penalties. PSG also finished the season with fewer points and goals than their previous campaign. The Ligue 1 title was the bare minimum acceptable. He must improve by leaps and bounds in his sophomore campaign.
Nimes raises the curtain on Sunday, a nice patsy to help the squad get into stride. The chance for revenge against Rennes follows. Lyon are on the cards in late September. Marseille loom in October. Le Classique is always a test regardless of OM's fortunes in the moment.
Everyone dreams of glory but all you claim loses its worth after the fact. More is always required. PSG have tried and failed for more than their status as Ligue 1 supremos for the better part of a decade. They've chewed up stars and spit out managers. If Tuchel is to finally turn the tide, he'll need Neymar to buy into his program. Honestly, though, who sees that happening come May?