Neymar's injury, Thomas Tuchel, PSG's nightmare
Background image: Kilyac, CC BY-SA 4.0
The Parc des Princes trophy cabinet still lacks the desired centrepiece. The French League Cup, Coupe de la Ligue and the Ligue 1 title are deeded to Paris Saint-Germain since the Qatari Investment Authority purchased the club. Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco claimed squatter's rights in 2017 but were quickly made to pay by forfeiting their best player, Kylian Mbappe.
PSG continue to dominate this season. For the second time in as many season's however, they've lost their best player just as the Champions League knockout rounds heat up. Neymar has a broken foot. The question is whether the club has a dream in the same condition?
The continent is where the Brazilian's contributions were intended to make the difference. After consistently failing to make headway in the Champions League in recent times despite the huge investment in players and change of tacticians in the dugout, the Ligue 1 champions thirst for success in Europe. Hence Neymar and Mbappe's arrival.
A date with the reigning European champions tested their mettle last term. They lost to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu but there was hope in the return leg until a tackle in La Classique cracked one of Neymar's before the second match could take place. The injury cost PSG European glory and Unai Emery his job.
Thomas Tuchel stepped in for the Spaniard. The German is well aware of the task before him and has been on a mission to take the club further. Having navigated a very tricky group to qualify for the Round of 16, resurgent Manchester United stands in his way. When Neymar was healthy and Jose Mourinho United boss, Les Parisiens were credited with a favourable draw in the first knockout round. Now their €222 million Selecao winger is on crutches and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is transforming the Red Devils; consternation is the word.
Midfielder Marco Verratti has struggled with injury this term. The tough-tackling Italian missed the crunch tie against Liverpool at Anfield during the group stage. But he returned to help his side secure a much-needed victory against the English club in the second leg. Injuries and inexperience cripple PSG season after season. Before Neymar arrived, they capitulated to Barcelona in La Remontada. The first is always the most difficult. Luck is required but luck is a commodity that can only be given. It cannot be bought.
Neymar will be missed. The 26-year-old is the fulcrum upon which the side revolves. His quality shines through when the going gets tough. With 13 goals in 13 league games this season, five in six Champions League matches, he is nigh irreplaceable. PSG must, however, for at least the double-header against Manchester United. That isn't what Tuchel signed on for.
Unai Emery and Laurent Blanc both failed to complete their contracts due to Champions League failures. Failure at this stage could be Tuchel’s undoing as well. The former Borussia Dortmund gaffer must find a way to galvanise his squad. He must convince them they can overcome United's newfound strength. He must keep the fans on the club's side when World Cup hero Paul Pogba will line up against them, once again in top form. He must prove it isn't mission impossible.