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What will happen at PSG this summer after another disappointing season?

Paris Saint-Germain have been here before. In fact, the final stretch of last season looked very similar to this year’s. The French giants once again find themselves out of the Champions League much earlier than they’d hoped. Meanwhile, they are coasting towards the end of the Ligue Un campaign with a manager many expect to leave in the summer.

In 2022, it was Mauricio Pochettino who paid for PSG’s underwhelming Champions League effort with his job. Most predict Christophe Galtier will also be on his way out of the Parc des Princes after his team failed to make it past Bayern Munich in the competition’s round of 16.

On top of this, Lionel Messi’s contract at the club will expire this summer, with recent reports suggesting the Argentine will accept a new challenge from Barcelona, Inter Miami or Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia. PSG want Messi to stay for a third season, but the 35-year-old’s time in the French capital hasn’t been the happiest, with PSG fans recently going so far as to boo to World Cup winner.

There is a sense PSG have reached the end of a cycle. That cycle started with the world-record signing of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the same summer transfer window in 2017, and the promise of PSG becoming a dominant force in European soccer. The addition of Messi in 2021 only underlined their ambition.

That ambition, however, hasn’t been realised. Pochettino and Galtier both failed to find the right balance on the pitch. It was impossible to accommodate a frontline of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar when none of the trio are particularly willing to help out on the defensive side of the ball.

Of course, this works to grand effect in Ligue Un, where the Paris outfit lead all clubs with 73 goals scored. But this imbalance simply does not work against the world’s best. PSG are a top-heavy team, and their Champions League exit is the inevitable result.

Messi leaving might actually help PSG become a better, more efficient team. The possibility of Neymar’s exit has also been raised, with the Brazilian entering the final two years of his contract. Chelsea have been linked and there’s a feeling Neymar would be open to the notion of a new challenge in a new league, like the Premier League.

Mbappe is the highest-paid player in the Parc des Princes dressing room and is seen by PSG’s Qatari owners as the face of the club. They believe the Frenchman is a future Ballon d’Or winner and have done everything possible to keep him in Paris when Real Madrid in particular have been so eager to sign him over a number of years.

Last summer, PSG focused on signing a number of players to help with the cohesion of the team. Renato Sanches, Fabian Ruiz and Vitinha all arrived at the club and the initial signs were good, with Galtier using Messi in a deeper role to compensate for his lack of mobility now that the Argentine is in the twilight of his career.

However, the problem was Galtier could only use this system against lower-calibre opponents. When PSG faced elite level teams, like Bayern Munich, they were suffocated through their inability to control possession and counter-press. PSG’s squad is unsuitable for the knockout rounds of the Champions League, which is where they want to be.

Some might argue Christophe Galtier and de factor sporting director Luis Campos deserve a chance to truly build a team in their own image. The pair were hired last summer to lead a cultural revolution at PSG, but were denied the freedom to achieve this. Galtier and Campos have shown they can build successful teams together – see 2020-21 Ligue Un champions Lille.

Galtier has been placed under investigation by PSG following accusations that the 56-year-old made racist comments while manager of Nice. This could be a factor in PSG’s decision on Galtier’s future, with Campos’ almost certainly tied to the manager he worked alongside at Lille and Nice in recent years.

Whatever happens this summer, it’s clearer than ever before that PSG need a change of direction. They need an identity, not just as a team, but a club. Supporters have protested numerous times this season over a lack of connection with the local community. Paris is a soccer talent hotbed, yet PSG don’t reflect this in any way.

Only Manchester City and Newcastle United can compete with PSG in terms of resources, but the latter have received a much lower return for their money than the former two. While Pep Guardiola’s City have set a new standard at the top of the Premier League and are favourites to win this season’s Champions League, PSG have spent over €1 billion on a team that has lost eight games in 2023 alone.

Once again, the club’s ambition may be the enemy of their success. It’s time for PSG to go back to basics. It’s clear that to take the next step, improvement is required in all areas, from top to bottom.

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