A perfect storm is brewing at Parc des Princes, where the Ligue 1 leaders are being attacked from all sides after their newest Champions League setback.
Paris in springtime is supposed to observe that the ‘City of Lights’ at its romantic best but there’s very little love available at the Parc des Princes right now, as a new crisis brews in the aftermath of PSG’s Champions League reduction to Borussia Dortmund.
For all the gigantic investment from the capital club for near a decade, the Ligue 1 winners have underperformed in Europe, embarrassingly falling at the first playoff hurdle for the previous three decades. A fourth successive last-16 exit is now on the cards following a week’s 2-1 loss in Germany.
Coaches have come and gone and yet PSG’s mental block in continental competition stays. Now, it appears, the club ultras have had enough.
They publicly contested the squad’s professionalism as the players hit the town to celebrate Neymar’s birthday earlier this month. Needless to say, this kind of outing would have been tolerated had the group not stumbled in Dortmund on February 18.
Although the margin of defeat was only one goal and owed much to the brilliance of Erling Haaland, it stayed a chastening reduction for the Parisians, who approached the tie confident of recording a statement triumph.
Indeed, the shock setback at Signal Iduna Park has had seismic after-effects.
On the field, PSG’s performance was miserable. There were a lack of power and an alarming dearth of quality.
Kylian Mbappe’s forceful run into the box to install Neymar for the equaliser was among the few moments of course PSG produced, which is a damning indictment of such a stable of supposed superstars.
But, Thomas Tuchel’s tactics also came under scrutiny, particularly, the wisdom of this choice to go like-for-like with the hosts by choosing a 3-4-3 formation.
As a club who likes to think itself a European giant, PSG must have been confident enough to play to their strengths rather than tailor their game to match their opponents, especially when the French side has rarely varied their system this year.
It sent a message to Dortmund that PSG were fearful of them, and the players certainly reacted in a similarly timid way.
Unsurprisingly, the rumours have started with regard who could be Tuchel’s replacement, with Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi having been linked with a summer move to Paris from the regional media.
The explosive action of the day, however, didn’t arrive before the mixed zone, where Neymar took aim at the club for embracing overly cautious an attitude towards his recovery from a rib injury.
“It’s difficult to go four matches without playing,” the 28-year-old told reporters.
“Unfortunately, it was not my choice; it was the selection of the club, of the physicians. They made that choice, which I did not like.
“We had a whole lot of talks about it because I wanted to play with, I felt great, but the team was fearful and in the long run it was me who endured.”
While Brazil global’s performance was certainly rusty, he wasn’t the only one to suffer as his group were also hurt by his under-par display.
Regardless, it can’t be to PSG’s advantage the world’s most expensive player is dissatisfied with his treatment, both in the short- and long term as they struggle to retain his services beyond the summer after a contentious two-and-a-half-year remain thus far.
To make things worse, however, Mbappe is currently at loggerheads with the aid above a banner they displayed during last weekend’s 4-3 victory over Bordeaux.
“Kombouare, Gino, Rai, they had a winning mindset. Silva, Mbappe, Neymar — fearful of winning? Grow some balls” the ultras wrote.
Mbappe sniped back on Instagram after that day: “Scared to win?”
Just PSG’s performance against Bordeaux was another one where their lack of concentration and program very nearly cost them. For a club of their size to be gloating over a narrow — and somewhat fortunate — victory against an ailing mid-table competition is typical of how petty this complex war of words has become.
The players, however, have done little to help themselves. Following the backlash of Neymar’s birthday celebration, only 48 hours after the disappointment at Dortmund, the players were pictured having a night out to celebrate the birthdays of Mauro Icari, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria.
Cavani, together with Keylor Navas and Leandro Paredes, were videoed topless at mixing decks late into the night, heaping pressure on the squad but also on the direction, upon whom there is pressure to tighten the leash on the club’s star guys.
“I can not believe it,” RMC pundit and former PSG player Jerome Rothen admitted. “They do not care about what face they show the entire world.
“When they’re good, there is no issue. However, the truth remains about the playground and in the knockout stages of the Champions League, where PSG are the laughing stock of Europe annually.”
Beating Dortmund and progressing in Europe will just start to heal the deep fissures of a dispute which seeing the fans, media and board rapping on the gamers, who themselves are apparently disgruntled with everybody.
Paris this springtime is not likely to be one for the romantics. Instead, it’s a tinderbox that requires only a spark to burst. And Dortmund can provide it on March 11.