It’s a familiar annual story of woe as Paris Saint-Germain reflect on yet another failed attempt at winning the UEFA Champions League.

The Parisians, with their expensively assembled galaxy of football stars, once again underwhelmed and came a cropper in their quest for European glory.

The dream was pushed back for the umpteenth time thanks to a 3-0 last-16 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich in midweek.

The best money can buy

PSG’s Qatari owners, Qatar Sports Investments, immediately put their stake in the ground when they took over the club in 2011. They did not shy away from publicly declaring their ambition; to win the Champions League and establish PSG as a European football club superpower.

In pursuit of that goal, they would lure the crème de la crème of European managerial and playing talent, the latter akin to Real Madrid’s much-vaunted Galacticos transfer policy.

The money-is-no-object transfer policy saw the arrivals of players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gigi Buffon, Edinson Cavani, Daniel Alves, Neymar, Lionel Messi, among others, as PSG flexed their financial muscle. The newly minted club also cherry-picked French football talent factories, swooping for prodigious talents like Kylian Mbappe.

The manager roll call

The Qatari owners’ first managerial appointment was a statement of intent. Who better to deliver the coveted  Champions League trophy than Carlo Ancelotti, the Italian tactician who had won it twice as a player and as many times as a manager.

Ancelotti got he PSG project up and running by leading the club to their first league title in 19 years, but the Champions League eluded him at the first and only time of asking before leaving for Real Madrid.

PSG then plumped for Laurent Blanc as Ancelotti’s successor. The former France international would go on to become the most successful coach in the club’s history to date.

But even the legendary Blanc could not deliver the Champions League success the club’s new owners craved.

Maybe PSG needed a manager with a proven track record in Europe. The candidates didn’t come any better credentialed than Unai Emery, who had just won three successive Europa League titles with Sevilla.

Unfortunately Emery would soon discover that ruling the roost in Europe’s secondary club competition was no guarantee for success in the Champions League. That PSG made no effort to renew his contract was effectively a vote of no confidence in the Spaniard.

As PSG searched for their next manager, word reached the club hierarchy of a manager who had acquitted himself admirably in the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. He might just be the one to help PSG finally break their Champions League hoodoo.

Thomas Tuchel came within 90 minutes of leading the club to the promised land in 2020, only to be denied by Bayern Munich, ironically with PSG reject Kingsley Coman’s strike the only goal of the match. The German would be shown the exit door seven months later.

Who to turn to next? A certain Argentine was unemployed following his dismissal by Tottenham, the club he had led to the Champions League final in 2019, where Spurs lost to Liverpool. If he could guide Tottenham to within a whisker of winning the trophy with a relatively modest budget, imagine what he could do with a club with PSG’s financial wherewithal.

So, Parc des Princes beckoned and Mauricio Pochettino succeeded Tuchel. However, just like all his four predecessors, the Champions League proved a bridge too far.

Maybe the one manager who had stopped PSG from winning a fourth successive Ligue 1 title and the seventh in nine years was the man to finally end the club’s long wait for European glory. Accordingly, PSG roped in Christophe Galtier, the Frenchman who had led Lille to Ligue 1 triumph in 2020/21.

Galtier’s first Champions League attempt ended in woeful fashion a few days ago as PSG were bundled out of the competition by Bayern Munich.

PSG flatter to deceive

PSG under the ownership of Qatar Sports Investments have flattered to deceive in Europe. After almost a decade’s absence, they returned to Europe’s elite club competition during the 2012/13 season. They only missed out on a semi-final berth to Barcelona on goal difference.

But who could also forget the 6-1 last-16 second-leg capitulation against Barcelona at Camp Nou as PSG squandered a 4-0 first-leg advantage. Inexperience writ large!

In the domestic league though, they have been relentless, winning eight league titles since the takeover,  dominance only interrupted by Monaco in 2017 and Lille in 2021.

Can money by European success?

It is tempting to conclude that PSG are proof that money can’t buy European Champions League success.  But that is not entirely true, because if it wasn’t for Roman Abramovich’s money, for example, Chelsea would never have won it, twice for good measure.

Money has given PSG domestic dominance. The club routinely sacks league title-winning managers because for PSG winning the Ligue 1 is considered a formality which must be accomplished in style. The Parc des Princes giants are feted as domestic champions before a ball has even been kicked. PSG have turned the league title race into a procession, winning it at a canter. I wonder what the odds were on Lille winning the title in 2021 ahead of the perennial overwhelming favourites.

However, transposing domestic dominance onto the European stage is clearly proving difficult for PSG. Perhaps therein lie the clues to answers for their failed quest for European club football’s holy grail.

Putting a finger on the problem

There is a lot of head-scratching after PSG’s latest failed attempt. Theories abound about the reasons for the club’s failure to break their Champions League duck.

To an extent, a team is only as strong as the domestic league it campaigns in. So, for explanation of PSG’s Champions limitations, maybe we need look no further than the quality of the French Ligue 1 compared to Europe’s top leagues.

While there is no doubt PSG’s money has significantly bridged the gulf in quality between the club and Europe’s elite clubs, the investment has done little to close the quality gap between Ligue 1 and the top European leagues.

Since the turn of the century, all but one winner of the Champions League came from Europe’s top four leagues; English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A and German Bundesliga.

Porto upset the applecart in 2003/4, although some might argue the feat was fortuitous. Paul Scholes’ goal at Old Trafford against the eventual winners in the knockout round of the competition was incorrectly ruled out for offside as Jose Mourinho’s men rode their luck all the way to the trophy.

The French Ligue 1 is a distant fifth in the European club football hierarchy. It can be credibly argued, therefore, that PSG’s Champions League exploits since the Qatari takeover distort the real quality of the French domestic league. Indeed, if we consider the French top-flight’s ranking in European club  football, then PSG are punching above their weight in the Champions League.

The elusive dream

Qatar Sports Investments’ sponsorship of PSG’s Champions League ambitions is an act of faith, unflinching commitment and perseverance in the quest for elusive glory.

Twelve years on, six managers, four quarter-final exits, five last-16 appearances, one semi-final and one final appearance, the club’s UEFA Champions League dream remains just that, a dream… deferred.


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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