Paris Saint-Germain spark on the night Barcelona fAllby Rohan Toure 15/02/2017 19:12:00 0 comments 1 Views
- Barcelona were thrashed 4-0 in the first leg of the Champions League last 16
- They have been heavily criticised by the Spanish media since the result in Paris
- It proved just how effective Paris Saint-Germain have become as of late
- Question marks hang over manager Luis Enrique's future at the Nou Camp
- Lionel Messi is yet to sign a new contract, with his deal expiring in 2018
By Pete Jenson for the Daily Mail
Published: 17:30 EST, 15 February 2017 | Updated: 19:12 EST, 15 February 2017
If Tuesday night’s extraordinary 4-0 scoreline in the Parc des Princes is the shape of things to come and not just an aberration, two clear conclusions can be drawn: winter is coming to Barcelona and it’s springtime in Paris.
After six years — and £600million spent in the transfer market — Paris Saint-Germain club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi may have finally found the last pieces of the jigsaw in geeky but gifted coach Unai Emery and £35.5m January signing Julian Draxler. Emery may lack the laid-back sophistication of Laurent Blanc but he beats him hands down for coaching capacity and knockout competition know-how.
And Draxler turned down the Premier League for the riches of PSG — the shape of things to come if sporting success now starts to follow the huge financial strides the club has made since Qatar Sports Investments took them over in 2011.
Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani got his side's fourth goal on a dominant night in Paris
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta looks dejected as they slumped to a 4-0 defeat in Paris
Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Neymar hold an inquest during the 4-0 drubbing by PSG
Messi looks dejected at the final whistle as he sits on the pitch after the 4-0 defeat
The stadium will have a capacity of 58,000 when the ongoing £64m refurbishment is finished, complete with skybar for those who like to sup champagne while they watch the game. Revenue has rocketed from £80m-a-year pre-takeover to £440m, placing the club sixth on Deloitte’s football rich-list.
But before this season the team had hit a glass ceiling in the Champions League, with the last eight the best they could manage. That’s why Tuesday night seemed such a pivotal moment in the PSG’s relatively short history — the XI who demolished Barca 4-0 looked more like potential winners than quarter-final fodder.
The irony for the biggest-spending club in Europe alongside Manchester City is that despite pursuing the marquee signing which would make the world sit up and take notice, it is the hiring of a coach of relatively modest profile that has really helped them make that jaw-dropping statement.
Emery guided Valencia to regular Champions League qualification and won the Europa League three times at Sevilla.
His slightly mad professor image seemed to keep him off the radar of La Liga’s big two. But Al-Khelaifi has admitted hiring him precisely for his success in Europe and on Tuesday his performance drew praise from Barcelona players.
‘They had a plan and they knew exactly how to put it into action,’ said Sergio Busquets — damning his own manager Luis Enrique in the process.
The Spanish papers were very critical of Barcelona's performance against PSG
Both Sport and AS were equally critical of Barcelona's performance on Tuesday
The PSG players seemed to know when to press and when to take a breather. They counter-attacked ruthlessly with special attention paid to the weakened right side of the Barca team. They could have won by more goals.
Emery is an intense coach — too intense for some players. Former Spain winger Joaquin once quipped: ‘There were so many scouting videos I ran out of popcorn’ and defender Jeremy Mathieu, then of Valencia, was famously caught out by Emery when, suspecting he wasn’t watching any of the computer files about opponents which he was giving him, the coach handed the player an empty one only to be told the next morning that he’d watched it and it was ‘very helpful’.
The club have backed their manager, too. When new signing Jese Rodriguez fell out with the coach it was the player who was sent out on loan while Emery received the more than adequate reinforcement of Draxler.
The future of Lionel Messi remains unclear as he enters the final year of his contract next term
Paris Saint-Germain's Angel di Maria consoles Messi as he walks off at the end of the game
Signing the German forward had been on Arsene Wenger’s to-do list for a long time but as Arsenal and others dithered, PSG moved and it’s getting easier for them to do that in spite of the attraction of the Premier League.
The appeal of living in Paris is a major factor and the argument that domestic football in France is too predictable doesn’t stand up this season, with Monaco top of the table.
Even when the domestic action fails to compel, the challenge of achieving what has never been done before has become a big attraction.
‘I will do everything to help win new trophies and grow internationally,’ said Draxler when he was presented last month. That expansion of the global brand is something Al-Khelaifi has always felt was achievable at a club that has the luxury of not only being based in Paris — but is also the city’s only top-flight club. There are three top-flight teams in Madrid, two in Barcelona, and six in London.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique looks dejected - could time be running out for him?
The PSG club president changed the badge to make the word Paris more prominent when he took charge — it felt like a Roman Abramovich dream of changing Chelsea into ‘London Chelsea’ made real.
With the economic growth and the dreaded brand expansion comes the criticism that this is a club with no grassroots connection.
But there are plans for a £170m academy on the banks of the Seine that will include a 5,000-capacity stadium. And while attempts to land Neymar — or more likely now, Antoine Griezmann — remain, Al-Khelaifi is intent on home-producing a French great.
PSG are not about to take their eye off the transfer market, mind you, and Manchester United are clearly not to be allowed a clear run at Griezmann. The ‘little prince’ at the ‘Parc des Princes’ — it will not be a difficult sell to the France international if he decides to leave Atletico Madrid.
PSG's players celebrated after the final whistle as they took a 4-0 first-leg lead in the last-16
On Tuesday night PSG didn’t look like a team in need of many additions. No player in Europe has scored more goals than Edinson Cavani. Draxler and Angel di Maria complemented him superbly while the midfield trio of Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi is one of the best in Europe right now.
One of the inquests into Barca’s 4-0 defeat spoke of a performance that reeked of ‘the end of an era’. There is a more pleasant fragrance emanating from Paris.
Spring, at last, is in the air.