The end for Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi AND Neymar?! Another Champions League failure has left PSG in turmoil
PSG have been here before. Their Champions League dreams are over for another season, knocked out at the last-16 stage for the fifth time in the past seven years after going down 2-0 to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg and with Neymar ruled out, the pressure was on Christophe Galtier's side to show that they were made of sterner stuff than their predecessors in the French capital.
All eyes were on Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi to produce the goods, but the Ballon d'Or frontrunners were unable to get anything going, and now their futures, plus those of some other major figures at Parc des Princes, are being questioned.
So what does the future hold for PSG's biggest names? GOAL takes a look...
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Mbappe goes, this season or next
Mbappe asserted on Saturday, with some confidence, that the result of Wednesday's fixture will not impact his future at PSG.
It should be encouraged to take a footballer at his word, but Mbappe is a player who it is difficult to truly believe.
Few were truly sold in October when he insisted that widespread reports that he wanted to leave the club were false, and there is a similar feeling regarding his latest claims. It's difficult to imagine the club's record goalscorer will stay in Paris long-term after they suffered another embarrassingly early Champions League exit.
The good news for Mbappe is that he has flexibility. He reportedly has a few months to decide whether he wants to extend his contract until 2025. If he declines that offer, then he can either leave this summer at a deal below his market value, or go for nothing in 18 months' time.
PSG have failed to show their hometown hero that they have what it takes to go deep in Europe, and now their continental rivals are readying themselves to swoop in.
Real Madrid, for example, never truly gave up on signing Mbappe, though they were publicly frustrated by his decision to extend his deal at PSG. They are currently on the lookout for a long-term successor to Karim Benzema, and Mbappe would be comfortable playing out wide in the meantime while he shares the Santiago Bernabeu pitch with his international team-mate.
Real Madrid missed out on Haaland AND Mbappe 😨 pic.twitter.com/gFjb7ONVPm— GOAL (@goal) May 21, 2022
Madrid would, perhaps, be reluctant to shell out the massive fee to sign Mbappe this summer, but they would definitely take him on more favourable terms - perhaps even for free - in 2024. Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City should also not be ruled out as possible destinations.
Regardless, a loss in the last 16 has seen Mbappe's chances of staying in Paris long-term take a massive dip.
Neymar never kicks a ball for PSG again
This one is perhaps a guarantee already.
Neymar's rotten luck with injuries has continued in 2023, with the world's most-expensive player now ruled out for the rest of the season.
Another ankle injury for Neymar 😞 pic.twitter.com/w4vMJJgTc2— GOAL (@goal) February 19, 2023
It's a tricky situation for player and club alike. PSG are arguably better without Neymar in the team, but he still possesses game-changing ability. And it cannot be denied that the Neymar brand is certainly valuable to keep around from a commercial perspective.
But cutting ties with the Brazilian playmaker will be far easier now the Parisians have suffered another Champions League failure. It proves, once and for all, that they are neither more nor less successful without him in the side. He is, effectively, a net-zero sort of player; a guy to have around, sell some kits, wow the crowd, but never guarantee anything more.
And if PSG are to properly evaluate their squad, and ponder places where they might improve by subtraction - or even potentially upgrade - Neymar simply has to be top of the list.
- Getty Images
Every PSG manager ultimately has the same remit: win the Champions League.
Domestic success is expected and eye-catching football is demanded, but European glory is what every coach in the French capital is truly judged upon.
And when it's not achieved, history shows that the board can be very quick to move on. Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery have all been removed from their jobs for failing to attain European success.
And now, all eyes are on Galtier. He was meant to be the manager to bring a lost sense of balance to PSG, the coach to shore up the defence and not bow to the squad's biggest egos.
But now, just eight months into his rein, Galtier could be next on the chopping block. His tenure at the helm has been mixed, as PSG have often won without being very good, and the familiar defensive faults and inability to see out games have remained.
On Wednesday, they were largely solid defensively, but offered almost nothing going forward, despite the presence of Mbappe and Messi up front. Rather than some of the explosive ways they have exited the Champions League in recent times, this time they departed with little more than a whimper.
With all that in mind, there's a good chance they make yet another move in the dugout in the coming months.
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Messi heads to Barca for one last shot at European glory
Could he do it? Could Barcelona afford it? Would Barcelona fans welcome it?
The issue with any potential Messi return at this point is that Barca appear to have moved on, at least on the pitch.
They were admittedly dire at times in their first season after the Argentine left, and finished 13 points behind Real Madrid in La Liga. By the end of the season, Luuk de Jong was playing up front.
But in 2022-23, Xavi has turned things around - and rather quickly given the mess the Bluagrana were in. He's been backed in the transfer market, encouraged to develop his own style, and clearly has control of the dressing room. It all amounts to a club that is in pole position to regain the Spanish title and could conceivably win the domestic double.
So where's the room for Messi?
Arguably, the Blaugrana could do with an extra attacking player, one to hold things together in the final third. Messi certainly ticks that box.
But this would not just be a signing for tactical sake. A reunion would be emotional, a return of a king who was never really supposed to leave.
Club president Joan Laporta and Xavi have both acknowledged, in some way, that they'd welcome it. And Messi has never shut the door on donning a Barca shirt again.
Joan Laporta had to pick one 👀 pic.twitter.com/Cg7B9EzzjV— GOAL (@goal) March 7, 2023
The move will now be made a lot easier by PSG's latest European failure. It could even be argued that, by next year, the Blaugrana will be better equipped for Champions League success than the Parisians.
Messi will be 36 by the time next season comes around, but is out of contract this summer and so would require no transfer fee. Given Barca's improvement and his emotional bond with the club, a reunion could really happen.
PSG sign more attacking talent
A big signing tends to follow every PSG Champions league failure. From Messi to Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Parisians have made it a point of principle to bring in a new talent - or talents - in an attempt to finally get over the European hump.
And regardless of the state of flux PSG might find themselves in next summer, they will always appeal to some of the biggest names in world football.
Potentially available, top-tier attacking players, though, seem to be in short supply. Assuming that one or more of the fabled front three leave, PSG won't find it easy to retool.
The only obvious big star on the market is Jude Bellingham, but he's in the wrong position, and seems likely to sign for either Liverpool or Real Madrid.
PSG, then, might turn their attention to Serie A stars like Rafael Leao or Victor Osimhen to give their frontline a boost. It's possible, too, that a series of shrewd buys could bolster the squad across the board.
Either way, a summer spree is on the cards after events in Munich on Wednesday.
They still win Ligue 1
The advantage for every iteration of the modern PSG is that they are pretty much guaranteed domestic success, and Galtier's side will win Ligue 1 this year.
Taking home a league title is still an achievement. Despite the relatively weak competition in France's top flight, it is not easy to maintain a top level of form for 38 games. There will still be celebrations in the PSG dressing room and winners' medals handed out. Just because it is not the Champions League does not mean Ligue 1 has to be sniffed at.
And who knows? Maybe winning Ligue 1 by a significant margin, with time remaining in the season, will show sporting director Luis Campos and the board that there's still something to work with here. Perhaps Mbappe and Messi will see a project that, given a signing or two, could make another European push. Losing to Bayern Munich, although representing another year of European failure, is nothing to be overtly ashamed of.
But staggering over the finishing line in a relatively weak domestic league would be.