Lionel Messi wanting out, Neymar's injuries and Gigi Donnarruma's shaky form: 10 reasons why PSG's season has been so disappointing
League title pretty much sorted, then. The bare minimum for Paris Saint-Germain will almost-certainly be met on Saturday when they likely wrap up the defence of their crown.
In fairness, Ligue 1 is better than it gets credit for these days. Yes, PSG should walk the league every year, but this is not a simple division to win. Simply being the best team does not mean you are required to batter the other 19.
Still, despite the credit that PSG deserve, this has been far from a stable season. The Parisians are set to crawl across the line, looking a depleted and underwhelming side since the turn of the new year. What should have been a convincing, double-digit points win, will now look far less impressive. PSG will, in all likelihood, lose more games than upstart runners-up Lens, and have a worse defensive record than ninth-placed Nice.
For any other team, these would be acceptable blips. But for PSG, this nation-state-funded marketing behemoth, imperfections are frowned upon. And this year, there have been plenty. The new manager has been underwhelming. The star players have underperformed and, quite literally, disappeared at times. Meanwhile, the frustrations of an increasingly peeved fan base have boiled over.
GOAL takes a look at why what on the face of it is a successful season has been so disappointing for those in the French capital...
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Messi wants out
Weren't we always heading this way? When Lionel Messi came back from the World Cup, everything felt just a little bit different. The Argentine had checked off the final box on his career and completed football in the most perfect of circumstances. Everything else seemed kind of irrelevant.
And so it proved to be. Since Qatar, Messi has still shown flashes of his brilliant best, but he's looked every bit a player without guidance or motivation. He is not above blame for PSG's struggles since January. In fact, his languid showings are part of the reason why the Parisians have fallen so short of expectations. But is perhaps unfair to expect a 34-year-old to be talismanic every week.
And once the Barcelona rumours started, it has seemed like Leo's head is already in Catalunya. The expectation that he will rejoin his former club has only further complicated things. To PSG's frustrated ultras, he is now a traitor, no longer fit to wear the shirt. And as the boos and jeers have intensified, Messi has become even more of a passenger in a string of poor performances.
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Neymar's ankles don't work (again)
An ankle injury for Neymar is a yearly occurrence at this point. This season, the Brazilian finally gave in and opted to have surgery. He'd probably been needing it for a while; the sprains have added up.
But it was also an untimely injury for a player who was having his best PSG season in years. Neymar was on track for 20 goals and 20 assists in Ligue 1, production enough to make the rest of this stalling campaign far more comfortable than it currently is.
Still, his most recent problem derailed things and could have a lasting impact on his career. Neymar is now 30, and although the operation was reportedly a success, surgeries are not so easily recovered from at his age — especially given the Brazilian's extensive injury history.
PSG seem to be faced with the decision to keep or sell Neymar every year, and every time it feels a bit disingenuous. But with Messi almost certainly out the door, Kylian Mbappe effectively controlling recruitment, and an angry fanbase losing patience, they might have to take a more serious view as to what to do with the most-expensive signing of all time.
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It is everyone's favourite critique of PSG that their superstars do not run. And that gripe is not wrong. Mbappe, Messi and Neymar do not put anywhere near enough of a defensive shift in for the Parisians to succeed on the European stage. Football cannot be played 11-v-8 these days.
But the remaining eight haven't exactly been solid, either. Before the season, PSG seemed to have sorted a pretty strong backline. Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe and one of Sergio Ramos or Nordi Mukiele would form a solid back three, with exciting wing-backs on either side.
Injuries have hit in droves, with Mukiele and Kimpembe both having their seasons ended early. But Ramos and Marquinhos have been markedly below their best in recent months. Most worryingly, perhaps, PSG are simply getting undone by long balls over the top, their slow centre-backs struggling to recover against more athletic sides. These are basic errors, and the very type of goal a back three is supposed to prevent.
Indeed, if solid defensive-midfielder Danilo Pereira has been your most consistent centre-back, then there's probably a defensive issue or two that needs addressing.
An unreliable Donnarruma
PSG are not going to get rid of Gianluigi Donnarumma. They are probably not going to bench him, either. However, there might be a little bit of concern around the big Italian goalkeeper. Although he can still produce impressive saves in droves, the shot-stopper has been error-prone this season.
In truth, it's something that can be traced back to the 2022 Champions League last 16, where he made two big mistakes to allow Real Madrid to overturn a convincing lead and win the tie. Donnarumma hasn't quite been the same player since. He made an error that allowed Kingsley Coman to score for Bayern Munich in February and has been prone to a blunder or two against lesser Ligue 1 opposition in recent weeks.
There is also the distribution problem. The Parisians like to keep the ball. That, by nature, requires a goalkeeper who can throw, punt and pass with precision. Donnarumma, though, isn't a particularly good passer and is often found launching the ball out of play. And his occasional blunders when keeping things short have also been jarring. He is still, somehow, just 24-years-old, and will improve. But his errors have been costly at times this year.
An angry fanbase
PSG ultras have always had problems with the QSI-led ownership that took over the club over 10 years ago. The investors, although very rich, have made the club into a marketing behemoth, one that has often lost touch with its Parisian roots. The ultras have made their displeasure known at various points in recent years, verbally abusing the players after the famous Barcelona remontada in 2017, and storming the training ground following the Parisians' Champions League exit to Manchester United two years later.
But their anger this year has become concentrated on controversial figures within the club. Fans first started booing Messi in March, angered at the Argentine for his poor string of performances in 2023. Their discontent has since intensified, not least due to Messi's unsanctioned trip to Saudi Arabia that saw him suspended for a week. It all came to a head in early May, when they gathered in front of the club headquarters and called on the board to resign. A separate group also gathered outside Neymar's house and hurled abuse at the injured Brazilian.
It's all rather toxic.
A manager going through the motions
Christophe Galtier seemed like a solid hire before the season. The former Lille and Nice manager had proven himself a sound tactician who relied on defensive structure to lift Lille to the 2021 Ligue 1 title. It was a clear area of weakness for PSG, a side that had become leaky and inconsistent at the back.
At first, things went well. Galtier deployed a solid 3-4-3 system that got the best out of Neymar, Messi and Mbappe — but was also kept the Parisians relatively strong at the back. But once injuries hit and egos took over, the Frenchman crumbled. He started to tinker with his formations and allowed his big personalities to dominate off-field narratives. His weakness with the press didn't help, either.
It remains to be seen if he will actually be let go, but it appears that Galtier lost his job for good in February. PSG crumbled against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, failing to muster a fight against a German side that was enduring struggles of its own. At this point, Galtier is scraping to wins and making excuses for players in press conferences.
A solid manager has instead been lost in an unmanageable environment — one he is fundamentally unable to control.
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Seriously, who thought Hugo Ekitike was a good idea? How about Vitinha? Did Renato Sanches fill anyone with confidence? Galtier was always going to need hard-working, physical midfielders to complement his disinterested front three, but he also needed quality. PSG are a side pushing for the Champions League every year, blessed with near-unlimited financial resources. They do not sign Wolves rejects.
So, when an injury-prone Sanches, underwhelming Vitinha and odd-fiting Fabian Ruiz walked through the door last summer, a few eyebrows were raised. These are all good players in isolation, but they are not of the level required to compete on the European stage.
Some other decisions were met with skepticism. Ekitike was a confusing signing. At 20-years-old, and with 10 goals in 12 starts at struggling Reims as a teenager, he seemed to be a decent prospect. But PSG needed a backup No.9 who could score goals. Ekitike was always going to be too young and, frankly, not good enough yet.
And that's proved to be the case. Each signing has enjoyed some good moments — with Fabian perhaps doing enough to justify long-term inclusion. But they were confusing signings last summer, and they look even worse now.
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Campos undermining pretty much everyone
Luis Campos is an interesting figure. He has an excellent resume of finding and moving on top European talent. He also has a history of success with Galtier, having worked with him at Lille. It made sense, then, that he would join the manager as a sporting consultant — not sporting director — when he took the PSG job.
But Campos and Galtier, it seems, have never figured out how to work with each other on a bigger stage. The former has regularly undermined Galtier in the press, speaking on Mbappe's transfer rumour fiasco in October — an act Galtier publically took issue with. He was at it again more recently, calling on Mbappe to "do better" in an interview.
The two have also reportedly clashed in the dressing room. It has become hard enough for Galtier to take charge of this side, so having another ego to fend off has only added to his issues.
Since he reportedly requested a transfer to Real Madrid in October — before publically denying he ever wanted to do so — Mbappe has tried to behave himself in recent months. He has won favour with the fans for insisting that he will stay, while his performances on the pitch are pretty much the sole reason PSG have seen out the league title.
However, there have been some issues. PSG, to put it mildly, didn't do particularly well in their negotiations to sign Mbappe last summer. They ceded unprecedented player power, making the French winger a de-facto sporting director, with control over most decisions. They then celebrated his new contract as if they'd executed a negotiating masterpiece.
Predictably, the club have been publically pushed around by the player. Such was the case in April, when PSG circulated a season-ticket promotional campaign. Mbappe was the main feature of the video, but Messi and Neymar were nowhere to be seen. Mbappe killed the whole thing with one angry Instagram post. These are small things, but for a club pining for stability, having one player outshine everyone is a recipe for disaster.
An uncertain future
The final issue here is that no one seems to know what happens next. Messi is sure to leave at this point; both the club and the fans have lost patience with him. Neymar, once again, could be available, but there's no guarantee that the Parisians could get a decent return for his services. Galtier, meanwhile, has had vague public support from the owner, without any assurances that his job will be safe.
Still, PSG have promised that there is a big summer to come. They have been released from the Financial Fair Play restrictions they never really seemed to respect, and will look to spend with some big names available. But it's unclear what, exactly, the Parisians want. They have serious interest in Bernardo Silva, who seems a shrewd signing to play as an attacking midfielder. Randal Kolo Muani, also linked, would be an excellent No.9 who could work well with Mbappe. Elsewhere, though, everything is up in the air. Galtier and Campos could all be out of a job within weeks, while a host of expiring contracts and returning loanees are yet to be sorted.
Clarity is such a valuable thing. PSG simply do not have it.