Can Kylian Mbappe give PSG Champions League parting gift?

Kylian Mbappe in UCL Semi-final, 1st Leg vs Dortmund
Kylian Mbappe in UCL Semi-final, 1st Leg vs Dortmund (PC: X)

RevSportz Comment

Fans of European football’s legacy clubs love to taunt them by saying the name of the club should actually be Plastic Saint-Germain. The inference is clear, that PSG are not a ‘real’ football club, but instead just a consequence of the obscene wealth that the Qatari state has pumped into a team that had won the French title just twice before 2011.

Their 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Borussia Dortmund would have been viewed as poetic by many. Dortmund may not have PSG’s resources, but the atmosphere whipped up by the sea of yellow in the stands would have made many a Parisian turn green with envy. Dortmund’s yellow wall can be even louder than Liverpool’s famous Kop on European nights, and is one of the reasons why so many players and even coaches leave the club with such fond memories.

Semi-finals and finals of major tournaments can often be cagey affairs, dictated by a safety-first approach. But Wednesday night saw an extraordinarily open contest where both teams had enough chances to have run up a tennis score. Instead, Niclas Fullkrug’s first-half strike settled the contest.

If Kylian Mbappe is all about cat-like strength and gazelle-like speed, Fullkrug seems a semi-clumsy throwback to the era of big target men. But when a long ball was punted from deep inside the Dortmund half, he bent his run beautifully to stay onside, cushioned the dropping ball perfectly with his first touch, and finished quite clinically past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Fullkrug is the kind of journeyman player PSG would never sign. But an XI full of pedigree could not find a path to goal. Ashraf Hakimi hit the base of one post, Mbappe curled a shot against the other, and Ousmane Dembele skied over when it seemed easier to score.

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Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe (PC: X)

There were plenty of signs though that PSG have moved on to the next stage of their evolution – the quest to become a football team rather than a vanity project. The Galactico years are now firmly in the past. The likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and so many others came and went while leaving barely a footprint. Not one of those players would call the PSG years the highlight of their careers. More than a few fans viewed them as mercenaries when they arrived, and little was done to correct that impression before they left.

This summer, they will lose Mbappe as well, the last of the Musketeers on eye-watering wages. It speaks volumes of the kind of club PSG are that Mbappe, born and raised in the city, never seemed to view playing for his hometown club as the pinnacle. For all the fame and celebrity, David Beckham will tell you that nothing ever topped winning the Champions League with Manchester United, the team he has supported since he was old enough to kick a ball. Similarly, no matter where Trent Alexander-Arnold plays the rest of his career, winning the English Premier League and the Champions League with Liverpool, the club of his heart, will always be the high watermark.

It would be ironic in the extreme if Mbappe was to help PSG end their Champions League jinx, and that too against Real Madrid, the club he has been angling to join for nearly half a decade now. You also get the impression that, for all his matchless skill, PSG might be better off without him, the ego and the huge salary. By bringing through local talent like Warren Zaire-Emery, who just turned 18 in March, the club has signalled a change in direction after the billions spent on big names failed to land the big prize.

Perhaps those in the boardroom in Paris have finally looked across the Channel and seen how things should be done. There are plenty of question marks over Manchester City’s creative accounting methods, but not a soul can quibble with how beautifully they set up their football operation. A state-of-the-art academy produces the best English talent, like Phil Foden, and the recruitment is usually spot on. Compared to the funds wasted by the likes of PSG and Manchester United, City are a role model for the rich.

But they are out of Europe, and despite the first-leg defeat, you sense PSG will never have a better chance to get their hands on club football’s biggest prize. And if it was Mbappe’s goals that finally took them to the Promised Land, there could be no greater parting gift.

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