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PSG secures title, but summer of change is looming

China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-17 09:34
PSG players celebrate winning the French Ligue 1 title after demolishing Monaco 7-1 at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS-It might have felt like Paris Saint-Germain's season ended a month ago, but on Sunday it was celebrating reclaiming the French title-its second trophy in two weeks.

While Neymar is still absent recovering from surgery on a fractured foot, Unai Emery's side took back the Ligue 1 crown in the best possible fashion by demolishing defending champion Monaco 7-1.

PSG's near-flawless run of domestic form over the past three months comfortably saw off its nearest rivals, and Sunday's thumping followed a 3-0 win over Monaco in the League Cup final at the end of March.

To its credit, PSG has not wallowed in self-pity since its loss to Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League in early March, just after the crushing blow of losing Neymar to injury.

"The defeat against Real Madrid was a big defeat, but apart from that I am very happy with what the team has produced this season," Emery said.

After being denied by Monaco last year, there was never really any doubt that PSG would reclaim the crown this time.

It has been on top since August. Champion for the fifth time in six seasons, Emery's team is on course to set a new points record. There have been only two losses, against Strasbourg and Lyon.

"The league title is very important to me. It is the main competition and it shows how consistent a team is," Emery said.

"The club wants to progress, improve, become the best in the world."

There is certainly merit to be had in dethroning Monaco, but the principality side effectively accepted defeat at the end of August when it allowed Kylian Mbappe to move to the capital, just a few weeks after Neymar was signed for a world-record fee of $264 million.

Qatar-owned PSG's budget is about that of Lyon, Monaco and Marseille-its three biggest rivals-combined. Perspective is therefore necessary.

PSG has now won as many domestic honors in seven years of Qatar ownership as in the previous 41 years of its history, and it can still win this season's French Cup.

Tuchel tipped

But its financial might-regardless of the threat of UEFA sanctions for breaches of Financial Fair Play-ensures the playing field is so uneven at home, and the Champions League is PSG's holy grail.

A second straight exit in the last 16 means heads will roll at the end of this season in preparation for a new attempt to become part of the European elite.

Emery's contract is due to expire and the Spaniard will not be kept on. With its credibility on the line, Qatar Sports Investments cannot afford to get it wrong when it comes to naming a successor.

But having been linked with the likes of Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique and Jose Mourinho, it seems that Thomas Tuchel will be the chosen one.

Given Tuchel's profile-a free agent since leaving Borussia Dortmund last year, with just one major trophy as a coach and little European pedigree-appointing the 44-year-old German might surprise many.

The new man's biggest job will be learning to get along with Neymar, a brilliant player but one whose off-field antics are frequently in the headlines.

That's assuming Neymar remains in Paris for a second season, amid constant speculation of a move, possibly to Real Madrid.

Other players will certainly leave, with the likes of Thiago Motta and Javier Pastore possibly having won their last Ligue 1 title.

"I have spoken to Neymar. He doesn't know yet when he will be back, but the project here is with Neymar, of course," captain Thiago Silva told TF1 on Sunday.

"I am sure the project here will carry on for us to try to make our dream come true."

AFP

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