Paris Saint-Germain has been one of the best, yet most controversial teams in world football ever since their signing of Neymar Jr. In the summer transfer window of 2017. Their issues can be summarized by four “issues”, that being Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and the ones up at the top of the French football giant that is PSG. The blame is not even amongst the four of these, but the expectations that come with three generation-defining players and a front office with money to waste are higher than what has been met by the Parisians. Despite winning Ligue 1 eight of the last ten years and being on the cusp of their ninth in eleven, expectations to win that elusive UEFA Champions League trophy remain unfulfilled.
The Brazilian forward sent shockwaves through the club scene when he departed from Barcelona in 2017 for PSG at a then-record $263M transfer fee. Although this isn’t anything astronomical by today’s monetary standards, Paul Pogba’s $98M fee was the previous record. This set a new standard for how much money clubs would be forced to fork out for young stars. Neymar’s reasons for the move (which he claims was due to the “ambition” of the club) have been speculated by fans and media and were mainly chalked up to two larger reasons. The first was the absurd amount of compensation offered and the second was Neymar’s desire to be the first option on a Champions League-caliber team. When you begin to look at Neymar’s on-field production, you can certainly tell that the talent is there. Through his first five seasons, Neymar started an average of 17.6 games per Ligue 1 season. For the mathematicians out there, that is only around 46% of his total Ligue 1 games. No matter the talent or how much he plays in the Champions League, Coupe de France, or other competitions, it is hard to say that PSG has gotten a great return on their investment.
Neymar’s future with the club is (in my opinion) the most certain of the three megastars. Neymar is under contract with PSG until 2025, which is the longest of their core if you denote Mbappe’s player option. With the future transfers of Mbappe and Messi imminent, it seems like Neymar could once again have a team of his own to lead as opposed to being the third option of a super team.
The wunderkind has set the world on fire since he debuted for Monaco in late 2015 at the young age of 16 years old. Everyone could tell he had “it”, but it couldn’t have been more apparent than it was in the 2018 World Cup. The second teenager to ever score in a World Cup, the Best Young Player Award, and a goal in the final against Croatia. His recent contract extension that was signed with PSG through 2025 with a player option, pays him roughly $53.6M a year. As expensive as this contract is, it is the other details within the contract that
created problems with teammates, as well as fans. Mbappe is now closer to being one of the owners of the club than he is as one of the players.
Mbappe’s new contract states in black and white that he is involved in the final say on transfers, contract extensions, sponsorships with the team, and other things that are usually reserved for people like majority owners. The club starts and ends with Mbappe’s on-the-field performance and off-the-field decisions. Details like this in a contract are not entirely foreign to the sports world, but it is something that could come back to bite a team that already has its fair share of issues. The distrust in the locker room is evident, rumors swirl week in and week out of Mbappe being upset with Neymar, Messi, coaches, and even ownership. If PSG were to conclude that a club without Mbappe is the best club moving forward for the sake of chemistry and serenity in the media, the transfer fee would be unpayable for most clubs outside of Europe, which Mbappe would surely decline a transfer to. PSG is in limbo with their young star and is on a time crunch to get things under control. If we don’t see Mbappe achieve immediate club success at the continental level, I believe it is time we see Mbappe look for another team to build a legacy.
Mbappe’s future at the club will be decided within the next season. I believe that if PSG is not the 2023-2024 UEFA Champions League winner, Mbappe will find a new home. Neymar’s future was a little easier to analyze since I predict he will stay, but where could Mbappe find a new home? Many rumors have swirled around about where the 24-year-old will end up, but I firmly believe it will be in the Premier League. Real Madrid is one name that circulates often and was nearly a done deal before his extension, but with Madrid, he will be asked to hand over a large portion of his endorsement money. With how seriously Mbappe takes his brand, I doubt he would join unless he inks a Ronaldo-like deal with Madrid where they forgo their usual clause. His two most likely destinations are Manchester United and Newcastle. Manchester United would be due to their history with his all-time favorite player, Christiano Ronaldo, as well as their successful history. Newcastle on the other hand is a rising club that could potentially afford Mbappe’s services, and he would forever be synonymous with the club as he would undoubtedly be their best player to wear their kit.
The last head of PSG’s triumvirate of stars is Lionel Messi, who is in a much different situation than his other two counterparts. Messi is not trying to rebuild a legacy like Neymar, nor is he trying to establish one like Mbappe. Messi has reached the pinnacle of football in every possible aspect and is now looking to cement it in however he may see fitting. Messi defeated France along with the rest of his Argentinian teammates in the 2022 World Cup Final in Qatar to cap off his stellar career, eating from PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe’s plate in the process. While there is no confirmation or comment that there is any jealousy from Mbappe’s side, French fans have certainly taken it personally. Ever since the international break for the cup, Messi has been treated poorly by PSG supporters, including being booed, whistling, and disrespectful comments towards the man who was supposed to finally deliver them a Champions League trophy.
Unlike his two teammates, Messi doesn’t have the legacy at the Parc des Princes that his striking counterparts do. His legacy was built in Barcelona and nowhere else at the club level. Whether Messi is more concerned with his financial status or happiness with his club we do not know, but if it is the latter, I would expect him to be the first to bounce from the Ligue 1 champions. He has the highest probability of leaving this summer of the three. In terms of a new team, Barcelona seems to be the only team floating around to take him from Paris in terms of European clubs.MLS side Inter Miami and Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal are the other two potential destinations I see him going to, despite Manchester City talks looming. Inter Miami would signify that he is nearly ready to hang it up. Messi would only sign to set himself up for potential ventures post-soccer. Al Hilal would be to take advantage of the possible $438M (and other rumors closer to $500M) record-smashing transfer fee that has been rumored to be offered to Messi.
Lastly, we must look at the fault of the ownership. Qatar Sports Investments and the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani have owned PSG since 2011. They are the reason this club has taken the term “financial takeover” to another level. However, the disconnect from the team is mostly to blame for their shortcomings. In games like FIFA and Madden, it is in the player’s
best interest to go sign big names and throw them on the same team since the one thing gaming AIs are yet to properly replicate is team chemistry. These guys don’t mesh well and have not been given proper time considering the expectations to put together a powerhouse team. Although Christophe Galtier isn’t the worst manager they could have appointed, he is no Pep. He has been given the babysitting job from hell and he was only just recently thrown into the fire.
This careless spending, over-the-top contract clauses and unwillingness to be content has been the perfect storm to cause the downfall of the most promising era of Paris Saint Germain. In terms of their future, a rebuild, or at least a restructuring of this roster and coaching staff is near in their future.