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Can Paris Saint-Germain overcome their mentality and finally win the Champions League?

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Money can buy you success in the world of football, but it cannot guarantee you silverware if there is a wider problem embedded into the fibres of a certain club. For Paris Saint-Germain, continued domestic success has become the norm - and rightly so, as the financial power they have enables them to sign some of the world’s best footballers, in a league where the standard is famously below par.

The club’s Saudi owners (Qatar Sports Investments) will be happy that their side have won the league title six times since their multi-billion pound takeover back in 2011. They will also be delighted that PSG have claimed the Coupe de France four times, the Coupe de la Ligue five times and the Trophee des Champions seven times under their watchful eye throughout the previous nine years. 

Indeed, despite all of this success, it is expected when you consider the vast sums of money the club have injected into the club during the last decade or so. The true measure of the French outfit’s worth is in the Champions League, against the rest of the world’s elite, and so far they have failed miserably in their quest to obtain it. But why?

The fact that the Frenchmen have not made it past the quarter-finals of the competition since the early-90s, despite having spent over €1bn on player transfers since 2011, is a damning statistic which leaves many scratching their heads in sheer disbelief. During the last three seasons, PSG have been knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the last-16 stage. 

Last season’s monumental collapse against a severely depleted Manchester United side was labelled as one of the most embarrassing moments in the club’s history and it is clear to understand why. Having led Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men 2-0 after the first-leg at Old Trafford, all they had to do was shut up shop and keep it tight at the back in the return leg at the Parc des Princes. They did everything but.   

A second-minute opener for Romelu Lukaku, following a grave error from Thilo Kehrer, paved the way for United in the French capital on that fateful evening last March. Despite levelling just ten minutes later, the Parisians conceded another on the half hour mark before a dubious last-gasp penalty, converted by Marcus Rashford, ended their hopes of progression to the quarter-finals.

Two seasons prior to that humiliation, a similar situation arose at the same stage, this time against Barcelona. After leading the Spaniards 4-0 (yes, four) after the first-leg in Paris, it seemed unfathomable to even entertain the idea of a comeback from the Catalans at the Camp Nou. 

Remarkably, Barcelona managed it though. Goals from Luis Suarez, Layvin Kurzawa (OG), Lionel Messi, Neymar (2) and Sergi Roberto right at the death secured a 6-1 win for the hosts, in turn knocking PSG out of the Champions League once again. 

It was one of the biggest comebacks in UCL history, but how was it allowed to happen?

It is clear that Paris Saint-Germain have a staggering issue with their mentality, which seems to be engraved into the deepest roots of the club and flares up horrendously when pressure starts to mount on them. 

From their collapse at the Camp Nou three years ago, to their pantomime in Paris, the domineering Ligue 1 champions seem to be able to find new ways of failing each year in the one competition they are fixated upon winning. 

There is a solid argument which suggests that because the team has it so easy in the league each week, they almost seem to enter a state of shock when they face a team who are on the same level playing field in the Champions League. That because they are so used to steamrolling their opposition in Ligue 1, their arrogance in Europe comes round to bite them which results in continued failure in the world’s most elite club competition, where arrogance is most unhelpful trait a team can possess. 

Paris Saint-Germain aren’t the first club to endure a barron run in the Champions League in recent history, and they will certainly not be the last. Real Madrid famously crashed out of the competition before reaching the quarter-finals between the years of 2004 and 2010, bowing out in the last-16 for six consecutive seasons within that time, despite having a star-studded squad which contained the likes of Roberto Carlos, David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane, among others.

The difference is, Los Blancos had a rich history of success in Europe to fall back on, and there was always an overwhelming feeling that they would regain their stance as the continent’s most illustrious football club. That is exactly what happened, and prior to last season’s humbling by Ajax in the last-16, Real had won it three years on the spin, as well as once in 2013-14.

PSG do not possess that same luxury, however. They have never won the Champions League or the European Cup and therefore do not fully understand exactly what is required to go the distance in the competition, unlike Madrid, who had won it an astonishing nine times prior to their miserable run throughout the mid-to-late noughties.

This time out, though, there does seem to be an edge to the Parisians. They have always possessed great qualities, of course, but this season in the Champions League they have already blitzed their qualifying group ahead of Real Madrid, Club Brugge and Galatasaray. Thomas Tuchel’s men won five and drew one of their six group stage encounters prior to Christmas, finishing top of Group A, five points ahead of eventual runners-up Madrid. 

If nothing else it is a statement of intent from PSG, who will be desperate to right the wrongdoings from their previous failed campaigns in Europe by finally clinching their first ever Champions League title. Their initial challenge is tonight, against Borussia Dortmund and away from home. 

Will Paris Saint-Germain finally shake off their unwelcome curse in this prestigious competition and, at long last, write their names in the Champions League history books? Only time will tell.

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