Paris Saint-Germain are Ligue 1 champions for a record-equaling 10th time after a draw with RC Lens at Parc des Princes on Saturday, which confirmed their latest crown. A hard-fought encounter finished 1-1 after Kevin Danso’s second-half red card, a Lionel Messi special and a late Corentin Jean effort which was a fitting conclusion to what has been a forgettable season overall in the capital.
This season promised so much at the start with Messi and Sergio Ramos among the new faces in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad as they targeted so far elusive UEFA Champions League glory. Both were present for this one and it was Messi who broke the hosts out of a mediocre showing against a determined Lens side desperate not to lose ground in the race for Europe.
As has often been the case this campaign, individual brilliance has papered over significant cracks and the Argentine’s second-half strike disguised a mediocre overall display that did not merit anything more than the point it earned. A Ligue 1 title, as significant as it equals AS Saint-Etienne’s long-standing record, feels like the bare minimum this Parisien team were capable of this term — especially in such underwhelming fashion.
“10 titles is great,” sporting director Leonardo told Canal+. “We are the club, along with Saint-Etienne, to have won the most titles. It is an important number, a record, and something to be celebrated. It has been a very difficult season.”
“It hurts to not win a title,” added captain Marquinhos to Canal+. We did not win the last one and it hurt. The atmosphere is a shame, but soccer is our passion and we will try to enjoy it. Too bad that it cannot be with the supporters.
Clearly, the scars from the latest Champions League capitulation will remain for some time while failing to reach the Coupe de France final should also not be overlooked. PSG were happy to champion the signings of Messi, Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum last summer so they cannot expect the fans to be satisfied when the team falls short of the ambitious goals set by their leadership.
The fact that this latest title comes at a time of massive tension between PSG’s ultras and the club is also significant given that they showed little interest on Saturday and even ensured that Lens supporters were present at the Auteuil end of Parc des Princes in defiance of a local police order. Simply put, a Ligue 1 title is not enough to remedy this team and club’s current problems and the fans will not simply accept further silverware earned at low gear in exchange for silence.
PSG are the ones who have set the high expectations which this team is now being judged against and should not feel hard done by. Their recent free scoring form has been enjoyable, but it ultimately counts for little in a season that will not be remembered fondly by many, given that the pressure was off by the time the performances arrived.
The fact that superstar Kylian Mbappe is wanting to see sweeping changes at the club to even consider extending his contract beyond the end of this term is also telling about the fact that some of these players realize that they are not holding up their end of the bargain.
“We have things to look at and think about,” Leonardo said. “It will surely happen now with regards to decisions. I think the future will be difficult with me and impossible without me. I want it, otherwise I would not be here, and there is no lack of desire or energy. I have made mistakes and we must accept the mistakes made.”
“Discussions have always been going on and there are more talks in Doha. (PSG chairman and CEO) Nasser (Al-Khelaifi) was not here today but it was impossible for him. Unless it was something so important, he would be here. Kylian speaks with us and tells the truth. He has not decided yet. I think that there is a possibility that he stays but there is equally the possibility that he goes as he is still reflecting.”
Will this summer bring the required changes to heal PSG and can they keep Mbappe? We will have to wait and see but it is unlikely to be a process that can be completed in a couple of months — assuming that the French giants’ Qatari owners even sympathize with the supporters’ frustrations.
One thing is for sure: there are no better fitting circumstances for PSG to confirm their latest title than in such deflated fashion with the players celebrating in an emptying stadium as the fans celebrated on their own outside.
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