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Splashing cash not enough for PSG to deliver in Champions League
Paris St. Germain’s early exit from the Champions League again showed the club’s inability to deliver on the biggest stage despite its expensively assembled team.

PSG was knocked out in the last 16 by Real Madrid 5-2 on aggregate, losing 2-1 at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, never threatening a comeback following its 3-1 defeat in the first leg in Spain, Reuters reported.

Without Neymar, who is recovering from ankle surgery, Unai Emery’s side failed to create space against the defending champion.

“All that for this,” wrote French sports daily L’Equipe on their front page.

“PSG disappeared without leaving a trace,” the paper wrote in a column.

Since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took over in 2011, PSG has never reached the semifinals of the Champions League, being eliminated in the last 16 twice in a row after four consecutive quarterfinal exits.

Spending €400 million ($497 million) on Neymar and France international Kylian Mbappe did not help as the Brazilian played poorly in the first leg and his striking partner was nowhere to be seen on Tuesday.

In Ligue 1, PSG leads the standings by a massive 14 points after 28 games and it could be said that Emery’s team lacks the competitiveness of a bigger league to prepare the Paris club for the Champions League knockout stage.

Former AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi, however, believes the club founded in 1970 has to build its identity.

“PSG is just a group of players,” he told Italian TV.

“You cannot buy ideas. The club should always come first. I thought I would see players with the bit between their teeth. I think PSG needs to become an institution.”

PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi said he was “disappointed by a few players,” among which should feature midfielder Marco Verratti, who picked up a second yellow card for arguing with referee Felix Brych.

It was Verratti’s third dismissal in the Champions League, and it appeared to seal his team’s fate as it already was 1-0 down after Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener.

Khelaifi, however, is convinced the club’s method is the right one.

“I don’t think it’s a mindset problem. The players believed in it and we were ready,” he said.

“We will not change our investment strategy. We will continue with our project notably with those two players (Neymar and Mbappe) because they are the future of the club.”

 

‘Perfect game’

 

Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed a "perfect game" after his team eased through to the quarterfinals.

Zidane told the postgame news conference that his team's plan for how the game had gone just as he hoped, while maintaining that his players deserved most of the praise, ESPN reported.

"It went well for us, we played a very good game, serious from the start, pressing them high." Zidane said.

"We played a perfect game. I am very happy, as you can see that whoever starts, and the substitutes, they all played a good game.

"This is a not an easy place to play a good game, but we did it. So I can only be happy. Tactically we played the game we expected. But in the end it is the players convinced in what we [coaches] do, that is the most important."

Zidane denied that the expensively-assembled PSG side, which has still not made it past the UCL quarterfinals despite over €1 billion invested by their Qatari owners, had been weaker than expected opponent.

"I don't believe PSG have been weak or easy to beat," he said. "They played very well in the first leg, maybe not as good tonight, but also because we played very well. It started 50-50 and was until the end. Maybe the sending off changed things, and then when we scored the second it was more difficult for them."

Madrid's XI had included Vazquez and Asensio as wingers in a 4-4-2, with the higher-profile Gareth Bale and Isco left on the bench.

"Playing Lucas and Marco, today it was important to have two lines of four," Zidane explained. "To defend well against their wide players. We did that very well. Lucas is in very good form, Marco too. So they played, and did very well. I must choose an XI every three days, and today the plan was to start these players."

Madrid had come through some difficult moments this season, said Zidane, but the immediate focus should now be on trying to improve Real’s third place position in La Liga.

"You must accept difficult moments during a season, and keep working. Because you cannot always win everything. Now we must think about our next La Liga game on Saturday at Eibar, and try and put in the same performance there."

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