Is Kylian Mbappé’s Champions League dream at PSG over? A new dawn beckons in Paris


€2.04bn spent since 2011 

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The Champions League trophy has been the lacuna of the Qatari’s ownership of PSG. Since the government backed Qatar Sports Investments purchased the French giants in 2011, it’s been no secret that winning the most prestigious club competition in football has been the ultimate aim. Since the takeover, PSG have spent €2.04bn in their quest for Champions League glory – allowing some excellent youth prospects to depart –  but it’s ultimately been unsuccessful.

The most valuable former Paris Saint-Germain youth academy players

Moussa Dembélé | Al-Ettifaq | €12m

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Jonathan Ikoné | Fiorentina | €13m

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Timothy Weah | Juventus | €14m

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Boubakary Soumaré | Sevilla | €14m

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Junior Dina Ebimbe | Eintracht Frankfurt | €14m

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El Chadaille Bitshiabu | RB Leipzig | €15m

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Mattéo Guendouzi | Lazio | €20m

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Arnaud Kalimuendo | Stade Rennes | €20m

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Ferland Mendy | Real Madrid | €20m

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Odsonne Edouard | Crystal Palace | €20m

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Adrien Rabiot | Juventus | €40m

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Mike Maignan | AC Milan | €45m

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Moussa Diaby | Aston Villa | €60m

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Kingsley Coman | Bayern Munich | €65m

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Christopher Nkunku | Chelsea | €75m

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The Parisians famously reached the final in 2020 before losing to Bayern Munich and they’ve only reached the semi-final stage on one other occasion since the Qatari investment – failing on five occasions to progress past the last 16. Superstars have arrived and departed the Parc des Princes but the jewel in their crown appears unlikely to get his hands on the famous trophy before leaving this summer. Kylian Mbappé cost €180 million and eye-watering wages as he was viewed as the catalyst to win the Champions League. The 25-year-old has won 13 trophies across seven years in the French capital but losing 3-2 in a thrilling first-leg of their quarter-final against Barcelona, Mbappé looks increasingly likely to leave his hometown club without the biggest trophy of them all. 

Mbappé’s PSG career looks likely to end without Champions League glory

All eyes were on Mbappé as Barcelona arrived in Paris for a mouthwatering clash. The French superstar’s impending move to Real Madrid raised the stakes against the Spanish giants’ fiercest rivals. There were a plethora of fascinating subplots to the titanic encounter, including Luis Enrique facing his former side for the first time after famously leading them to Champions League glory in 2015 when he clinched the treble in his first season in charge at Barcelona. Enrique also faced off against his former teammate Xavi. The pair played together 128 times at the prestigious Catalonia club, famously winning the title together in the club’s centenary year in 1999.

Trailing 1-0 at half-time to Raphinha’s opener, Enrique’s tactical change at half-time had the desired effect as Ousmane Dembélé equalised against his former club – just his second goal since his €50m move between the clubs last summer – before Vitinha fired the hosts ahead. But Xavi responded with an inspired change of his own as Pedri entered the fray to provide a stunning assist for Raphinha before Andreas Chistensen won the game for the visitors. Mbappé was ineffective throughout as he was superbly marshalled by international colleague Jules Koundé and he failed to have a single shot on target for the first time in over three years in a Champions League home game.

Will Kylian Mbappé enjoy a positive legacy at PSG?

Mbappé’s mooted move to Real Madrid has been one of the most protracted transfers in recent history and many will be glad that it will reach its conclusion this summer. The attacker will depart as PSG’s record goalscorer with six Ligue 1 titles but his inability to lead PSG to the Champions League trophy will be questioned. As the graphic below illustrates, Mbappé still boasts an excellent individual record in the Champions League as the third top goalscorer since his move to PSG in 2017. 

It’s imperative to stress that Mbappé isn’t responsible for PSG’s Champions League anguish as he’s often been their star performer in the competition. The 2020 final defeat will hurt most and PSG’s decision to sign Lionel Messi the following summer backfired as it unbalanced their side. The front three of Neymar, Mbappé and Messi possessed incredible individual ability but all three were often unwilling to do the defensive work and it left PSG far too open and susceptible defensively. Mbappé’s departure on a free transfer will leave a sour taste for many PSG fans given the financial outlay on Transfermarkt’s joint-most valuable player in the world but French Area Manager at TM, Ronan Caroff, believes that feeling will dissipate over time. 

“The bitter feeling around his departure will stain his short term legacy,” Caroff added. “But in due time people should recognise the impact he had for PSG since 2017. The attacking numbers that he’s recorded, countless national titles, at least one UCL final and a World Cup title while. Mbappé is also the top goal scorer in PSG history above Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edison Cavani and Neymar.”

The new era at PSG under Luis Enrique 

The relationship between Mbappé and Enrique has been under the spotlight in recent weeks with the PSG boss dropping his star player and substituting him relatively early in games. Mbappé has only played 90 minutes once in PSG’s last eight league games, averaging just 42 minutes per game across those fixtures. In recent seasons, PSG have changed their transfer approach as they prioritise the addition of exciting youngsters and allowing ageing stars to leave in order to bring down the average age of their squad and wage bill.

“Back in June 2022, president Al Khelaifi told Le Parisien “In Paris, glitter is over”, and there were signs of it quickly,” added Caroff on PSG’s new approach. “They hired a French coach in Christophe Galtier, and spent just €147.5m across  2022/23 – including no signings in the winter window. But the core of the team was still similar, because of long contracts – only Messi and Ramos left in the summer of 2023 –  and players that didn’t necessarily attract interest on the market. The Mbappé, Messi, Neymar trio dominated the limelight with the involvement of the latter two criticised. Now, I would say PSG look more like a team, which was unsure after the biggest turnover in PSG’s recent history. Various young players have been added to the squad with many older players departing. There is now balance on most positions and of the non injured field players, only Nordi Mukiele hasn’t passed 1000 minutes yet this season.” As a new dawn beckons at PSG with younger players at the heart of their project, Champions League glory may arrive on the horizon but Mbappé’s time in Paris looks set to end with one piece of silverware missing.


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