Lisbon (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain will look back at their narrow defeat by Bayern Munich in Sunday’s Champions League final in Lisbon and wonder what might have been, while also stealing themselves to come back stronger in Europe’s elite club competition in a new season which is already starting.
Kingsley Coman’s second-half goal decided the final at the Estadio da Luz in Bayern’s favour, allowing them to become European champions for the sixth time and denying PSG victory in their first appearance in club football’s biggest game.
The French champions were left to pay the price for failing to convert the opportunities that came their way — Neymar was notably denied by a fine Manuel Neuer save early on, but Kylian Mbappe really should have done better than shoot straight at the goalkeeper just before half-time.
The two most expensive players in football history were signed, ultimately, to win this game. It was not their night, and Neymar was in tears at the end.
“Inconsolable” was the headline on the front page of sports daily L’Equipe on Monday, underneath a photo of the Brazilian crying.
But PSG have muscled their way into the very elite of European clubs in the years since Qatar Sports Investments took over in the French capital in 2011 and they will be hopeful of getting to another Champions League final while Neymar and Mbappe are still there.
“Nobody thought we would make it to the final. We were very close to winning it, but that’s football,” said PSG’s Qatari president, Nasser al-Khelaifi.
“We are going to work hard to win the Champions League next season because that is our objective and now we believe in it more than before.”
– Novices no more –
On Sunday they became the seventh consecutive side to lose when appearing in the Champions Leaague final for the first time. At least next time, if there is one, they will not be novices.
Coach Thomas Tuchel, who put the defeat down to “bad luck”, has been widely praised for getting a team dominated by a couple of superstars to all pull together in the same direction.
“The players are right behind the coach. I have heard things about how he supposedly can’t handle the dressing room and the star players but the truth is that he is overseeing the best season in the history of the club,” said Mbappe of Tuchel ahead of the final.
PSG showed fantastic spirit to come from a goal down and beat Atalanta in the quarter-finals and then outclassed RB Leipzig in the semi-finals.
They had overturned a first-leg deficit to oust Borussia Dortmund in the last 16, just before the coronavirus shutdown, while in France they won every trophy going last season.
Their improved European performances represent enormous progress after often humiliating defeats in previous campaigns.
– Little time to reflect –
Yet while there are positives, questions remain and Tuchel has much work to do, and little time to reflect on what might have been — PSG play their first game of the new Ligue 1 season, away in Lens, on Saturday.
The Champions League group stage begins again in October and between now and then Paris may need to get busy in the transfer market.
Edinson Cavani, right-back Thomas Meunier and young defensive prospect Tanguy Nianzou Kouassi all left the club under freedom of contract before the ‘Final Eight’.
The latter has joined Bayern, becoming the latest in a long line of exciting youngsters to walk away from PSG.
They can only hope he does not come back to haunt them in the way Coman — another Paris-born ex-PSG starlet — did in Lisbon.
Skipper Thiago Silva is now out of contract too. Meanwhile Mauro Icardi, whose loan move from Inter Milan was made permanent in May for a reported fee of 55 million euros, played no part at all in the final, raising further questions.
“I think we have created a special atmosphere in the squad over the last two years,” Tuchel insisted.
“We have lost lots of key players, big characters, so now we must create a strong new team which is capable of doing this again. That will be the challenge for us.”
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