Paris Saint-Germain started its previous Champions League campaign with a team consisting of Lionel Messi and Neymar and by beating Juventus.
Football’s two biggest names failed to score that night and PSG were eliminated from Europe’s last 16 cups for the fifth time in seven years. The early departure once again highlighted the apparent failure of PSG’s strategy of assembling star-studded teams without a real backbone.
However, the owners changed their master plan in the off-season and it is a revamped PSG who will face Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday as the group stage of the elite European competition gets underway.
As usual, the French champions have spent a lot of money on new players but they no longer seem obsessed with the need for big names.
The squad that PSG, which is advancing to the group stage for the 12th time in a row, will face Dortmund on Tuesday is quite different from the squad that was eliminated by Bayern Munich last season.
Up front, Marco Asensio joined from Real Madrid, Gonçalo Ramos arrived from Benfica and Randal Kolo Muani signed to form an all-French attack, possibly alongside Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé. PSG also changed its midfield by recruiting Kang-in Lee and Manuel Ugarte. At the back, Milan Skriniar was added as well as Lucas Hernandez from Bayern Munich.
In addition to the departures of Messi and Neymar, Sergio Ramos and Marco Verratti also left, while PSG switched to a 4-3-3 formation under new coach Luis Enrique, who did not bother to accommodate Neymar, Messi and Mbappé together.
Cash-rich Qatari investors, who took over in 2011, hope their new strategy will eventually help the club repeat their domestic dominance on Europe’s biggest stage. They also trust Enrique, who won the Champions League, Spanish League and Copa del Rey in his first season as Barcelona manager.
“You need ambition, but when you’re obsessed with something that never works in any aspect of life,” Enrique said on Monday when asked about PSG’s ambition for the Champions League. “We are really hopeful. “We want to go out and play, we want to please our fans, we want the tournament to start, but we’re not obsessed.”
However, the new players have not yet developed into a solid unit and Enrique’s possession-based system did not yield immediate results.
PSG looked shaky and lacking in attacking creativity throughout the weekend, with Skriniar and Dembele performing below par.
However, Enrique said he was not bothered by the result.