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Will Mbappé still win the Champions League with PSG?

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Will Mbappé still win the Champions League with PSG?

The quarter-final win against Barça is sweet revenge for the disgrace of 2017. But the game in Barcelona also shows that Paris Saint-Germain no longer necessarily needs Mbappé.

Celebrating after reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League: PSG superstar Kylian Mbappé.

David Ramos / Getty

This time the FC Barcelona players lay on the ground or shed tears like 16-year-old Lamine Yamal. This time the guests of Paris Saint-Germain celebrated like crazy. This time the referee was on the French side and coach Luis Enrique was on the sidelines with them. This time Sergi Roberto was not available for the Catalans.

The midfielder and last-minute winner in the legendary 6-1 win against PSG in 2017 was suspended and so the Parisians got their revenge. On a turbulent Tuesday evening, they moved into the semi-finals of the Champions League thanks to a 4-1 win (first leg 2-3). There they will now meet Borussia Dortmund, who defeated Atlético Madrid 4:2 (first leg 1:2) after an equally unpredictable match.

In Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, one only had to listen to the euphoric PSG supporters to understand how much they had longed for the latest volte of deep hostility. It is rare to hear as many expletives from two corners as on Tuesday in football. A sport in which, as Luis Enrique enthused an hour after the final whistle, there is no such “priceless feeling” as “making your followers happy.” At this point the fans were still pounding on the stands.

The 1:6 in 2017 was a turning point

The heavy defeat in 2017 was so painful because it seemed to forever define PSG as a losing club. The disgrace marked a turning point, after which the club made changes. In anger at the humiliation they had suffered, the club, supported by Qatari money, not only bought Neymar, who was outstanding that evening, out of his contract in Barcelona – for the transfer record sum of 222 million euros, which is still valid today. At that time he also signed 18-year-old Kylian Mbappé from AS Monaco for 180 million euros. However, success in the Champions League remained elusive.

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Seven years later, the star cult in Paris is considered a failure and frowned upon. Neymar was deported to Saudi Arabia; There shouldn’t be many tears shed for Mbappé over his impending departure. Luis Enrique has been rolling his eyes in annoyance for months now when asked about the star player’s future; It probably lies with Real Madrid. “Let’s wait until Mr. Kylian Mbappé speaks,” said the coach mockingly after the final whistle. “Then we give others our opinion. This is like a court case: I’m a witness and I’m waiting for the litigants to explain themselves.”

In fact, PSG achieved its most emotional triumph so far in the 13-year Qatar era without a decisive contribution from Mbappé. Sure, the statisticians counted two goals and can appreciate the impressive fact that he has already scored 15 times in twelve away games in the Champions League knockout rounds. But in Barcelona his first goal – 1:3 – came from a penalty that he had no involvement in. His second goal in the final minute from a follow-up shot came after a lucky collision after he had previously failed to score against Barça goalkeeper Marc André ter Stegen in a 1-1 situation.

The key players were different: Ousmane Dembélé, who dizzyed the Barça defense amid wild insults from the fans of his former club, scored the 1-1 and took the penalty to make it 1-3. The Portuguese Vitinha, an elegant director in midfield, who, like Dembélé, scored well in the first and second leg – this time to make it 1-2.

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Or Bradley Barcola, a 21-year-old winger who no one paid much attention to when he was signed from Lyon in the summer, seemingly as an addition to Gonçalo Ramos and Randal Kolo Muani, who cost a total of 160 million euros. But when it came down to it, these two were sitting on the bench – while Barcola whirled, prepared Dembélé’s goal and provoked the decisive action of the duel: an emergency stop from Ronald Araujo, which referee Kovacs from Romania controversially sent off in the 29th minute punished.

His opponents played dizzy in PSG’s win on Tuesday evening: former Barça player Ousmane Dembélé (right).

Aitor Alcalde / Getty

Until then, Barcelona were 4-2 ahead in the overall standings. But Araujo wasn’t the only one who did everything wrong when he allowed a contact situation instead of accepting the possible equalizer.

The unstable nerves of the team and club were also reflected in the actions of the coach Later, annoyed by the referee’s decisions, he joined a UEFA gang and saw the red card himself.

Lack of emotional control: Barça coach Xavi freaks out and also sees red after central defender Ronald Araujo.

Youtube

Doing the right thing under maximum pressure is one of the key skills of every trainer. Luis Enrique called it “emotion control” when he explained how difficult it was for him to face the club he loved, where he had served as a player, captain and coach – most recently in 2017.

As a professional, he has to be a role model for his players and keep a cool head, said Luis Enrique. That’s why he never argues with the referees. “I only deal with things that I can control.” The sentence could be interpreted as an enjoyable swipe at his former player Xavi.

Luis Enrique says PSG will be even better next year

Luis Enrique’s nine-month stint in Paris has so far seemed like a course in football management. “We have the best coach in the world,” cheered club boss Nasser al-Khelaifi after the game. At PSG they can hardly believe their luck that someone is finally conveying a stringent handwriting, clear instructions and unconditional team thinking. Luis Enrique also symbolically praised Mbappé on Tuesday – for a supposed secondary virtue: “Kylian was the undisputed leader in pressing, a facet of the game in which he normally does not excel. Cheers!”

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At the moment of success, Mbappé himself became so flowery in a way he rarely was when it came to contractual matters. “I’ve been a proud Parisian since day one,” he crooned. “Representing this big club in the capital of my country” is a source of joy, now it’s time to realize “my dream of winning the Champions League with PSG”. Would this emotion change anything about his farewell? “No no . . .» he said before disappearing.

If PSG managed to win the Champions League in the last attempt, it would be the glorious end of a polemical era for Mbappé. For the Parisian club, however, it was the perfect beginning of a new era. Luis Enrique promised months ago: “Next season we will be even better.”

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