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06th Mar 2018

Real Madrid show PSG that it takes more than money to join the European elite

The Parisians have invested heavily since their 2011 takeover, but remain no closer to joining the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona

Wayne Farry

When the Qatar Investment Authority completed its takeover of PSG in 2011, it was hoped the club would soon be challenging for the Champions League. On Tuesday night’s evidence, they remain further away than ever.

Money can do plenty in football. It can buy you a team, it can buy you a new stadium, it can even buy you domestic titles. On the evidence of the second leg of their Round of 16 clash with Real Madrid though, it cannot quite buy you success at the top table of European football.

Unai Emery’s team will go home after the game, which rounded out a 5-2 aggregate victory for the Spanish side, dejected if not distraught and will lick their wounds before completing Ligue 1 title procession from now until the end of the season.

Looking back on this tie and this European campaign in general, they will know that they are no closer to their ultimate aim of European conquest than they were this time last year, despite the signings of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar during the summer.

The Brazilian was missing through injury this week but the colossal gap in quality between these two sides suggested that the Parisians would have struggled even if he had been on the pitch.

PSG have invested heavily in the last seven years, but watching Tuesday evening’s one-sided showing at the Parc des Princes, one would be forgiven for wondering what it was all for. For all their expensive players, they remain a hugely limited team, and one which appears to experience an extreme inferiority complex when facing the sort of sides they aspire to be.

One area in which they are particularly lacking – especially when it comes to the Champions League against top class opposition – is game management. It was a flaw which was brutally exploited by Barcelona last year and equally so against Real Madrid this time around, if in less spectacular fashion.

They are desperate to succeed, as they should be, but it is a desperation which appears uncontrollable and so pronounced that any game plan they may have prepared gets tossed out the window after the first sign of adversity.

Compare this to Madrid’s style of play in Europe, which they have honed to what is essentially an art form in the last three years. They are a team in control of almost everything that they do; always ready, always patient, always better.

It is what allows them to sit deep and relax, to counter attack and rip teams apart. Crucially, it is what allows them to frustrate their opponents into silly mistakes and severe lapses in discipline.

It would be foolish to disregard the fact that they are also aided, in almost every tie they play, by a superior group of players who themselves were expensively assembled.

But while this has not been enough to see them compete domestically this season to their lofty standards, their knowledge that they are at home in the Champions League and at home in its latter stages allows them to navigate these sorts of games with minimal fuss.

For all the money spent it is this mentality that their opponents lack. PSG may think they can win the Champions League. Real Madrid know they will.