New-look PSG in relaxed mood ahead of latest Champions League bid
Paris Saint-Germain have undergone sweeping changes over the summer ahead of their latest bid for Champions League glory, but new coach Luis Enrique insists the Qatar-owned club will not make winning European football’s biggest prize an obsession this season.
PSG host Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday in their first match in a heavyweight Champions League group which also features AC Milan and Newcastle United.
The French title-holders have endured one frustration after another in the competition in recent years, with a defeat by Bayern Munich last season seeing them go out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the fifth time in seven years.
Beaten finalists in 2020, PSG went backwards after that, the decision to sign Lionel Messi ultimately backfiring.
Messi and Neymar have now left the Parc des Princes after a close-season clear-out which continued up to last week, when Marco Verratti was sold to Qatari side Al-Arabi for a reported 50 million euros ($53.3m).
Verratti spent 11 years in Paris and was, at his peak, one of the finest midfielders in the world.
But PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi decided it was time to move on and the club accelerated the reconstruction of their squad in recent months, while keeping hold of Kylian Mbappe following a contract dispute that threatened to end his time in the French capital.
They spent an estimated 350 million euros on new players, with the biggest outlay coming to sign France forward Randal Kolo Muani from Eintracht Frankfurt for a reported 75 million euros plus bonuses.
Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, Uruguay midfielder Manuel Ugarte, defensive duo Milan Skriniar and Lucas Hernandez, Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio, Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos and promising Lyon winger Bradley Barcola are just some of the other new faces brought in.
But Luis Enrique and his captain Marquinhos on Monday both sought to play down expectations about the new-look team’s prospects in Europe this season.
“There is no added pressure when it comes to the Champions League. It is not an obsession,” Brazil defender Marquinhos told reporters at the club’s new training ground in the distant Paris suburbs.
“We are competitors and that is the mentality of the club too. They want to win every trophy possible, but those of us in the dressing room, the coach, and the management above him, are not obsessed with the Champions League.
“We want to get to the very top but we know the path that we have to take. It is long, so we have to work hard and go one step at a time.”
Luis Enrique, appointed on a two-year deal to succeed the sacked Christophe Galtier, certainly knows what it takes having won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2015.
“When any person, or any club, becomes obsessed with something, it is not a good sign. We need to be hopeful, ambitious too, but becoming obsessed does not work in any area of life,” said the Spaniard.
He will be well aware that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will take some beating, while the likes of Madrid and Bayern will hope to go far in Europe once again.
“Football is a marvellous sport in which any outcome is possible,” he said.
“You can play really well and lose or play badly and win, but our objective is to go as far as possible and try to win everything.”
It has been a slow start for PSG domestically, as they lie fifth in Ligue 1 having won just two of their first five outings.
On Friday they lost 3-2 at home to Nice despite Mbappe scoring twice to move on to seven goals in four appearances this season.
“It has not been a great start but it never has been for me wherever I have coached,” added Luis Enrique.
“There is a lot of information to give to the players, lots of concepts to take on board.
“Luckily the players have been really receptive. In that sense I am delighted with the attitude of the team.
“It is all a process and experience tells me you need time. Not that I am asking for time because I know how this industry works, but in that sense I am calm.
“The good football and good results will come, I am sure.”