Such is the hold Paris Saint-Germain have over Ligue 1 that their seasons can no longer be judged by success or failure in Le Championnat. Winning the title is taken for granted, and while they have flirted with the possibility of not finishing on top this campaign, in truth there was always an air of inevitability that Laurent Blanc’s side would eventually pull away.
Monaco’s poor start to the season saw their closest competitors from 2013-14 competing only for a podium spot, while Marseille and then Lyon failed to keep pace with the champions.
Nantes boss Michel der Zakarian perfectly summed up the situation after seeing his side suffer a 2-0 loss earlier this month, complaining: “PSG are too strong for the French championship.”
Given Lyon’s efforts, such a sentiment cannot be taken as gospel, yet the reality is that PSG will start next term once more as red-hot favourites to claim a fourth-successive league crown.
President Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants to see the club make a significant leap in the Champions League, though, after three straight quarter-final exits, and it is on the continent that Blanc and his troops will truly be judged.
However, the reality is that European glory still remains out of reach for PSG.
Hit hard by Uefa’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions, their summer spending will be artificially limited to a level adrift of their ambitions once more. Even the marquee addition of Paul Pogba, should it come to fruition, would not be sufficient to allow PSG to challenge Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona, who have had an oligopoly on the competition in recent years.
These clubs have all shown that there is more to winning the competition than an outstanding starting XI – a whole squad replete with world-class talent is required. A net spend of €50 million is positively shoestring to assemble such a group, particularly as PSG are woefully lacking in offensive depth compared to their rivals and have started from a lower base level to boot.
Unlike these three European superpowers, who between them have missed only two Champions League semi-finals in five years, their second-choice XI is woefully lacking.
Blanc admitted as such in Friday’s press conference when he said: “We needed to have luck in the draw, as we already knew three of the four semi-finalists.”
Even to acquire the outstanding players of the future is no easy task currently. Memphis Depay was on the brink of arriving before being swept away by Manchester United at the last moment, but even if PSG had matched the Premier League side’s €27.5 million fee, half of their summer net spend would have been blown.
A further headache comes in the form of the squad restriction in the Champions League, which orders that PSG’s panel of 22 must still have the full quota of home and club-grown players (eight must have been trained in France and four by the club’s youth academy).
In this regard they are also lacking – although they only have themselves to blame here. Adrien Rabiot is the sole youth graduate to command even semi-regular game time in the side, while there are few signs of others breaking through.
Jean-Christophe Bahebeck does not have the confidence of Blanc and may be on the move in the summer, while fellow forward Kevin-Jean Augustin comes highly rated but has played but a few first-team minutes.
Moreover, they certainly cannot afford another Kingsley Coman scenario. Having become the club’s youngest ever player, he was allowed to depart too easily for Juventus last summer and the 18-year-old has played a not insignificant role off the bench for the Champions League finalists.
It is also ironic that PSG find themselves scrambling to make a lavish purchase of Pogba, a young Parisian, from Massimiliano Allegri’s side.
Recently derided for their aging squad, Juventus have done a much better job at pinpointing and bringing through young talent than the French champions – an embarrassing situation that cannot be allowed to continue.
There is no short-term solution for PSG. FFP continues to limit their ambitions in the transfer market, while a short-sighted approach to youth development means a production line of their own stars is still a long way off.
The result is that while they will almost inevitably win Ligue 1 again next season, yet more Champions League frustration lies ahead.