Paris Saint-Germain send warning to Champions League rivals by blowing away tired Real Madrid

Paris Saint-Germain 3-0 Real Madrid: Former Real player Angel Di Maria produced a vintage performance with two goals to help his side to a fantastic win in France

Miguel Delaney
Parc des Princes
Wednesday 18 September 2019 22:03 BST
Champions League group stage draw

As Neymar and Kylian Mbappe sat laughing in the stands, their Paris Saint-Germain teammates just walked through a greatly diminished Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane’s own players left pointing at each other in angst. This was a 3-0 at the Parc des Princes that often felt like a 5-0 or 6-0.

It was that bad for the former European champions, that bad for their own new star, as a clearly unfit Eden Hazard had to slink off before the end having done nothing.

This was the result of £300m worth of summer spending?

For PSG, however, this was the real result of all that Qatari oil money: the slickest of play.

As ever when it comes to these kind of reckonings for Madrid, one of their discarded former stars was of course central to it all, almost personifying what has gone wrong by doing further damage. The effervescent Angel Di Maria scored the first two goals in brilliantly different fashion, but could have had even more, before Thomas Menier gave the scoreline the kind of gap that properly reflected the game. PSG were frequently toying with Madrid.

It was the kind of defeat that will only strengthen president Florentino Perez’s resolve to sign their next big star in Neymar or – more likely, and much more coveted – Mbappe, but the fact they were both absent for this elimination will cause him to further doubt the direction of this entire project. And the future of his manager.

The most damning part for Real Madrid was not even that they were beaten so easily without Neymar or Mbappe on the pitch, who they so badly want to buy. It was that PSG seemed to have so much more of a sense of themselves as a team. They had an idea. They had a playing identity.

That lent itself to some lusciously smooth passing moves, one of which just saw them weave their way to Di Maria’s first goal.

Against that, and such fluidity, Madrid were so staccato. It was often as if the front six didn’t seem to know what formation they were supposed to be playing. There was no balance, and little cohesion. Through that, they even more often looked like what PSG are so often criticised of being. A collection of individuals rather than a team.

Hence we had their own major signing of the summer, an unfit Hazard, only ever dabbing at the game from the fringes and apparently entirely disconnected from what the rest of his teammates were at.

The reality about this PSG is that isn’t going to be the case under a coach as obsessed with co-ordination as Thomas Tuchel, even if that won’t solve every single issue.

It isn’t the group stages, after all, this club have had a particular issue with. Both of the last two seasons since that seismic summer of 2017 have seen them claim big wins against the big clubs at this point of the competition, most notably against Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

Angel di Maria celebrates his opening goal
Angel di Maria celebrates his opening goal (Getty)

They still need to just get past one of these clubs in a knock-out match. It is only then that we can talk about a PSG really ready to win this competition.

The hope, however, is that wins like this will gradually mentally fortify them against the threat of another traumatically humiliating elimination.

Madrid, meanwhile, can’t even look to hope yet. They first have to look at themselves and figure out what they want to be as a team.

This is precisely why it is commonly argued this will be the real test of Zidane as a coach, when we find out how good he really he is, whether he has much of an idea that he wants to apply.

Thomas Meunier made it three
Thomas Meunier made it three (AP)

There does remain the sense that, through those three Champions League victories, he merely found himself facilitating a fairly self-managing team. It was similarly a team in its prime, and given proper focus by the obvious focal point of an all-time great in Cristiano Ronaldo. It was also a team that still struggled to win domestic titles, and largely surfed the peculiarities and nuances of knock-out football, where three good matches can suddenly be sufficient for a super-club to find themselves in a final.

Madrid of course remain a super-club but one without all these advantages and qualities. They are instead a half-completed and half-hearted reboot, that now so clearly needs the signing of someone like Mbappe or Neymar if it is to work in this guise. They could still get around that, however, by coming up with a proper idea. PSG were in this game the very proof of that. They had neither of their stars but pretty much all of the play, and never looked like losing.

Zidane by contrast never really looked like he had an idea here.

The extent of this challenge is now seriously growing, as PSG again suggest they are growing as a team.

Before this match, the absence of Neymar and Mbappe had seemed to strip it of some of its intrigue. That ended up only adding to it, as PSG could have so easily added to an already humiliating scoreline.

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